java::util::Comparator Class Reference

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Detailed Description

A comparison function, which imposes a total ordering on some collection of objects.

Comparators can be passed to a sort method (such as Collections.sort) to allow precise control over the sort order. Comparators can also be used to control the order of certain data structures (such as TreeSet or TreeMap).

The ordering imposed by a Comparator c on a set of elements S is said to be consistent with equals if and only if (compare((Object)e1, (Object)e2)==0) has the same boolean value as e1.equals((Object)e2) for every e1 and e2 in S.

Caution should be exercised when using a comparator capable of imposing an ordering inconsistent with equals to order a sorted set (or sorted map). Suppose a sorted set (or sorted map) with an explicit Comparator c is used with elements (or keys) drawn from a set S. If the ordering imposed by c on S is inconsistent with equals, the sorted set (or sorted map) will behave "strangely." In particular the sorted set (or sorted map) will violate the general contract for set (or map), which is defined in terms of equals.

For example, if one adds two keys a and b such that (a.equals((Object)b) && c.compare((Object)a, (Object)b) != 0) to a sorted set with comparator c, the second add operation will return false (and the size of the sorted set will not increase) because a and b are equivalent from the sorted set's perspective.

Note: It is generally a good idea for comparators to implement java.io.Serializable, as they may be used as ordering methods in serializable data structures (like TreeSet, TreeMap). In order for the data structure to serialize successfully, the comparator (if provided) must implement Serializable.

For the mathematically inclined, the relation that defines the total order that a given comparator c imposes on a given set of objects S is:

       {(x, y) such that c.compare((Object)x, (Object)y) <= 0}.
 
The quotient for this total order is:
       {(x, y) such that c.compare((Object)x, (Object)y) == 0}.
 

It follows immediately from the contract for compare that the quotient is an equivalence relation on S, and that the natural ordering is a total order on S. When we say that the ordering imposed by c on S is consistent with equals, we mean that the quotient for the natural ordering is the equivalence relation defined by the objects' equals(Object) method(s):

       {(x, y) such that x.equals((Object)y)}.
 

Author:
Josh Bloch
Version:
1.17, 12/03/01
See also:
Comparable

TreeMap

TreeSet

SortedMap

SortedSet

Since:
1.2

Public Member Functions

virtual jint compare (const ObjectRef &o1, const ObjectRef &o2) const =0
 Compares its two arguments for order.

Static Public Member Functions

static Ref< ComparatorreverseOrder ()
 Returns a comparator that imposes the reverse of the natural ordering on a collection of objects that implement the Comparable interface.

Member Function Documentation

static Ref<Comparator> java::util::Comparator::reverseOrder (  )  [static]

Returns a comparator that imposes the reverse of the natural ordering on a collection of objects that implement the Comparable interface.

(The natural ordering is the ordering imposed by the objects' own compareTo method.) This enables a simple idiom for sorting (or maintaining) collections (or arrays) of objects that implement the Comparable interface in reverse-natural-order. For example, suppose a is an array of strings. Then:

 		Arrays.sort(a, Collections.reverseOrder());
 
sorts the array in reverse-lexicographic (alphabetical) order.

The returned comparator is serializable.

Returns:
a comparator that imposes the reverse of the natural ordering on a collection of objects that implement the Comparable interface.
See also:
Comparable

virtual jint java::util::Comparator::compare ( const ObjectRef o1,
const ObjectRef o2 
) const [pure virtual]

Compares its two arguments for order.

Returns a negative integer, zero, or a positive integer as the first argument is less than, equal to, or greater than the second.

The implementor must ensure that sgn(compare(x, y)) == -sgn(compare(y, x)) for all x and y. (This implies that compare(x, y) must throw an exception if and only if compare(y, x) throws an exception.)

The implementor must also ensure that the relation is transitive: ((compare(x, y)>0) && (compare(y, z)>0)) implies compare(x, z)>0.

Finally, the implementer must ensure that compare(x, y)==0 implies that sgn(compare(x, z))==sgn(compare(y, z)) for all z.

It is generally the case, but not strictly required that (compare(x, y)==0) == (x.equals(y)). Generally speaking, any comparator that violates this condition should clearly indicate this fact. The recommended language is "Note: this comparator imposes orderings that are inconsistent with equals."

Parameters:
o1 the first object to be compared.
o2 the second object to be compared.
Returns:
a negative integer, zero, or a positive integer as the first argument is less than, equal to, or greater than the second.
Exceptions:
ClassCastException if the arguments' types prevent them from being compared by this Comparator.


The documentation for this class was generated from the following file:
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