Implementing binary heap without an array

PUBLISHED ON NOV 17, 2011 — BINARY HEAP, JAVA, PROGRAMMING

So I had this school assignment to implement a binary heap with a twist of not using an array to store the binary tree. You might think that this is an easy problem to solve and after some thinking it turns out that it isn’t much harder than the generic array implementation. However if this is the first time you’re implementing binary heap this way, you’ll likely find it difficult to insert new nodes in O(lg n) time. With arrays you can always find the last element in constant time. Unfortunately this is not the case with object references unless you have a trick or two in your sleeve. Once you’re able t access last node of the heap and sibling nodes of a particular node in constant time, the solution is similar to any text book implementation. It is also worth noting that at the time of writing google isn’t much of a help solving this problem because next to every example shows the array implementation.

I solved the problem by adding all the node into a binary tree AND a doubly linked list. Then I use the linked list to access last node of the heap and siblings of an individual node. There might be other viable solutions as well but this is by far the easiest I’ve heard of. As I’m lazy and can’t be bothered to draw pictures to further explain the solution. I pushed the source code to a github repository. The original repository was a bit messy and in Finnish so no commit history for you guys, sorry.