10 Examples of using ArrayList in Java - Tutorial

ArrayList in Java is most frequently used collection class after HashMap in Java. Java ArrayList represents an automatic re-sizeable array and used in place of array. Since we can not modify size of an array after creating it, we prefer to use ArrayList in Java which re-size itself automatically once it gets full. ArrayList in Java implements List interface and allow null. Java ArrayList also maintains insertion order of elements and allows duplicates opposite to any Set implementation which doesn't allow duplicates. ArrayList supports both Iterator and ListIterator for iteration but it’s recommended to use ListIterator as it allows the programmer to traverse the list in either direction, modify the list during iteration, and obtain the Iterator's current position in the list. But while using ListIterator you need to be little careful because ListIterator has no current element; its cursor position always lies between the element that would be returned by a call to previous() and the element that would be returned by a call to next(). In this Java ArrayList tutorial we will see how to create Java ArrayList and perform various operations on Java ArrayList. This collection class is also favourites on many core Java interviews with questions like Difference between ArrayList and Vector  or LinkedList vs ArrayList.

Example of java arraylist, how to use ArrayList in Java, java array and arraylist,array and arraylist in javaArrayList has been modified in Java 5 (Tiger) to support Generics which makes Java ArrayList even more powerful because of enhanced type-safety. Before Java5 since there was no generics no type checking at compile time which means there is chance of storing different type of element in an ArrayList which is meant for something and ultimately results in ClassCastException during runtime. with generics you can create Java ArrayList which accepts only type of object specified during creation time and results in compilation error if someone tries to insert any other object into ArrayList in Java; for example if you create an ArrayList of String object you can not store Integer on it because add() method of ArrayList will check Type before adding object into ArrayList in Java opposite to add() method of Java 1.4 which accepts any object.

Java ArrayList with Generics in JDK 1.5

It’s also important to remember that ArrayList is not synchronized and should not be shared between multiple threads. If multiple threads access a Java ArrayList instance concurrently, and at least one of the threads modifies the list structurally, it must be synchronized externally. (As per Java doc a structural modification is any operation that adds or deletes one or more elements, or explicitly re-sizes the backing array; merely setting the value of an element is not a structural modification.) This is typically accomplished by synchronizing on some object that naturally encapsulates the list. If no such object exists, the list should be "wrapped" using the Collections.synchronizedList() method. It’s recommended to synchronize the list at the creation time to avoid any accidental non synchronized access to the list. Another better option is to use CopyOnWriteArrayList which is added from Java 5 and optimized for multiple concurrent read. In CopyOnWriteArrayList all mutative operations (add, set, and so on) are implemented by making a fresh copy of the underlying array and that's why it is called as "CopyOnWrite"

example of arraylist in Java, java arraylist tutorial

Example of ArrayList in Java

Let's see some examples of creating ArrayList in Java and using them, I have tried to provide as much example as possible to illustrate different operations possible on Java ArrayList. Please let me know if you need any other Java ArrayList examples and I will add them here.

Java ArrayList Example 1 : How to create an ArrayList
You can use ArrayList in Java with or without Generics both are permitted by generics version is recommended because of enhanced type-safety. In this example we will create an ArrayList of String in Java. This Java ArrayList will only allow String and will throw compilation error if we try to any other object than String. If you notice you need to specify type on both right and left side of expression, from Java 1.7 if you use diamond operator, the angle bracket, you only need to specify at left hand side. This can save lot of space if you are defining an ArrayList of nested types. 
ArrayList<String> stringList = new ArrayList<String> ; // Generic ArrayList to store only String
ArrayList<String> stringList = new ArrayList<>(); // Using Diamond operator from Java 1.7

Java ArrayList Example 2 : How to add element into ArrayList
You can add elements into ArrayList by calling add() method. Since we are using Generics and this is an ArrayList of String, second line will result in compilation error because this Java ArrayList will only allow String elements.

stringList.add("Item"); //no error because we are storing String
stringList.add(new Integer(2)); //compilation error

Java ArrayList Example 3 :  How to find size of ArrayList
Size of an ArrayList in Java is total number of elements currently stored in ArrayList. You can easily find number of elements in ArrayList by calling size() method on it. Remember this could be different with length of array which is backing ArrayList. Actually backing array always has larger length than size of ArrayList so that it can store more elements.

int size = stringList.size();

Java ArrayList Example 4 :  Checking Index of an Item in Java ArrayList
You can use indexOf() method of ArrayList in Java to find out index of a particular object. When you use this method, ArrayList internally uses equals() method to find the object, so make sure your element implements equals() and hashCode() or else Object class' default implementation will be used, which compares object based upon memory location.

