What algorithms every software engineer should know?

Answer on @Quora by Gabriel Cojocaru to What algorithms every software engineer should know?  1. Divide and Conquer – A divide and conquer algorithm works by recursively breaking down a problem into two or more sub-problems of the same (or related) type (divide), until these become simple enough to be solved directly (conquer). The solutions to the sub-problems are then combined to give a solution to the original problem.  This divide and conquer technique is the basis of efficient algorithms for all kinds of problems, such as   (e.g., QuickSort , Merge Sort ), multiplying large numbers (e.g. Karatsuba), syntactic analysis (e.g., top-down parsers), and computing the discrete Fourier transform (FFTs).  2. Dynamic Programming –  is a method for solving a complex problem by breaking it down into a collection of simpler subproblems, solving each of those subproblems just once, and storing their solutions – ideally, using a memory-based data structure. The next time the same subproblem occurs, instead of recomputing its solution, one simply looks up the previously computed solution, thereby saving computation time at the expense of a (hopefully) modest expenditure in storage space. (Each of the subproblem solutions is indexed in some way, typically based on the values of its input parameters, so as to facilitate its lookup.) The technique of storing solutions to subproblems instead of recomputing them is called "memoization".  Dynamic programming algorithms are used for optimization (for example, finding the shortest path between two points, or the fastest way to multiply many matrices). A dynamic programming algorithm will examine the previously solved subproblems and will combine their solutions to give the best solution for the given problem. The alternatives are many, such as using a Greedy Algorithm, which picks the locally optimal choice at each branch in the road. The locally optimal choice may be a poor choice for the overall solution. While a greedy algorithm does not guarantee an optimal solution, it is often faster to calculate. Fortunately, some greedy algorithms (such as Minimum Spanning Tree ) are proven to lead to the optimal solution.  3. Graph Algorithms – Graphs can be used to model many types of relations and processes in physical, biological,social and information systems. Many practical problems can be represented by graphs.  In computer science, graphs are used to represent networks of communication, data organization, computational devices, the flow of computation, etc. For instance, the link structure of a website can be represented by a directed graph, in which the vertices represent web pages and directed edges represent links from one page to another. A similar approach can be taken to problems in travel, biology, computer chip design, and many other fields. The development of algorithms to handle graphs is therefore of major interest in computer science. The transformation of graphs is often formalized and represented by graph rewrite systems. Complementary to graph transformation systems focusing on rule-based in-memory manipulation of graphs are graph databases geared towards transaction-safe, persistent storing and querying of graph-structured data.  4. Greedy Algorithm – is an algorithm that follows the problem solving heuristic of making the locally optimal choice at each stage with the hope of finding a global optimum. In many problems, a greedy strategy does not in general produce an optimal solution, but nonetheless a greedy heuristic may yield locally optimal solutions that approximate a global optimal solution in a reasonable time.  For example, a greedy strategy for the Travelling Salesman Problem  (which is of a high computational complexity) is the following heuristic: "At each stage visit an unvisited city nearest to the current city". This heuristic need not find a best solution, but terminates in a reasonable number of steps; finding an optimal solution typically requires unreasonably many steps. In mathematical optimization, greedy algorithms solve combinatorial problems having the properties of matroids.   5. Backtracking – is a general   wikipedia.org  algorithm for finding all (or some) solutions to some computational problems, notably constraint satisfaction problems, that incrementally builds candidates to the solutions, and abandons each partial candidate c ("backtracks") as soon as it determines that c cannot possibly be completed to a valid solution.  The classic textbook example of the use of backtracking is the eight queens puzzle, that asks for all arrangements of eight chess queens on a standard chessboard so that no queen attacks any other. In the common backtracking approach, the partial candidates are arrangements of k queens in the first k rows of the board, all in different rows and columns. Any partial solution that contains two mutually attacking queens can be abandoned.  Backtracking can be applied only for problems which admit the concept of a "partial candidate solution" and a relatively quick test of whether it can possibly be completed to a valid solution. It is useless, for example, for locating a given value in an unordered table. When it is applicable, however, backtracking is often much faster than brute force enumeration of all complete candidates, since it can eliminate a large number of candidates with a single test.

