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Top 10 Common Data Structures Every Programmer and Developer Must Know in 2023

by Rajni
10 common data structures every programmer must know
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Introduction

Data is the new oil in today’s internet-dominated world. With the amount of data being exchanged every second on the internet, having a structure to store and organize data properly is vital. This is where data structures and programmers handling these data structures play a vital role.
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What is a Data Structure

A Data Structure is a unique format that helps organize, retrieve, manage, and store data in a structured way that can be used efficiently for better operations.
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Different Types of Data Structures

There are three types of data structures Primitive, Non-Primitive, and Abstract Data Structures. Primitive data structures are fundamental data structures that allow you to store a single data type value at a time. Examples: integer, boolean, character, float, etc. A Non-Primitive data structure allows you to store multiple data type values. Examples: Array, Class, String, and Interface. Abstract data structures are data types whose behavior is defined based on their functions and properties. Examples include List, Queue, Stack, etc.

  

Primitive Data Type 

Non-Primitive Data Type 

Abstract Data Type (ADT) 

Definition 

Basic data types 

Derived data types 

Custom data types 

Storage Size 

Fixed 

Variable 

Variable 

Memory Allocation 

Stack 

Heap 

Heap 

Default Value 

Assigned by default 

null or undefined 

N/A 

Examples 

integer, float, character 

Array, String, Object 

List, Queue, Stack 

Mutability 

Immutable 

Mutable 

Variable 

Operations 

Simple operations 

Complex operations 

Custom operations 

Performance 

Faster 

Slower 

Varies 

Direct Manipulation 

Yes 

Yes 

No 

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Top 10 Common Data Structures

Data Structures every programmer should learn

Arrays 

Array data structure for developers

An array is a fundamental data structure. It stores elements of the same type close to each other. They offer fast access to elements through their index. Arrays are ideal for situations where the collection size is known in advance. 

Linked Lists 

Your data is arranged in linear order and linked to one other in a linked list. It stops users from accessing random data. Users can only access data in the given sequence. 

Stacks 

Stack Data structure for programmers

In Stack also, items are arranged in a line. However, Stack works in a Last in, First Out (LIFO) order. So, it is also called a LIFO structure. LIFO structure allows you to access the last item in a structure first.   

Queues 

Queue Data Structure for Developers

Queues again work like Stacks. However, Queues allow you to access the first element in a structure. It follows the First in First Out (FIFO) model. 

Tuple 

Tuple is a linear data structure. It stores the element in a particular sequence. Since it is indexed, users can access elements using an index or a slice operation. 

Hash Tables 

Hash Table Data structure

The hash table connects each item with a key and stores them. You can easily find a particular object from a set of similar objects. 

Trees 

Another critical basic data structure that a programmer should know is a Tree. In Trees, data is connected as in the Linked List. However, it is organized in ranking order – similar to a family tree.

Types of Trees include

  • Binary search tree (BST)Red-black tree
  • B tree, treap
  • Splay tree
  • N-ary tree
  • AVL tree 

Note: Each of these Tree types is used for specific applications. 

For instance, the Binary search tree stores data in grouped order. 

BST Tree is mainly used in different types of search operations. Other Tree types are used in wireless networking and to create expression solvers. 

Dictionary 

A dictionary stores data as key-value pairs. Each value is connected to a unique key. We use keys to add, remove, or modify elements in the dictionary. 

Sets 

In Sets, the elements are not stored in a specific order. It does not allow duplicate elements. Users can perform set operations on two or more sets, such as Union, Intersection, and Difference. 

Heaps  

A heap is a dual tree data structure. In a heap, a parent node is compared to its child node and arranges values in the nodes accordingly.

There are two types of heaps:

Min heap: The parent’s key is equal to or less than the keys of its children. 

Max heap: The parent’s key is greater than the keys of its children. 

Heaps are generally used to find an array’s largest and smallest values. It is also used to create priority queues in algorithms.

Graphs

A graph is a non-linear data structure. The graph doesn’t store elements in a sequence. It represents objects connected in a network-like structure. The objects are linked through the edges. Graphs consist of vertices (nodes) and edges. Vertices contain information like Name, Age, etc. Edges are the lines connecting the nodes. 

