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Working with Java Collections

Last Updated: Sep 17, 2022

The collections framework in Java defines numerous different data structures in which you can store, group, and retrieve objects. Located inside the java.util package, the collections framework contains numerous different classes and interfaces including ArrayList, LinkedList, Queue, HashSet, HashMap, amongst others.

All of these support adding, removing, getting the total size, clearing, checking if an item exists, whether or not it is empty, and many others. In this lesson, we'll dive into some of these collections and learn how to do the basic operations in each.

ArrayList

An ArrayList is similar to a normal Java array except that the size here is dynamically and automatically adjusted as the size of the collection changes. Remember that normal arrays have a fixed size that cannot change. With ArrayList, you don't need to worry about the size. Import the class you're good to go:

import java.util.ArrayList;

Let's look at how to use an ArrayList.

Creating an ArrayList

import java.util.ArrayList;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        ArrayList<String> countries = new ArrayList<String>();
    }
}

Put the type of objects you want to collect inside the diamond operator like shown above and you're good to go.

Adding items to an ArrayList

import java.util.ArrayList;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        ArrayList<String> countries = new ArrayList<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");

        System.out.println(countries);
    }
}
[United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada]

Accessing an Item in an ArrayList

import java.util.ArrayList;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        ArrayList<String> countries = new ArrayList<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");

        System.out.println(countries.get(1));
    }
}
United Kingdom

Changing an Item in an ArrayList

import java.util.ArrayList;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        ArrayList<String> countries = new ArrayList<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");
        countries.set(1, "Australia");
        System.out.println(countries.get(1));
    }
}
Australia

Removing an Item in an ArrayList

import java.util.ArrayList;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        ArrayList<String> countries = new ArrayList<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");

        countries.remove(1);
        System.out.println(countries);
    }
}
[United States of America, Canada]

Get Size of an ArrayList

import java.util.ArrayList;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        ArrayList<String> countries = new ArrayList<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");

        System.out.println(countries.size());
    }
}
3

Check if Item exists in ArrayList

import java.util.ArrayList;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        ArrayList<String> countries = new ArrayList<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");

        boolean contains = countries.contains("Canada");

        System.out.println(contains);
    }
}
true

Iterate over an ArrayList

import java.util.ArrayList;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        ArrayList<String> countries = new ArrayList<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");

        for (int i = 0; i < countries.size(); i++) {
          System.out.println(countries.get(i));
        }
    }
}
United States of America
United Kingdom
Canada

LinkedList

A LinkedList is similar to an ArrayList except the way the data is stored in memory. Where an ArrayList uses a normal array to store elements, a LinkedList uses a doubly linked list to store elements. What this means is that each item knows where the next and previous items are, instead of in an array where you simply increment or decrement the index.

In general, a LinkedList is better when you're manipulating data, but an ArrayList is superior when it comes to simply storing and accessing that data. To start using a LinkedList, import the class you're good to go:

import java.util.LinkedList;

Creating a LinkedList

import java.util.LinkedList;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        LinkedList<String> countries = new LinkedList<String>();
    }
}

Adding items to LinkedList

import java.util.LinkedList;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        LinkedList<String> countries = new LinkedList<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");

        System.out.println(countries);
    }
}
[United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada]

Removing an Item in an LinkedList

import java.util.LinkedList;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        LinkedList<String> countries = new LinkedList<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");

        countries.remove(1);

        System.out.println(countries);
    }
}
[United States of America, Canada]

Get Size of LinkedList

import java.util.LinkedList;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        LinkedList<String> countries = new LinkedList<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");

        System.out.println(countries.size());
    }
}
3

Check if Item exists in LinkedList

import java.util.LinkedList;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        LinkedList<String> countries = new LinkedList<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");

        boolean contains = countries.contains("Canada");

        System.out.println(contains);
    }
}
true

Iterate over an LinkedList

import java.util.LinkedList;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        LinkedList<String> countries = new LinkedList<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");

        for (int i = 0; i < countries.size(); i++) {
          System.out.println(countries.get(i));
        }
    }
}
United States of America
United Kingdom
Canada

HashSet

A Java HashSet is a collection that uses a hash table for storage. Elements are stored by hashing and as a result only supports unique elements only. Unlike most collections, a HashSet does not keep track of order. As a result, using a HashSet is best when you simply want to search data.

