Difference Between Primitive and Non Primitive Data Structure

# Difference Between Primitive and Non Primitive Data Structure

9 mins readComment
Esha Gupta
Associate Senior Executive
Updated on Jul 24, 2024 17:49 IST

Have you ever wondered about the key differences between primitive and non-primitive data structures in programming? Primitive data structures are simple and predefined types like integers and booleans, used for basic data storage, whereas non-primitive structures like arrays and lists are more complex, designed for organizing collections of data and enabling advanced data manipulation. Let's understand in detail.

Primitive data structures are basic types built into a programming language, such as integers, floats, chars, and booleans, known for their simplicity and efficiency in storing single values. Non-primitive data structures are more complex and can store collections or sets of data, including arrays, lists, and more sophisticated structures like trees and graphs. In this blog, we will see the differences between them in detail.

## Difference Between Primitive and Non Primitive Data Structure

Below is a table highlighting the differences between primitive and non primitive data structure.

 Aspect Primitive Data Structures Non-Primitive Data Structures Definition Basic types provided by a programming language as building blocks. Complex data structures that are built using primitive data types. Examples int, float, char, double, boolean, byte, short, long. Arrays, lists, stacks, queues, trees, graphs, sets, maps, classes Memory Allocation Allocated on the stack. Typically allocated on the heap. Size Fixed and predefined by the language. Dynamic and can vary during runtime. Storage Store single values. It can store multiple and complex sets of data. Operations Limited to basic arithmetic and logical operations. Support a wide range of operations specific to the data structure. Default Values Have default values (like 0 for int, false for boolean). Usually, initialize to null or require explicit initialization. Efficiency Generally more efficient in terms of memory and performance. It can be less efficient due to additional memory and overhead. Direct Access It can be accessed directly through their variable name. It may require special methods or operations to access or manipulate. Usage Used for representing simple values and performing basic operations. Used for organising and managing data in more complex ways.

## What are Primitive Data Structures?

Primitive data structures are the most basic and fundamental types of data provided by a programming language. They represent simple data types that are not composed of other data types and serve as the basic building blocks for data manipulation within the language.

### Key Characteristics of Primitive Data Structures

1. Fundamental Types: Primitive data structures are built into the language and do not need to be derived from other data structures. They are typically supported at the lowest level of the language.

2. Simple Values: They represent single, simple values like an integer number, a floating-point number, a character, or a boolean value.

3. Memory Efficiency: Because of their simplicity, they are highly efficient in terms of memory usage.

4. Fixed Size: They have a fixed size, meaning the amount of memory they take up is predefined and does not change at runtime.

5. Examples

• Integer: Represents whole numbers, such as int in Java or C++.
• Float/Double: Represents numbers with fractional parts. Float is for single precision, and Double is for double precision.
• Character: Represents individual characters like 'A', 'b', '3', etc. It's usually denoted as char in languages like C, C++, and Java.
• Boolean: Represents truth values, typically true or false.
• Byte: Represents a byte of data and is often used for raw binary data processing.

6. Direct Operation: Primitive data structures support direct operations like arithmetic for numbers, logical operations for booleans, etc.

7. Value Types: In many languages, primitive types are value types, which means variables of these types store the data directly rather than referring to the data stored elsewhere.

## Example Showing Usage of Primitive Data Structures

### Example: Temperature Data Logger

Problem Statement: Imagine a product-based scenario in a manufacturing facility where monitoring the temperature is crucial for maintaining product quality. The facility uses a temperature data logger that records temperature readings every hour. The system must process and store these temperature readings efficiently for later analysis.