int index = stringList.indexOf("Item"); //location of Item object in List

Java ArrayList Example 5 : How to retrieve an element from ArrayList in loop
Many a times we need to traverse on Java ArrayList and perform some operations on each retrieved item. Here are two ways of doing it without using Iterator. We will see use of Iterator in next section.

for (int i = 0; i < stringList.size(); i++)
   String item = stringList.
out.println("Item " + i + " : " + item);

From Java
5 onwards you can use foreach loop as well

for(String item: stringList){
out.println("retrieved element: " + item);

Java ArrayList Example 6 : How to search in ArrayList for an element?
Sometimes we need to check whether an element exists in ArrayList in Java or not for this purpose we can use contains() method of Java. contains() method takes type of object defined in ArrayList creation and returns true if this list contains the specified element. Alternatively you can also use Collections.binarySearch() method to see if an object is present inside List or not. ArrayList, Vector, CopyOnWriteArrayList and Stack implements RandomAccess interface, they can be used for performing binary search. To see which approach is better, see this article.

Java ArrayList Example 7 :  How to check if ArrayList is Empty in Java
We can use isEmpty() method of Java ArrayList to check whether ArrayList is empty. isEmpty() method returns true if this ArrayList contains no elements. You can also use size() method of List to check if List is empty or not. If returned size is zero then ArrayList is empty.

boolean result = stringList.isEmpty(); //isEmpty() will return true if List is empty

if(stringList.size() == 0){
out.println("ArrayList is empty");

Java ArrayList Example 8 : How to remove an element from ArrayList
There are two ways to remove any elements from ArrayList in Java. You can either remove an element based on its index or by providing object itself. Remove remove (int index) and remove(Object o) method is used to remove any element from ArrayList in Java. Since ArrayList allows duplicate its worth noting that remove(Object o) removes the first occurrence of the specified element from this list, if it is present. In below code first call will remove first element from ArrayList while second call will remove first occurrence of item from ArrayList in Java. 


For a more detailed discussion on right way to remove an element from ArrayList, please check this tutorial.

Java ArrayList Example 9 : Copying data from one ArrayList to another ArrayList in Java
Many a times you need to create a copy of ArrayList for this purpose you can use addAll(Collection c) method of ArrayList in Java to copy all elements from on ArrayList to another ArrayList in Java. Below code will add all elements of stringList to newly created copyOfStringList.

ArrayList<String> copyOfStringList = new ArrayList<String>();

Java ArrayList Example 10 : How to replace an element at a particular index in ArrayList?
You can use set (int index, E element) method of Java ArrayList to replace any element from a particular index. Below code will replace first element of stringList from "Item" to "Item2".


Java ArrayList Example 11) : How to remove all elements from ArrayList?
ArrayList in Java provides clear() method which removes all of the elements from this list. Below code will remote all elements from our stringList and make the list empty. You can reuse Java ArrayList after clearing it.


Java ArrayList Example 12 : Converting from ArrayList to Array in Java
Java ArrayList provides you facility to get the array back from your ArrayList. You can use toArray(T[] a) method returns an array containing all of the elements in this list in proper sequence (from first to last element). "a" is the array into which the elements of the list are to be stored, if it is big enough; otherwise, a new array of the same runtime type is allocated for this purpose.

String[] itemArray = new String[stringList.size()];
[] returnedArray = stringList.toArray(itemArray);

If you want to convert ArrayList back to Array than see 3 ways to convert array into arraylist in Java

Java ArrayList Example 13 : How to synchronized ArrayList in Java?
Some times you need to synchronize your ArrayList in java to make it shareable between multiple threads you can use Collections utility class for this purpose as shown below.

List list = Collections.synchronizedList(new ArrayList(...));

Though there are other choices also available, for example if you need a synchronized list than you can also use CopyOnWriteArrayList, which is a concurrent List added on Java 1.5 and performs better than synchronized ArayList if reading outperform writing. You can also see this tutorial to understand more about How to synchronize ArrayList in Java? 

Java ArrayList Example 14 : How to create ArrayList from Array in Java?
ArrayList in Java is amazing you can create even an ArrayList full of your element from an already existing array. You need to use Arrays.asList(T... a)  method for this purpose which returns a fixed-size list backed by the specified array.