Answer by Gabriel Cojocaru:

http://www.codingeek.org

1. Divide and Conquer – A divide and conquer algorithm works by recursively breaking down a problem into two or more sub-problems of the same (or related) type (divide), until these become simple enough to be solved directly (conquer). The solutions to the sub-problems are then combined to give a solution to the original problem.

This divide and conquer technique is the basis of efficient algorithms for all kinds of problems, such as   (e.g., QuickSort , Merge Sort ), multiplying large numbers (e.g. Karatsuba), syntactic analysis (e.g., top-down parsers), and computing the discrete Fourier transform (FFTs).

2. Dynamic Programming –  is a method for solving a complex problem by breaking it down into a collection of simpler subproblems, solving each of those subproblems just once, and storing their solutions – ideally, using a memory-based data structure. The next time the same subproblem occurs, instead of recomputing its solution, one simply looks up the previously computed solution, thereby saving computation time at the expense of a (hopefully) modest expenditure in storage space. (Each of the subproblem solutions is indexed in some way, typically based on the values of its input parameters, so as to facilitate its lookup.) The technique of storing solutions to subproblems instead of recomputing them is called "memoization".

Dynamic programming algorithms are used for optimization (for example, finding the shortest path between two points, or the fastest way to multiply many matrices). A dynamic programming algorithm will examine the previously solved subproblems and will combine their solutions to give the best solution for the given problem. The alternatives are many, such as using a Greedy Algorithm, which picks the locally optimal choice at each branch in the road. The locally optimal choice may be a poor choice for the overall solution. While a greedy algorithm does not guarantee an optimal solution, it is often faster to calculate. Fortunately, some greedy algorithms (such as Minimum Spanning Tree ) are proven to lead to the optimal solution.

3. Graph Algorithms – Graphs can be used to model many types of relations and processes in physical, biological,social and information systems. Many practical problems can be represented by graphs.

In computer science, graphs are used to represent networks of communication, data organization, computational devices, the flow of computation, etc. For instance, the link structure of a website can be represented by a directed graph, in which the vertices represent web pages and directed edges represent links from one page to another. A similar approach can be taken to problems in travel, biology, computer chip design, and many other fields. The development of algorithms to handle graphs is therefore of major interest in computer science. The transformation of graphs is often formalized and represented by graph rewrite systems. Complementary to graph transformation systems focusing on rule-based in-memory manipulation of graphs are graph databases geared towards transaction-safe, persistent storing and querying of graph-structured data.

4. Greedy Algorithm – is an algorithm that follows the problem solving heuristic of making the locally optimal choice at each stage with the hope of finding a global optimum. In many problems, a greedy strategy does not in general produce an optimal solution, but nonetheless a greedy heuristic may yield locally optimal solutions that approximate a global optimal solution in a reasonable time.

For example, a greedy strategy for the Travelling Salesman Problem  (which is of a high computational complexity) is the following heuristic: "At each stage visit an unvisited city nearest to the current city". This heuristic need not find a best solution, but terminates in a reasonable number of steps; finding an optimal solution typically requires unreasonably many steps. In mathematical optimization, greedy algorithms solve combinatorial problems having the properties of matroids.

5. Backtracking – is a general algorithm for finding all (or some) solutions to some computational problems, notably constraint satisfaction problems, that incrementally builds candidates to the solutions, and abandons each partial candidate c ("backtracks") as soon as it determines that c cannot possibly be completed to a valid solution.

The classic textbook example of the use of backtracking is the eight queens puzzle, that asks for all arrangements of eight chess queens on a standard chessboard so that no queen attacks any other. In the common backtracking approach, the partial candidates are arrangements of k queens in the first k rows of the board, all in different rows and columns. Any partial solution that contains two mutually attacking queens can be abandoned.

Backtracking can be applied only for problems which admit the concept of a "partial candidate solution" and a relatively quick test of whether it can possibly be completed to a valid solution. It is useless, for example, for locating a given value in an unordered table. When it is applicable, however, backtracking is often much faster than brute force enumeration of all complete candidates, since it can eliminate a large number of candidates with a single test.

What algorithms every software engineer should know?

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