Chapter III.2. Sets and Linked Lists

An array can be handy for storing data that consists of the same type of information, such as integers. However, arrays can often be too restrictive. You must define the size of an array ahead of time and you can only store one data type. In addition, searching, rearranging, or deleting data from an array can be cumbersome.

To solve the problems of arrays, programming languages have come up with a variety of solutions. The obvious solution involves modifying the way arrays work, such as letting you create resizable (dynamic) arrays that can store a special Variant data type. Unlike an Integer data type (which can only hold whole numbers) or a String data type (which can only hold text), a Variant data type can hold both numbers and text. (Not all programming languages offer resizable arrays or Variant data types.)

Rather than modify the way arrays work, many programming languages allow you to create other types of data structures. Two popular alternatives to arrays are

  • Sets

  • Lists

This chapter shows you how to use sets and lists when arrays are too restrictive and cumbersome.

Using Sets

If someone showed you the days of the week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), you'd know that those days are related as a group that defines a week, but how do you tell a computer that? Here's one way:

  1. Create an array to hold seven separate variables like this:

    Dim Day(6) as String
  2. Assign each variable with a different name like this:

Get Beginning Programming ALL-IN-ONE DESK REFERENCE FOR DUMMIES® now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.