sort(3p) Perl Programmers Reference Guide sort(3p)

sort - perl pragma to control sort() behaviour

use sort 'stable'; # guarantee stability use sort '_quicksort'; # use a quicksort algorithm use sort '_mergesort'; # use a mergesort algorithm use sort 'defaults'; # revert to default behavior no sort 'stable'; # stability not important use sort '_qsort'; # alias for quicksort my $current = sort::current(); # identify prevailing algorithm

With the "sort" pragma you can control the behaviour of the builtin "sort()" function. In Perl versions 5.6 and earlier the quicksort algorithm was used to implement "sort()", but in Perl 5.8 a mergesort algorithm was also made available, mainly to guarantee worst case O(N log N) behaviour: the worst case of quicksort is O(N**2). In Perl 5.8 and later, quicksort defends against quadratic behaviour by shuffling large arrays before sort- ing. A stable sort means that for records that compare equal, the original input ordering is preserved. Mergesort is stable, quicksort is not. Stability will matter only if elements that compare equal can be distinguished in some other way. That means that simple numerical and lexical sorts do not profit from stability, since equal elements are indistin- guishable. However, with a comparison such as { substr($a, 0, 3) cmp substr($b, 0, 3) } stability might matter because elements that compare equal on the first 3 characters may be distinguished based on sub- sequent characters. In Perl 5.8 and later, quicksort can be stabilized, but doing so will add overhead, so it should only be done if it matters. The best algorithm depends on many things. On average, mer- gesort does fewer comparisons than quicksort, so it may be better when complicated comparison routines are used. Mer- gesort also takes advantage of pre-existing order, so it would be favored for using "sort()" to merge several sorted arrays. On the other hand, quicksort is often faster for small arrays, and on arrays of a few distinct values, repeated many times. You can force the choice of algorithm with this pragma, but this feels heavy-handed, so the sub- pragmas beginning with a "_" may not persist beyond Perl perl v5.8.8 2005-02-05 1 sort(3p) Perl Programmers Reference Guide sort(3p) 5.8. The default algorithm is mergesort, which will be stable even if you do not explicitly demand it. But the sta- bility of the default sort is a side-effect that could change in later versions. If stability is important, be sure to say so with a use sort 'stable'; The "no sort" pragma doesn'tforbidwhat follows, it just leaves the choice open. Thus, after no sort qw(_mergesort stable); a mergesort, which happens to be stable, will be employed anyway. Note that no sort "_quicksort"; no sort "_mergesort"; have exactly the same effect, leaving the choice of sort algorithm open.

This pragma is not lexically scoped: its effect is global to the program it appears in. That means the following will probably not do what you expect, becausebothpragmas take effect at compile time, beforeeither"sort()" happens. { use sort "_quicksort"; print sort::current . "\n"; @a = sort @b; } { use sort "stable"; print sort::current . "\n"; @c = sort @d; } # prints: # quicksort stable # quicksort stable You can achieve the effect you probably wanted by using "eval()" to defer the pragmas until run time. Use the quoted argument form of "eval()",notthe BLOCK form, as in eval { use sort "_quicksort" }; # WRONG or the effect will still be at compile time. Reset to default options before selecting other subpragmas (in case somebody carelessly left them on) and after sorting, as a courtesy to others. perl v5.8.8 2005-02-05 2 sort(3p) Perl Programmers Reference Guide sort(3p) { eval 'use sort qw(defaults _quicksort)'; # force quicksort eval 'no sort "stable"'; # stability not wanted print sort::current . "\n"; @a = sort @b; eval 'use sort "defaults"'; # clean up, for others } { eval 'use sort qw(defaults stable)'; # force stability print sort::current . "\n"; @c = sort @d; eval 'use sort "defaults"'; # clean up, for others } # prints: # quicksort # stable Scoping for this pragma may change in future versions. perl v5.8.8 2005-02-05 3