Priority queues can solve a whole bunch of different problems. Priority queues, also called heaps, are an oft-misunderstood and underestimated concept in computer science.
Priority queues_, _also called heaps,are an oft-misunderstood and underestimated concept in computer science. Though they are very simple, priority queues can serve as powerful tools to solve some of the well-known problems in computer science.
This article focuses on the basic concept of priority queues, their usage in C++, and applications to some of the most important problems.
As the name suggests, a priority queuecontains elements having a priority associated with them. Let’s start by taking a simple example.
Consider we have a list of grocery items and a priority attached to them. Let’s associate them as key-value pairs inserted into a priority queue, as shown below:
List of grocery Items with priority
Tomatoes are at the top of the queue and have the highest priority, followed by
Wheat. _Let’s saywe want to push an item called
Cakewith priority equal to10._When we push
Cake into the priority queue, the queue checks if the item has a priority greater than that of
Tomatoes (7). If yes, then it is inserted at the top of queue. The new queue is shown below:
Cake added at the top of the priority queue
Now let’s say we want to push another grocery item (
Chocolate)with priority equal to 2. In this case, the priority of
Chocolate (2) is lower than the priority of
Cake (10). So the queue pops the item
Cake and checks for the next item
Tomatoes (7). The case is similar to
Cake — the queue pops out
Tomatoes. The same rule applies to
Noodles (5) and
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