Java Stack Tutorial: Mastering Stacks in Java [2024]

Have you ever wondered how data is organized and accessed in computer programs? One essential data structure that you should be familiar with is the stack. In this comprehensive tutorial, we will delve into the world of stacks in Java, exploring their operations, efficiency, and various examples. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced programmer, this guide will equip you with the knowledge and skills to master stacks in Java.

Table of Contents

Quick Answer

A stack in Java is an Abstract Data Type (ADT) or a linear data structure that follows the Last-in-First-Out (LIFO) principle. It allows data operations at one end only, with elements being added and removed from the top. Stack operations include push(), pop(), peek(), isFull(), and isEmpty(). Stacks are efficient as all operations are performed at the top, making them fast and suitable for various applications.

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Quick Tips and Facts

  • A stack is a collection of elements that supports two main operations: push and pop.
  • The push operation adds an element to the top of the stack, while the pop operation removes the topmost element.
  • The peek operation allows you to view the topmost element without removing it.
  • Stacks are often used in scenarios where the order of data retrieval is important, such as undo/redo functionality or evaluating mathematical expressions.
  • Java provides a built-in Stack class in the java.util package that can be used to implement stacks.

Background: Understanding Stacks in Java

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Before we dive into the intricacies of stacks in Java, let’s take a moment to understand the concept and purpose of stacks. Imagine a stack of books on a table. You can add a new book to the top of the stack or remove the topmost book. This Last-in-First-Out (LIFO) behavior is the fundamental principle behind stacks.

In Java, a stack is an Abstract Data Type (ADT) or a linear data structure that follows the LIFO principle. It allows data operations at one end only, known as the top of the stack. Elements can be added and removed from the top, making it a versatile data structure for various applications.

Stack Operations: Push, Pop, Peek, and More

Stacks in Java support several operations that enable efficient manipulation of data. Let’s explore the most common stack operations:

1. Push

The push operation adds an element to the top of the stack. It takes the element as a parameter and inserts it at the top, increasing the stack’s size. Here’s an example of how to push an element onto a stack in Java:

Stack<Integer> stack = new Stack<>();
stack.push(42);

2. Pop

The pop operation removes the topmost element from the stack and returns it. It decreases the stack’s size by one. If the stack is empty, a NoSuchElementException is thrown. Here’s an example of how to pop an element from a stack in Java:

Stack<Integer> stack = new Stack<>();
stack.push(42);
int element = stack.pop();

3. Peek

The peek operation allows you to view the topmost element of the stack without removing it. It returns the element at the top of the stack. If the stack is empty, an EmptyStackException is thrown. Here’s an example of how to peek at the top element of a stack in Java:

Stack<Integer> stack = new Stack<>();
stack.push(42);
int topElement = stack.peek();

4. isFull

The isFull operation checks whether the stack is full or not. In Java, the built-in Stack class does not provide a direct method to check if a stack is full. However, you can define a maximum size for the stack and compare its size with the maximum size to determine if it’s full. Here’s an example:

Stack<Integer> stack = new Stack<>();
int maxSize = 10;
boolean isFull = stack.size() == maxSize;

5. isEmpty

The isEmpty operation checks whether the stack is empty or not. It returns true if the stack is empty, and false otherwise. Here’s an example:

Stack<Integer> stack = new Stack<>();
boolean isEmpty = stack.isEmpty();

Stack States: Overflow and Underflow

While working with stacks, it’s important to be aware of two possible states: overflow and underflow.

Overflow

Overflow occurs when you try to push an element onto a stack that is already full. In Java, the built-in Stack class does not have a fixed size, so it doesn’t inherently support overflow. However, if you define a maximum size for your stack implementation, you need to handle overflow scenarios appropriately.

Underflow

Underflow occurs when you try to pop an element from an empty stack. In Java, if you attempt to pop an element from an empty stack using the built-in Stack class, a NoSuchElementException will be thrown. It’s crucial to handle underflow scenarios to avoid runtime errors in your code.

Efficiency of Stacks

Stacks are known for their efficiency, thanks to their LIFO nature. All stack operations, such as push, pop, and peek, are performed at the top of the stack, making them fast and constant time operations. The time complexity for these operations is O(1), regardless of the stack’s size.

Due to their efficiency, stacks are widely used in various applications, including:

  • Reversing a string: By pushing each character onto a stack and then popping them off, you can reverse the order of the characters.
  • Delimiter matching: Stacks can be used to check if a string of delimiters, such as parentheses or brackets, is balanced.
  • Converting a decimal number to binary: Stacks can be used to convert a decimal number to its binary representation.

