Top 7 Commonly Used Algorithms and How They Work

Algorithms are the backbone of computer science, powering everything from simple calculations to complex problem-solving. Without them, our digital world would grind to a halt. While there are countless algorithms out there, some have become staples in the field due to their versatility and effectiveness. In this blog, we will explore the top 8 commonly used algorithms and delve into how they work. Whether you’re a seasoned programmer looking to refresh your knowledge or a curious newcomer eager to understand the inner workings of these powerful tools, join us on this fascinating journey through the world of algorithms. What are algorithms and why are they important?

Sorting Algorithms

Sorting algorithms are an essential tool in the world of computer science, used to arrange data in a specific order. In this section, we will explore some commonly used sorting algorithms and understand how they work.

1. Bubble Sort

One of the simplest sorting algorithms, bubble sort compares adjacent elements and swaps them if they are in the wrong order. With each pass through the data set, the largest element moves to its correct position at the end of the list. Although not efficient for large data sets due to its time complexity O(n^2), bubble sort is easy to implement and can be helpful for small data sets or partially sorted lists.

2. Quick Sort

Quick sort is a popular algorithm known for its average-case time complexity of O(n log n). It works by selecting a pivot element from the array and partitioning it into two sub-arrays – one with elements smaller than the pivot and another with elements larger than it. The algorithm then recursively repeats this process on each sub-array until all elements are sorted correctly. Quick sort operates efficiently on large data sets but may exhibit worst-case time complexity of O(n^2) if poorly implemented or given already sorted input.

Also Read: Algorithms Complexity

Searching Algorithms

Searching algorithms are an essential part of computer science, used to find specific elements in a collection or determine whether a given value exists. One commonly used search algorithm is linear search. Linear search works by sequentially checking each element in a collection until finding the desired one or reaching the end of the list. While simple and easy to implement, it can be inefficient for large datasets because it requires scanning through every element.

On the other hand, binary search is a more efficient search algorithm that operates on sorted collections. Binary search works by repeatedly dividing the dataset in half and comparing the target value with the middle element. If they match, the search ends; otherwise, it narrows down its scope based on whether the target value is smaller or larger than the middle element. This process eliminates half of the remaining possibilities at each step, resulting in significantly faster searches compared to linear searches, especially for large datasets.

When dealing with unsorted collections or situations where frequent updates occur, hash-based searching algorithms provide a viable alternative. Hash functions convert input data into fixed-length values called hashes that represent their identity within a data structure called a hash table. By utilizing these precomputed indexes, hash-based searches allow constant-time lookup operations regardless of dataset size. However, they require careful consideration when designing hash functions to avoid collisions that may compromise their overall efficiency.

Graph Algorithms

Graph algorithms are an essential part of solving complex problems in various fields. These algorithms work with graphs, which consist of nodes and edges to represent relationships between different entities. One commonly used graph algorithm is the depth-first search (DFS), which explores a graph by traversing as far as possible along each branch before backtracking.

Another popular algorithm is the breadth-first search (BFS), which explores all neighbors of a node before moving on to its neighbors’ neighbors. This algorithm finds the shortest path between two nodes in an unweighted graph and can also be used to determine if a directed acyclic graph has a topological ordering.

One more intriguing graph algorithm is Dijkstra’s algorithm, which finds the shortest path from a source node to all other nodes in a weighted graph. This algorithm utilizes priority queues and assigns tentative distances to each node, continuously updating these distances until it finds the shortest path to all nodes.

Overall, understanding and utilizing these graph algorithms can be incredibly valuable for solving real-world problems such as routing optimization, social network analysis, and recommendation systems. By delving into these algorithms and exploring their intricacies, developers can unlock new ways to approach complex data structures and optimize their applications for improved performance.

Machine Learning Algorithms

One commonly used machine learning algorithm is the k-nearest neighbors (KNN) algorithm. This algorithm works by classifying data points based on their proximity to other data points in a given dataset. It finds the k nearest neighbors to a test data point and assigns it to the majority class among those neighbors. One interesting aspect of this algorithm is that it does not make any assumptions about the underlying distribution of the data, which makes it versatile in various applications. However, its performance can be sensitive to outliers or irrelevant features in the dataset.

Another widely used machine learning algorithm is decision trees. Decision trees work by iteratively partitioning the data based on certain features until a stopping criterion is met, such as purity or maximum depth. Each node in the tree represents a split on a feature, and each leaf node represents a classification decision. One advantage of decision trees is their interpretability; they allow us to understand how different features contribute to decision-making. However, they can be prone to overfitting if not properly regularized.

Other Commonly Used Algorithms: What are algorithms and why are they important?

