Stack, queue and Linked lists are basic data structures. They appear in our daily life. For example, stacks of intermodal containers at the port, waiting in line(queue) to ride a roller coaster and the film The Human Centipede,if you know it.



Stack is like a stack of intermodal containers, or a stack of book. Every time you want to put a new item, you put above the original stack, not between or below. Every time you want to remove a item, you need to start from the top, remove the item which is latest added. Hence, there is a principle called "LIFO", Last In, First Out.

Common operations:

push pop
stack_push stack_pop

Array Implementation

Usually we use the first item in the array array[0] as the bottom of the stack, create index max-index to store the index of the top item, in other words, the index of the last item in the stack.

Push: max_index += 1, and at the index of max_index add the item

Pop: delete the item at the index max_index, max_index -= 1

Linked List Implementation

Using singly linked list, use head to store the bottom of the stack, each item has next pointing at the next item. The top item's next points to NULL, size stores the size of the stack (the length of the linked list).

push: change the next variable of the top item in stack(last item in list) to the new item, let next of the new item points to NULL, size += 1

pop: delete the top item in stack (last item in list), size -= 1, set next of the new last item to NULL

C++ STL - stack

using namespace std;

int main(void) {
    /* create a stack named stk and its elements are int type */
    stack <int> stk;

    /* push an element to the stack */
    stk.push(1);    // 1
    stk.push(2);    // 1 2

     * cout << stk.push(3) << endl;
     * error!! stk.push(3) returns void

    /* top() returns the top element in the stack and it does NOT change the stack */
    cout << << endl; // print out 2


    /* gives the size of the stack - how many elements are there */
    cout << stk.size() << endl; // print out 3

    /* pop the top element from the stack, return void as well */

    cout << << endl; // print out 1

    /* check if the stack is empty, if it is empty, returns true(1) */
    cout << stk.empty() << endl;

    return 0;



Queue is like the queue in our life, wait in line to check out. Each new item add to the end of a queue, and the item at the front goes out first. Hence, Queue has the principle of "FIFO" (First In, First Out).

Common operations:

enqueue dequeue
queue_enqueue queue_dequeue

Linked List Implementation

Using singly linked list, use head to track the head of a queue, each item has a variable next pointing to the next item, next of the last item in the queue points to NULL, size tracks the length of the queue.

Enqueue: append the new item at the end of the queue/list, next of the old last item points to the new item just appended, size += 1

Dequeue: Using next to navigate to the second item, head points to the second item, delete the first item, size -= 1

C++ STL - queue

Almost the same as stack!

Caution: queue uses front and back to get the first and last item respectively.

using namespace std;

int main() {
    queue<int> q;
    q.push(1); // q: 1
    q.push(2); // q: 1 2

    cout << q.front() << endl; // 1
    cout << q.back() << endl; // 2

    q.push(3); // q: 1 2 3
    cout << q.size() << endl; // 3
    q.pop(); // q: 2 3
    cout << q.front() << endl; // 2
    cout << q.back() << endl; // 3
    cout << q.empty() << endl; // 0

    return 0;

Priority Queue

Priority Queue is similar as queue, however each item has a priority. The first item to be dequeued maybe not the most front of the queue, it is now which the item has the highest priority. It's like someone who have VIP cards, or someone is a queue-jumper, not fair for these items waiting, right? sigh.

In C++ STL, if you use int as items in a priority queue, it is default that the smaller the integer is, the less priority it has. If you want the opposite, which is larger integer, less priority, you could use great, fully declarationstd::priority_queue, std::greater q_name. If you want other custom compare methods, you might need to custom cmp function to complete priority comparison.

Caution: Priority Queue uses front() to get the first item, NOT top()

Linked List


Linked list is like linked paper clips, have you tired before? Linked list have several structures: singly linked list, doubly linked list, multiply linked list and others. We only show singly linked list here as others can be implemented with the understanding of singly linked list.

Common operations:

  • add nodes
  • delete nodes
  • next node


C++ Struct Implementation


struct Node {
    int value;
    Node *next;

int main() {
    Node *root;
    Node *cur;

    /* Initialize the linked list */
    root = new Node;
    root->value = 1;
    root->next = NULL;
    cur = root;

    /* add Node at the end of the list */
    cur = cur->next;
    cur = new Node;
    cur->value = 2;
    cur->next = NULL; // linked list: 1 2

    /* add Node between two Nodes */
    Node *second = new Node;
    second->value = 3;
    second->next = cur;
    root->next = second; // linked list: 1 3 2

    /* known value, find Node */
    cur = root;
    while (cur->value != 3) {
        cur = cur->next;
    std::cout << cur->value << std::endl;  // 3

    /* traverse to the last Node */
    while (cur->next != NULL) {
        cur = cur->next;
    std::cout << cur->value << std::endl; // 2

    /* delete Node */
    Node *last;
    cur = root;
    if (cur == NULL)
        ; // empty list
    if (cur->value == 1) { // if we want to delete the first node
        root = cur->next;
        delete cur;
    } else {
        while (cur->value != 1 && cur->next != NULL) {
            last = cur;
            cur = cur->next;

        if (cur->value == 1) {
            last->next = cur->next;
            delete cur;