Data Structures and Algorithms with Object-Oriented Design Patterns in C#
next up previous contents index

Brute-Force and Greedy Algorithms


In this section we consider two closely related algorithm types--brute-force and greedy. Brute-force algorithms  are distinguished not by their structure or form, but by the way in which the problem to be solved is approached. A brute-force algorithm solves a problem in the most simple, direct or obvious way. As a result, such an algorithm can end up doing far more work to solve a given problem than a more clever or sophisticated algorithm might do. On the other hand, a brute-force algorithm is often easier to implement than a more sophisticated one and, because of this simplicity, sometimes it can be more efficient.

Often a problem can be viewed as a sequence of decisions to be made. For example, consider the problem of finding the best way to place electronic components on a circuit board. To solve this problem we must decide where on the board to place each component. Typically, a brute-force algorithm solves such a problem by exhaustively enumerating all the possibilities. That is, for every decision we consider each possible outcome.

A greedy algorithm is one that makes the sequence of decisions (in some order) such that once a given decision has been made, that decision is never reconsidered. For example, if we use a greedy algorithm to place the components on the circuit board, once a component has been assigned a position it is never again moved. Greedy algorithms can run significantly faster than brute force ones. Unfortunately, it is not always the case that a greedy strategy leads to the correct solution.

next up previous contents index

Bruno Copyright © 2001 by Bruno R. Preiss, P.Eng. All rights reserved.