Java Stack Examples: Implementations and Applications

To solidify your understanding of stacks in Java, let’s explore some examples of stack implementations and their applications.

1. Array-based Stack Implementation

One way to implement a stack in Java is by using an array. The array-based stack implementation allocates a fixed-size array and uses a variable to keep track of the top element’s index. Here’s an example of an array-based stack implementation:

class ArrayStack {
    private int maxSize;
    private int[] stackArray;
    private int top;

    public ArrayStack(int size) {
        maxSize = size;
        stackArray = new int[maxSize];
        top = -1;
    }

    public void push(int element) {
        if (top == maxSize - 1) {
            System.out.println("Stack is full. Cannot push element.");
            return;
        }
        stackArray[++top] = element;
    }

    public int pop() {
        if (top == -1) {
            System.out.println("Stack is empty. Cannot pop element.");
            return -1;
        }
        return stackArray[top--];
    }

    public int peek() {
        if (top == -1) {
            System.out.println("Stack is empty. Cannot peek element.");
            return -1;
        }
        return stackArray[top];
    }

    public boolean isEmpty() {
        return top == -1;
    }

    public boolean isFull() {
        return top == maxSize - 1;
    }
}

2. Dynamic Stack Implementation

Another approach to implementing a stack in Java is by using a dynamic data structure, such as a linked list. The dynamic stack implementation allows the stack to grow and shrink dynamically as elements are added or removed. Here’s an example of a dynamic stack implementation using a linked list:

class Node {
    int data;
    Node next;

    public Node(int data) {
        this.data = data;
        this.next = null;
    }
}

class DynamicStack {
    private Node top;

    public void push(int element) {
        Node newNode = new Node(element);
        newNode.next = top;
        top = newNode;
    }

    public int pop() {
        if (isEmpty()) {
            System.out.println("Stack is empty. Cannot pop element.");
            return -1;
        }
        int element = top.data;
        top = top.next;
        return element;
    }

    public int peek() {
        if (isEmpty()) {
            System.out.println("Stack is empty. Cannot peek element.");
            return -1;
        }
        return top.data;
    }

    public boolean isEmpty() {
        return top == null;
    }
}

3. Applications of Stacks

Stacks find applications in various domains. Here are a few examples:

  • Reversing a string: By pushing each character onto a stack and then popping them off, you can reverse the order of the characters.
  • Delimiter matching: Stacks can be used to check if a string of delimiters, such as parentheses or brackets, is balanced.
  • Converting a decimal number to binary: Stacks can be used to convert a decimal number to its binary representation.

By understanding these examples and implementing your own stack, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of how stacks work and their practical applications.

FAQ

MacBook Pro with images of computer language codes

What are stacks in Java?

Stacks in Java are Abstract Data Types (ADTs) or linear data structures that follow the Last-in-First-Out (LIFO) principle. They allow data operations at one end only, with elements being added and removed from the top.

Read more about “How to Access Stack Elements in Java? …”

What is the difference between Vector and stack in Java?

In Java, both Vector and Stack are classes that implement the stack data structure. The main difference is that Vector is a resizable array-based implementation, while Stack is a subclass of Vector with additional methods for stack-specific operations.

What is the basic concept of a stack?

The basic concept of a stack is that it follows the Last-in-First-Out (LIFO) principle. This means that the last element added to the stack is the first one to be removed. Stacks allow data operations at one end only, known as the top of the stack.

Read more about “Stack Interface Tutorial …”

How many elements are in a stack in Java?

The number of elements in a stack in Java can vary depending on the implementation. If you’re using the built-in Stack class from the java.util package, it doesn’t have a fixed size, so the number of elements can be dynamic.

Read more about “Is Stack a Class or Interface? …”

Conclusion

laptop computer showing codes

In conclusion, stacks are a fundamental data structure in Java that follows the Last-in-First-Out (LIFO) principle. They allow efficient data manipulation through operations such as push, pop, and peek. Stacks are widely used in various applications, thanks to their efficiency and simplicity.

After mastering the concepts and implementations covered in this tutorial, you are well-equipped to leverage stacks in your Java programs. Whether you’re working on undo/redo functionality, evaluating mathematical expressions, or solving other problems, stacks will be a valuable tool in your programming arsenal.

So go ahead, dive into the world of stacks in Java, and unlock the power of efficient data manipulation!

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Jacob
Jacob

Jacob is a software engineer with over 2 decades of experience in the field. His experience ranges from working in fortune 500 retailers, to software startups as diverse as the the medical or gaming industries. He has full stack experience and has even developed a number of successful mobile apps and games.

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