Algorithms are step-by-step procedures used in computing. They are vital as they efficiently solve problems and optimize processes in various domains. Here are some other commonly used Algorithms:

Algorithm 1: Linear Search

Linear search is a simple yet efficient algorithm used to find an element in a list. It works by examining each element in the list sequentially until a match is found or the end of the list is reached. What makes this algorithm so appealing is its simplicity and ease of implementation. However, its efficiency may be compromised when dealing with large lists or data sets, as it requires checking each element one by one.

One interesting aspect of linear search is that it can be applied not only to arrays but also to other data structures such as linked lists and stacks. This flexibility allows developers to apply the same algorithm across various types of data structures, making it a versatile tool in their programming arsenal.

Despite being straightforward, linear search does have some drawbacks compared to other searching algorithms like binary search or hash tables. For instance, if we are looking for an element at the end of the list, the linear search would need to check all preceding elements before finding a match, resulting in unnecessary comparisons and potentially slower execution times. Therefore, when dealing with sorted or ordered data sets where more efficient alternatives are available, opting for other algorithms might yield better performance.

Algorithm 2: Binary Search

Binary search is a powerful algorithm used to efficiently find a target value in a sorted array. The idea behind this algorithm is simple yet ingenious. It repeatedly divides the array in half by comparing the middle element with the target value and discarding the unnecessary half. With each iteration, the algorithm reduces the search space by half, making it extremely efficient even for large datasets.

What makes the binary search so fascinating is its logarithmic time complexity, which means that it can find an element in O(log n) time. This performance aspect of binary search has profound implications for various real-world applications. For example, imagine searching for a particular word in a massive dictionary – using binary search would allow us to pinpoint the word relatively quickly without scrolling through countless pages.

However, binary search does come with one important caveat: it only works on sorted arrays. If the data is not already sorted, then we must first perform some sorting operations to make use of this powerful technique. Despite this limitation, binary search remains one of the most widely used algorithms due to its simplicity and efficiency when working on sorted datasets.

Algorithm 3: Bubble Sort

Bubble Sort is a commonly used sorting algorithm that works by repeatedly swapping adjacent elements if they are in the wrong order. While it may not be the most efficient sorting algorithm, its simplicity makes it a great starting point for understanding how sorting algorithms work. One interesting aspect of Bubble Sort is that in each iteration, the largest element bubbles up to its correct position at the end of the array.

During each pass of Bubble Sort, comparisons are made between adjacent elements, and swaps are performed if necessary. This means that for an unsorted array with n elements, there will be n-1 passes required to sort the entire array. On average, Bubble Sort has a time complexity of O(n^2), which means that its performance decreases significantly as the number of elements to be sorted increases.

Despite its relatively lower efficiency compared to other sorting algorithms like Merge Sort or Quick Sort, Bubble Sort does have some advantages. It is easy to understand and implement, requiring minimal code compared to more complex algorithms. Additionally, Bubble Sort can perform well when given small arrays or nearly sorted arrays where only a few swaps are needed. Overall, while it may not be suitable for large datasets or time-sensitive applications, Bubble Sort remains an important algorithm for beginners learning about sorting techniques and serves as a foundation for more advanced algorithms in computer science education.

Algorithm 4: Quick Sort

Now, let’s explore one of the most widely used sorting algorithms: Quick Sort. As its name suggests, Quick Sort is known for its efficiency in sorting large data sets with speed. Unlike other sorting algorithms that divide the data into smaller parts through iterations, Quick Sort uses a single pivot element to partition the array into two sub-arrays. This recursive process continues until the data is sorted.

One unique feature of Quick Sort is its ability to sort in place, meaning it does not require additional storage space to perform the sorting process. By selecting a pivot element and dividing the array into two sub-arrays, Quick Sort manages to strike a balance between simplicity and effectiveness. However, it’s important to note that choosing an inappropriate pivot can lead to poor performance or worst-case scenarios where efficiency degrades significantly.

More Read: Machine Learning Algorithms


In conclusion, algorithms are fundamental to the functioning of modern technology and play a crucial role in solving complex problems. While there are numerous algorithms available, these four commonly used ones – the linear search algorithm, binary search algorithm, bubble sort algorithm, and merge sort algorithm – showcase different approaches to problem-solving.

What stands out about these algorithms is their versatility – they can be applied across various domains and are not limited to specific types of data or scenarios. Moreover, understanding how these algorithms work provides us with insights into computational thinking and problem-solving techniques. By grasping the underlying principles of each algorithm, we can make informed decisions on which approach is best suited for a given task or problem.

Nowadays, with advancements in technology allowing for increasingly large datasets and complex challenges, it has become even more vital to have a strong foundation in algorithmic thinking. These four commonly used algorithms serve as building blocks for more advanced techniques and pave the way for innovation in fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. As technology continues to evolve at an exponential pace, mastering these fundamental concepts will undoubtedly be advantageous for individuals seeking successful careers in computer science or other related fields.

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