ArrayList stringList = Arrays.asList(new String[]{"One", "Two", "Three"); //this is not read only List you can still update value of existing elements

Java ArrayList Example 15 : How to loop over ArrayList in Java?
You can use either Iterator or ListIterator for traversing on Java ArrayList. ListIterator will allow you to traverse in both directions while both Iterator and ListIterator will allow you to remove elements from ArrayList in Java while traversing.

Iterator itr = stringList.iterator();

ListIterator listItr = stringList.
see How to loop ArrayList in Java for couple of more alternative ways of traversing a List in Java.

Java ArrayList Example 16 : How to sort ArrayList in Java?
You can use Collections.sort(List list) method to sort a Java ArrayList in natural order defined by Comparable interface and can use Collections.sort(List list, Comparator c) method to sort your Java ArrayList based upon custom Comparator. You can also see this post to sort ArrayList into descending order in Java

Java ArrayList Example 17: How to convert ArrayList to HashSet in Java
Most of Collection class provides a constructor which accepts a Collection object as argument. Which can be used to copy all elements of one Collection into another. HashSet also provide such constructors which can be used to copy all object from ArrayList to HashSet. But be careful since HashSet doesn't allow duplicates some of the objects will not be included which result in less number of objects. See How to convert ArrayList to HashSet in Java for step by step example.

Tips about ArrayList in Java

1) ArrayList is not a synchronized collection hence it is not suitable to be used between multiple threads concurrently. If you want to use ArrayList like data-structure in multi-threaded environment, then you need to either use new CopyonWriteArrayList or use Collections.synchronizedList() to create a synchronized List. Former is part of concurrent collection package and much more scalable than the second one, but only useful when there are many readers and only few writes. Since a new copy of ArrayList is created every time a write happens, it can be overkill if used in a write heavy environment. Second option is a strictly synchronized collection, much like Vector or Hashtable, but it's not scalable because once number of thread increases drastically, contention becomes a huge issue.

2) CopyOnWriteArrayList is recommended for concurrent multi-threading environment as it is optimized for multiple concurrent read and creates copy for write operation. This was added in Tiger, aka JDK 1.5. It's part of java.util.concurrent package, along with ConcurrentHashMap and BlockingQueue.

3) When ArrayList gets full it creates another array and uses System.arrayCopy() to copy all elements from one array to another array. This is where insertion takes a lot of time. 

4) Iterator and ListIterator of Java ArrayList are fail-fast it means if ArrayList is structurally modified at any time after the Iterator is created, in any way except through the iterator's own remove or add methods, the Iterator will throw a ConcurrentModificationException. Thus, in the face of concurrent modification, the Iterator fails quickly and cleanly, that's why it’s called fail-fast.

5) ConcurrentModificationException is not guaranteed and it only thrown at best effort.
6) If you are creating Synchronized List it’s recommended to create while creating instance of underlying ArrayList to prevent accidental non synchronized access to the list.

7) An application can increase the capacity of an ArrayList instance before adding a large number of elements using the ensureCapacity() operation. This may reduce the amount of incremental reallocation due to incremental filling of ArrayList.

8) The size(), isEmpty(), get(), set(), iterator(), and listIterator() operations run in constant time because ArrayList is based on Array but adding or removing an element is costly as compared to LinkedList.

9) ArrayList class is enhanced in Java 1.5 to support Generics which added extra type-safety on ArrayList. It’s recommended to use generics version of ArrayList to ensure that your ArrayList contains only specified type of element and avoid any ClassCastException.

10) Since ArrayList implements List interface it maintains insertion order of elements and also allow duplicates.

11) If we set ArrayList reference to null in Java, all the elements inside ArrayList becomes eligible to garbage collection in Java , provided there are no more strong reference exists for those objects.

12) Always use isEmpty() method to check if ArrayList is empty or not, instead of using size() == 0 check. Former one is much more readable, as shown below
    System.out.println("Starting order processing);

if(listOfOrders.size() != 0){
    System.out.println("Order processing started);

13) From Java 5 Tiger, ArrayList was made parametrized and you should always use generic version of this class. This prevents classical error of insertion fish in list of fruits, or insertion dice in list of cards. When use use generics, those error will be caught by compiler. Consequently, it also prevents ClassCastException at runtime because compiler ensures right kind of object is stored and retrieved from Collection. It also removes need of manual cast, as Java compiler automatically adds implicit cast.  For beginners, understanding generics is little bit tricky, but it's worth learning as no body use collection without generics now days.