C code snippet that simulates the storage and processing of temperature readings

```#include <stdio.h> int main() { // Array to store one day's temperature readings (24 hours) float temperatureReadings[24]; float total = 0.0, average; // Simulate temperature readings for 24 hours for (int hour = 0; hour < 24; hour++) { // For simplicity, we're generating a temperature reading // In a real-world scenario, this would come from a sensor temperatureReadings[hour] = 20.0 + (rand() % 10); // Random temperature between 20 to 30 // Add the reading to the total total += temperatureReadings[hour]; } // Calculate the average temperature of the day average = total / 24; // Print the average temperature printf("Average Temperature of the Day: %.2f\n", average); return 0;}Copy code```

Output

Average Temperature of the Day: 24.71

Note: The actual output will vary each time you run the program due to the use of random temperature generation.

In the code above, the float array temperatureReadings[24] serves as a primitive data structure to hold 24 hourly temperature values, representing each hour of the day. Another primitive type, float, is used for the variables total and average to accumulate the total temperature and compute the average, respectively. These float variables are ideal for storing decimal numbers, which are common in temperature data.

## What are Non-Primitive Data Structures?

Non-primitive data structures, also known as composite or reference data structures are more complex than primitive data structures and are not built into the programming language but rather are constructed using primitive data types and other composite types. These structures are used to store and organize data in a more sophisticated way, allowing for the management of large and complex sets of data.

### Key Characteristics of Non-Primitive Data Structures

1. Complexity: Non-primitive data structures can hold multiple and diverse data types. They are designed to store a collection of items and typically involve more complex management of data.

2. Examples

• Arrays: A collection of elements, typically of the same data type, arranged in a sequential order.
• Linked Lists: Consists of nodes where each node contains data and a reference (or link) to the next node in the sequence.
• Stacks: Follows the Last In First Out (LIFO) principle. Operations are performed at one end, called the top of the stack.
• Queues: Operate on the First In First Out (FIFO) principle. Elements are added at the rear and removed from the front.
• Trees: A hierarchical structure with a root value and subtrees of children, represented as a set of linked nodes.
• Graphs: Consist of nodes (vertices) that are connected by edges. Useful for representing networks.
• Hash Tables: Store data in an associative manner. Data is accessed via a unique key.
• Sets: A collection of distinct elements with no particular order.

3. Memory Allocation: Often allocated dynamically on the heap, which allows these data structures to expand as needed during runtime.

4. Usage: Used for more complex data manipulations, such as storing large amounts of data, performing complex algorithms, managing and indexing data efficiently, and organizing data in hierarchical or networked structures.

5. Operations: Provide a wide range of operations like insertion, deletion, searching, sorting, iterating over elements, etc.

6. Examples in Real-World Applications

• Implementing customer records in a database using linked lists or arrays.
• Managing a browser's back-forward stack using a stack data structure.
• Implementing a waiting line system (like in ticket counters) using queues.
• Representing network connections like social networks or GPS navigation systems using graphs.

## Example Showing Usage of Non-Primitive Data Structures

### Example: Online Bookstore Inventory Management

Problem Statement: Consider an online bookstore that needs to manage its inventory of books. Each book has attributes like title, author, ISBN, and price. The bookstore requires a system to store this information efficiently and perform operations like adding new books, searching for books by title, and displaying all books in the inventory.

Java code snippet that demonstrates the use of a non-primitive data structure - a list of objects

```import java.util.ArrayList;import java.util.List; class Book { String title; String author; String isbn; double price; public Book(String title, String author, String isbn, double price) { this.title = title; this.author = author; this.isbn = isbn; this.price = price; } @Override public String toString() { return title + " by " + author + " (ISBN: " + isbn + "), Price: \$" + price; }} class Bookstore { public static void main(String[] args) { List<Book> inventory = new ArrayList<>(); // Adding books to the inventory inventory.add(new Book("The Alchemist", "Paulo Coelho", "9780061122415", 10.20)); inventory.add(new Book("The Great Gatsby", "F. Scott Fitzgerald", "9780743273565", 8.99)); // Display all books in the inventory for (Book book : inventory) { System.out.println(book); } }}Copy code```

Output

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (ISBN: 9780061122415), Price: \$10.2
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (ISBN: 9780743273565), Price: \$8.99

The provided Java code snippet demonstrates the use of a non-primitive data structure, specifically an ArrayList, to manage a collection of Book objects in an online bookstore system. It showcases the utility of non-primitive data structures in handling complex data types and performing operations like storage, retrieval, and iteration in an efficient and scalable manner.

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Thus, primitive data structures are the building blocks for basic data storage, whereas non-primitive data structures offer more advanced and versatile ways to organize and manage data, especially when dealing with large and complex datasets. The choice between them depends on the application's requirements in terms of complexity, data volume, and operations needed.

## FAQs

What are Primitive Data Structures?

Primitive data structures are the basic data types that are built into the programming language. They include types such as integers, floats, characters, and booleans. These structures directly store values in memory and do not contain any additional methods or properties.

What are Non-Primitive Data Structures?

Non-Primitive Data Structures, also known as reference or composite data structures, are more complex data types that are built using primitive data types and/or other non-primitive data types. They include arrays, lists, classes, objects, structures, and more. These data structures can store collections of data, offer various methods for data manipulation, and can be used to implement more complex data systems like linked lists, stacks, queues, trees, and graphs.

How do Primitive and Non-Primitive Data Structures Differ in Memory Allocation?

Primitive data structures are allocated memory in the stack, making access to them fast and straightforward. Each variable directly contains its value. Non-primitive data structures, however, are usually allocated memory in the heap, and a reference to this memory is stored in the stack. This allows them to handle dynamic data sizes and more complex data organization but can make them slower to access due to the indirection.

Can Non-Primitive Data Structures be Built Using Primitive Data Structures?

Yes, non-primitive data structures are often built using primitive data structures as their foundation. For example, a string (considered non-primitive in many languages) is essentially a sequence (array) of characters (primitive). Similarly, more complex structures like trees and graphs are composed of nodes, which can contain primitive data types and references to other nodes.

Why Choose One Over the Other?

The choice between using primitive and non-primitive data structures typically depends on the specific requirements of the application. Primitive data structures, being simpler and faster, are suitable for basic data manipulation and temporary data storage. Non-primitive data structures, despite being more complex and potentially slower, offer more flexibility and are essential for organizing large and complex datasets, supporting algorithms that require dynamic data manipulation, and building applications that require high levels of data interaction.

About the Author
Esha Gupta
Associate Senior Executive

Hello, world! I'm Esha Gupta, your go-to Technical Content Developer focusing on Java, Data Structures and Algorithms, and Front End Development. Alongside these specialities, I have a zest for immersing myself in v... Read Full Bio