# Seth Woolley's Man Viewer

## Manual for sort - man 3 sort

([section] manual, -k keyword, -K [section] search, -f whatis)
man plain no title

sort(1,3)(3)                Perl Programmers Reference Guide                sort(1,3)(3)

NAME
sort(1,3) - perl pragma to control sort(1,3)() behaviour

SYNOPSIS
use sort(1,3) 'stable';          # guarantee stability
use sort(1,3) '_quicksort';      # use a quicksort algorithm
use sort(1,3) '_mergesort';      # use a mergesort algorithm
use sort(1,3) 'defaults';        # revert to default behavior
no  sort(1,3) 'stable';          # stability not important

use sort(1,3) '_qsort';          # alias for quicksort

my \$current = sort::current();      # identify prevailing algorithm

DESCRIPTION
With the "sort(1,3)" pragma you can control the behaviour of the builtin
"sort(1,3)()" function.

In Perl versions 5.6 and earlier the quicksort algorithm was used to
implement "sort(1,3)()", but in(1,8) 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
sorting.

A stable sort(1,3) means that for records that compare equal, the original
input ordering is preserved.  Mergesort is stable, quicksort is not.
Stability will matter only if(3,n) elements that compare equal can be dis-
tinguished in(1,8) some other way.  That means that simple numerical and
lexical sorts do not profit from stability, since equal elements are
indistinguishable.  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 subsequent characters.  In
Perl 5.8 and later, quicksort can be stabilized, but doing so will add
overhead, so it should only be done if(3,n) it matters.

The best algorithm depends on many things.  On average, mergesort does
fewer comparisons than quicksort, so it may be better when complicated
comparison routines are used.  Mergesort also takes advantage of pre-
existing order, so it would be favored for using "sort(1,3)()" to merge(1,8) sev-
eral 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 subpragmas beginning with a "_" may not
persist beyond Perl 5.8.  The default algorithm is mergesort, which
will be stable even if(3,n) you do not explicitly demand it.  But the sta-
bility of the default sort(1,3) is a side-effect that could change in(1,8) later
versions.  If stability is important, be sure to say so with a

use sort(1,3) 'stable';

The "no sort(1,3)" pragma doesn't forbid what follows, it just leaves the
choice open.  Thus, after

no sort(1,3) qw(_mergesort stable);

a mergesort, which happens to be stable, will be employed anyway.  Note
that

no sort(1,3) "_quicksort";
no sort(1,3) "_mergesort";

have exactly the same effect, leaving the choice of sort(1,3) algorithm
open.

CAVEATS
This pragma is not lexically scoped: its effect is global to the pro-
gram it appears in.  That means the following will probably not do what
you expect, because both pragmas take effect at compile time(1,2,n), before
either "sort(1,3)()" happens.

{ use sort(1,3) "_quicksort";
print sort::current . "\n";
@a = sort(1,3) @b;
}
{ use sort(1,3) "stable";
print sort::current . "\n";
@c = sort(1,3) @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()", not the BLOCK form, as in(1,8)

eval { use sort(1,3) "_quicksort" }; # WRONG

or the effect will still be at compile time.  Reset to default options
before selecting other subpragmas (in(1,8) case somebody carelessly left
them on) and after sorting, as a courtesy to others.

{ eval 'use sort(1,3) qw(defaults _quicksort)'; # force quicksort
eval 'no sort(1,3) "stable"';      # stability not wanted
print sort::current . "\n";
@a = sort(1,3) @b;
eval 'use sort(1,3) "defaults"';   # clean up, for others
}
{ eval 'use sort(1,3) qw(defaults stable)';     # force stability
print sort::current . "\n";
@c = sort(1,3) @d;
eval 'use sort(1,3) "defaults"';   # clean up, for others
}
# prints:
# quicksort
# stable

Scoping for this pragma may change in(1,8) future versions.

perl v5.8.5                       2001-09-21                           sort(1,3)(3)