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Insertion sort is a simple sorting algorithm that builds the final sorted array (or list) one item at a time by comparisons. It is much less efficient on large lists than more advanced algorithms such as quicksort, heapsort, or merge sort. However, insertion sort provides several advantages:
- Simple implementation: Jon Bentley shows a three-line C/C++ version that is five lines when optimized.
- Efficient for (quite) small data sets, much like other quadratic (i.e., O(n2)) sorting algorithms
- More efficient in practice than most other simple quadratic algorithms such as selection sort or bubble sort
- Adaptive, i.e., efficient for data sets that are already substantially sorted: the time complexity is O(kn) when each element in the input is no more than k places away from its sorted position
- Stable; i.e., does not change the relative order of elements with equal keys
- In-place; i.e., only requires a constant amount O(1) of additional memory space
- Online; i.e., can sort a list as it receives it
|Worst-case performance||comparisons and swaps|
|Best-case performance||comparisons, swaps|
|Average performance||comparisons and swaps|
|Worst-case space complexity||total, auxiliary|
When people manually sort cards in a bridge hand, most use a method that is similar to insertion sort.