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Importance of Data Structure

Data structures are essential for any programming language. Data structure sets the rule for storing the data. It arranges the data so that it can be found quickly. Finding a piece of specific information from an extensive database can be a difficult task. Still, with data structures, every data is arranged in a sequence and can be recovered without any issue.
  • Efficient Data Organization: Data structures provide efficient ways to store, organize, and manage data.
  • Algorithm Design and Analysis: Data structures allow developers to choose the most appropriate structure for a specific problem.
  • Memory Management: Data structures help allocate and deallocate memory dynamically. This reduces memory wastage. It also optimizes resource utilization. Developers can minimize memory expenses and improve program efficiency by choosing suitable data structures.
  • Code Reusability: Well-defined data structures help you to reuse the codes. Once a data structure is implemented, it can be used in multiple programs and projects. This can save time and improve efficiency.
  • Data Integrity and Consistency: Data structures provide procedures for enforcing data control, verifying inputs, etc. It makes sure that data is stored and retrieved accurately. Data structures contribute to reliable and error-free software systems by maintaining data consistency.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: As data volumes increase, well-designed data structures can handle larger datasets without affecting performance. They allow for easy modifications, additions, and extensions to the data representation.
  • Problem-Solving: Data structures help break down complex problems into smaller, manageable components. It helps analyze, design, and implement solutions quickly.
  • Collaboration and Communication: Standardized data structures enable effective communication of ideas, algorithms, and data representations across teams. It makes it easier to share and understand code.
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How can data structures be used in real-world applications?

Data structures play a crucial role in real-world applications by efficiently storing, organizing, and manipulating data. They are used in databases for fast data retrieval and management.

  • Operating systems utilize data structures like queues and linked lists to manage processes and allocate memory.
  • Networking applications rely on data structures such as graphs for efficient data transmission and routing.
  • Compilers use data structures like symbol tables and abstract syntax trees to process program code.
  • AI and machine learning algorithms utilize matrices and graphs to handle large datasets.
  • Financial systems use data structures for order book management and real-time analytics.
  • Gaming applications rely on grids, trees, and graphs for tasks like collision detection and pathfinding.
  • Web development uses data structures for data storage and retrieval.
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What resources are available to learn data structures?

www.hackerrank.com

  • Beginner-friendly coding problem website with easy, medium, and hard questions.
  • Categorized questions by difficulty and topics (Arrays, Strings, etc.).
  • Language-specific tracks available for practice.

www.geeksforgeeks.org

  • A comprehensive resource with tutorials and explanations for various tech topics.
  • Dedicated practice platform with problem sorting by company and difficulty.
  • Interview experiences section for preparation.

leetcode.com

  • A popular platform for coding interviews with increasing difficulty levels (Easy to Hard).
  • A discussion forum and interview experiences section are available.
  • Regular coding challenges to participate in.

www.codechef.com

  • A platform for DSA and competitive programming.
  • Tutorials, forums, and practice sections for learning and improvement.
  • A star rating system based on contest participation and performance.

codeforces.com

  • Active community and discussion forums for competitive programming.
  • Problem Set section with previous contest questions sorted by difficulty.
  • Divisions (Div1 to Div4) for contests based on ratings, allowing progression.
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Conclusion: Why should programmers learn Data Structures?

Programmers should learn data structures because it helps design efficient algorithms, solve problems effectively, and optimize performance. Learning data structures enables programmers to write cleaner code. It provides a strong foundation for problem-solving and enhances programming skills. Thus, making programmers more capable and competitive in the field. 
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FAQs

Data structures are the building blocks used to organize and store data in a computer program. They provide efficient ways to represent, manipulate, and access data, enabling effective algorithm design and problem-solving.
Data structures are crucial because they help programmers design efficient algorithms, optimize performance, utilize resources effectively, and solve problems more effectively. They provide a systematic approach to organizing and manipulating data, leading to more scalable and maintainable software systems.
Common data structures include arrays, linked lists, stacks, queues, trees, graphs, and hash tables. Each type has its own characteristics, advantages, and use cases, allowing programmers to choose the most suitable structure for a specific problem or requirement.
The choice of data structure directly affects algorithm efficiency. Different data structures offer different time and space complexities for common operations such as insertion, deletion, searching, and sorting. By selecting an appropriate data structure, programmers can optimize algorithm performance and achieve faster and more efficient solutions.
No, data structures are not language-specific. While programming languages may provide built-in data structures, the concept of data structures is independent of any particular language. The same data structure can be implemented in different programming languages, although the implementation details may vary.
Learning data structures involves understanding their properties, operations, and use cases. It is best to start with the basics, such as arrays and linked lists, and gradually progress to more complex structures. Practice implementing and using data structures in programming exercises and projects to reinforce your understanding and gain hands-on experience.
There are numerous resources available to learn data structures, including textbooks, online tutorials, video courses, and coding practice platforms. Websites like GeeksforGeeks, Coursera, and HackerRank offer comprehensive tutorials and courses on data structures and algorithms. Additionally, programming communities and forums provide opportunities to discuss and share knowledge with fellow learners and professionals.
Data structures are used extensively in real-world applications such as databases, operating systems, network protocols, and software development frameworks. They enable efficient data storage, retrieval, and manipulation, making it possible to build robust and scalable software systems that handle large amounts of data effectively.

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