Linked List: Definitions, Types, Pros and Cons

A linked list is a linear data structure that consists of a group of nodes, where each node contains a data element and a reference (link) to the next node in the list. The reference field in the last node is set to null, indicating the end of the list.

There are two main types of linked lists: singly linked lists and doubly linked lists. In a singly linked list, each node only has a reference to the next node in the list. In a doubly linked list, each node has a reference to the next node and the previous node.

We know that, one of the main advantages of linked lists is that they are dynamic, meaning that the size of the list can grow or shrink as needed. This is in contrast to arrays, which have a fixed size. Linked lists also have the advantage of being able to easily insert and delete elements, as they do not require shifting elements like arrays do.

However, linked lists have some drawbacks as well. Accessing individual elements in a linked list is slower than accessing elements in an array, because you have to follow the references from one node to the next. 

You must know that Linked lists also use more memory than arrays, because each node requires a reference field in addition to the data field.

Key takeaways:

  • A linked list is a linear data structure consisting of a group of nodes, each containing a data element and a reference to the next node in the list.
  • There are two main types of linked lists: singly linked lists and doubly linked lists.
  • Linked lists are dynamic and allow for easy insertion and deletion of elements, but are slower and use more memory than arrays.

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Real-time applications of linked lists include:

  1. Implementing stacks and queues
  2. Implementing graphs
  3. Allocating memory dynamically in a computer’s operating system

For example, a stack is a last-in, first-out (LIFO) data structure that can be implemented using a linked list. When an element is added to the stack (pushed), it is added to the front of the list. When an element is removed (popped), it is removed from the front of the list. This allows for fast insertion and deletion of elements at the front of the list.

Similarly, a queue is a first-in, first-out (FIFO) data structure that can also be implemented using a linked list. In this case, elements are added to the back of the list and removed from the front of the list.

In a computer’s operating system, linked lists are used to dynamically allocate memory. When a program requests memory, the operating system can use a linked list to keep track of the available blocks of memory and allocate them as needed.

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Conclusion

Overall, we can conclude that linked lists are a useful data structure with many real-time applications. They are especially useful when the size of the data is not known in advance or when the data needs to be inserted or deleted frequently.

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