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JavaScript Algorithms: Quicksort

Published Nov 23 2020

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Quicksort is a more efficient searching algorithm than selection sort, in most cases, and it makes use of recursion.

Recursion means we call a function from within the same function. It’s a very useful practice, sometimes, and this is one of those cases.

I said “in most cases”, because as we’ll see, in the worst case bubble sort can take the same time of selection sort: O(n^2). But in the best case scenario, it will run at O(n log n), which is in the middle between O(n) and O(n^2).

How does it work? Given an array, we pick an item, called pivot. We then get all the items smaller than the pivot, and the items bigger than the pivot.

Then we run the same operation on the 2 array that compose the smaller and bigger items.

It’s easier to see the code than to describe it:

const quickSort = (originalList) => {
  const list = [...originalList]

  if (list.length < 2) {
    return list

  const pivot = list[0]

  const smaller = list.filter((item) => item < pivot)
  const bigger = list.filter((item) => item > pivot)

  return [...quickSort(smaller), pivot, ...quickSort(bigger)]

In this case I chose the pivot to be the first item in the array, but it could also be the item in the middle, for example:

const pivot = list[Math(floor(list.length / 2)]

Notice how we first copy the array, so calling quickSort() does not modify the original array, it just returns a new sorted array:

const a = [1, 6, 3, 4, 5, 1, 0, 4, 8]

//[0, 1, 1, 3, 4, 4, 5, 6, 8

//[1, 6, 3, 4, 5, 1, 0, 4, 8]

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