Import the class you're good to go:

import java.util.HashSet;

Creating a HashSet

import java.util.HashSet;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        HashSet<String> countries = new HashSet<String>();
    }
}

Adding items to a HashSet

import java.util.HashSet;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        HashSet<String> countries = new HashSet<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");

        System.out.println(countries);
    }
}
[Canada, United States of America, United Kingdom]

Removing an Item in a HashSet

import java.util.HashSet;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        HashSet<String> countries = new HashSet<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");

        countries.remove("United Kingdom");

        System.out.println(countries);
    }
}
[Canada, United States of America]

Get Size of HashSet

import java.util.HashSet;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        HashSet<String> countries = new HashSet<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");

        System.out.println(countries.size());
    }
}
3

Check if Item exists in HashSet

import java.util.HashSet;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        HashSet<String> countries = new HashSet<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");

        boolean contains = countries.contains("Canada");

        System.out.println(contains);
    }
}
true

Iterate over a HashSet

import java.util.HashSet;
import java.util.Iterator;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        HashSet<String> countries = new HashSet<String>();
        countries.add("United States of America");
        countries.add("United Kingdom");
        countries.add("Canada");

        Iterator<String> iterator = countries.iterator();
        while(iterator.hasNext()) {
            System.out.println(iterator.next());
        }
    }
}
Canada
United States of America
United Kingdom

HashMap

A HashMap works fundamentally different than the other collections we've seen here. A HashMap uses key-value pairs to insert and access items. All keys must be unique and this, like a HashSet does not maintain order. HashMaps are great when you know the key of the item you want to access.

Import the class you're good to go:

import java.util.HashMap;

Creating a HashMap

import java.util.HashMap;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        HashMap<String, Integer> population = new HashMap<String, Integer>();
    }
}

Adding items to a HashMap

import java.util.HashMap;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        HashMap<String, Integer> population = new HashMap<String, Integer>();
        population.put("United States of America", 327200000);
        population.put("United Kingdom", 66440000);
        population.put("Canada", 37590000);

        System.out.println(population);
    }
}
{Canada=37590000, United States of America=327200000, United Kingdom=66440000}

Accessing an Item in a HashMap

import java.util.HashMap;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        HashMap<String, Integer> population = new HashMap<String, Integer>();
        population.put("United States of America", 327200000);
        population.put("United Kingdom", 66440000);
        population.put("Canada", 37590000);

        System.out.println(population.get("United Kingdom"));
    }
}
66440000

Changing an Item in a HashMap

import java.util.HashMap;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        HashMap<String, Integer> population = new HashMap<String, Integer>();
        population.put("United States of America", 327200000);
        population.put("United Kingdom", 66440000);
        population.put("Canada", 37590000);

        population.replace("United States of America", 100000000); // uh oh

        System.out.println(population.get("United States of America"));
    }
}
100000000

Removing an Item in a HashMap

import java.util.HashMap;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        HashMap<String, Integer> population = new HashMap<String, Integer>();
        population.put("United States of America", 327200000);
        population.put("United Kingdom", 66440000);
        population.put("Canada", 37590000);

        population.remove("United States of America");

        System.out.println(population);
    }
}
{Canada=37590000, United Kingdom=66440000}

Get Size of a HashMap

import java.util.HashMap;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        HashMap<String, Integer> population = new HashMap<String, Integer>();
        population.put("United States of America", 327200000);
        population.put("United Kingdom", 66440000);
        population.put("Canada", 37590000);

        System.out.println(population.size());
    }
}
3

Check if Item exists in HashMap

import java.util.HashMap;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        HashMap<String, Integer> population = new HashMap<String, Integer>();
        population.put("United States of America", 327200000);
        population.put("United Kingdom", 66440000);
        population.put("Canada", 37590000);

        boolean contains = population.containsKey("Canada");

        System.out.println(contains);
    }
}
true

Iterate over a HashMap

import java.util.Map;
import java.util.HashMap;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        HashMap<String, Integer> population = new HashMap<String, Integer>();
        population.put("United States of America", 327200000);
        population.put("United Kingdom", 66440000);
        population.put("Canada", 37590000);

        for (Map.Entry<String, Integer> country : population.entrySet()) {
            System.out.println("Name: " + country.getKey() + ", Population: " + country.getValue());
        }
    }
}
Name: Canada, Population: 37590000
Name: United States of America, Population: 327200000
Name: United Kingdom, Population: 66440000

Alternatively, you can iterate over either just the keys or just the values:

import java.util.Map;
import java.util.HashMap;

public class Main {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        HashMap<String, Integer> population = new HashMap<String, Integer>();
        population.put("United States of America", 327200000);
        population.put("United Kingdom", 66440000);
        population.put("Canada", 37590000);

        // just keys
        for (String name : population.keySet()) {
            System.out.println(name);
        }

        // just values
        for (int pop : population.values()) {
            System.out.println(pop);
        }
    }
}
Canada
United States of America
United Kingdom
37590000
327200000
66440000