When to use ArrayList in Java

Now, you know what is ArrayList, different methods of this class and how it works. It's time now to learn when to use ArrayList in Java. For a Java programmer, as much important is to know about Collection classes, equally important is develop ability to decide which collection to use in a particular scenario. Most of the time two factors drives your decision, performance and functionality. ArrayList is a index based data-structure which means it provides O(1) search performance if you know the index, similarly adding an element into ArrayList is also O(1) performance in best case, but if addition trigger resizing of list then it would be on level of O(n) because that much time will be spent on copying elements of old list into new ArrayList. Coming back to functionality, if you are fine with duplicate elements then only use this collection class. It is not thread-safe so don't use it on concurrent environment.

Hope this Java ArrayList tutorial will be helpful for beginners in Java.

Want to learn more about Java technologies? Read these amazing articles


Maniganda Prakash said...

By mistake you have mentioned that the following statement will allow only strings(You have forgotten to add 'String' type)

ArrayList stringList = new ArrayList();

Anonymous said...

Hi, What is difference between Arraylist and Linkedlist in Java . Also there is a new arraylist in java 5 called CopyOnWriteArraylist how exactly it is different from java.util.ArrayList ? When should we not use Arraylist and use Linkedlist instead ?

Anonymous said...

Hi There, Can we add multiple arrays in an arraylist, say example i have list of hashmap objects in two different arrays and i want to merge these two hashmap lists in an arraylist.

Javin @ stringbuffer vs Stringbuilder in java said...

yes you can do this.

1) create two arraylist object from two array.
2. copy second arraylist data into first arraylist using method addAll().
3) discard second arraylist.

Sohail said...

The line:

ArrayList stringList = Arrays.asList(new String[]{"One", "Two", "Three");

needs a "}" at the end to complete the ArrayInitializer

BHARATH K said...

Hi Can you pls post example to show
how ArrayList in Java which re-size itself automatically ?

if we create a arraylist a = new arraylist[2];
if u add more than two elements what will happen?

pls post it as example

Javin @ ArrayList vs Vector in java said...

ArrayList resize itself by creating another array and copying element from original array to new array by using System.arrayCopy() method. for exact code you can look ArrayList Class on JDK. its free and source comes when you install JDK on your machine.

Issamu said...

What's the difference between Collections.synchronizedList and Vector class?

jagadeesh kumar said...

nice examples. here is my example using objects not with an primitive data types.

Chen pengen said...

What is advantage of iterating through ArrayList as compared to looping through ArrayList ? i.e. I can get elements from ArrayList by using Iterator or by using get(index) method , which one is faster and which one is better , please elaborate ?

Advait said...

Assuming capacity is more elements are not going to be added once ArrayList is populated, consider this - create an array list using "new ArrayList(int initialCapacity)" ? Will it perform better compared to an ArrayList created by "new ArrayList();"

Javin @ spring interview questions answers said...

@johmif thanks for your comment and good to know that you like this Java arraylist example and tutorial. @Advait when we create ArrayList(int initialCapacity) we specify size otherwise it will start with default size which is 10 and re-size it accordingly. resizing of arraylist is time consuming operation because content of one array is copied into another array. so if you know the size in advance you can prevent this resizing of arraylist.

SteveInMA said...

I'm not an expert, but I think the code from #1:

ArrayList stringList = new ArrayList();

Would be more correctly stated as

ArrayList stringList = new ArrayList();

Please advise.

Javin @ String split Java example said...

what is difference in two code example, sorry Can you please highlight , both arraylist examples looked same to me.

Anonymous said...

for (int i = 0; i
String item = stringList.get(i);

Why all the errors and non-working code examples???

Anonymous said...

Best ArrayList tutorial in Java, easily explained most of the task java programmer should perform with ArrayList. would have been even better if you have included sorting and searching on Arraylist in Java.

android developert said...

hello.if i want to display two things in one item like contact number and name then how can add in listarray?plz reply me on jagruti.sangani@inextrix.com

Jackob said...

How can I get middle element from ArrayList, how to get first and last element form elements, though I have an idea that first element is zero and last element should be size-1, I am worrying about empty ArrayList,may be some API methods already out there. Another thing I am intersted in SubList, i.e. part of ArrayList from one index to another, let me know how can we find sublist from ArrayList in java ?

Raaki said...

First of all the statement "This Java ArrayList will only allow String and will throw compilation error if we try to any other object than String.
ArrayList stringList = new ArrayList();" is wrong and the QA2 is stupid.. its better to test the code & concept b4 do post in this forum..!!

See the below example:

package workset1;

import java.util.*;
public class TstTst {

public static void main(String args[])
ArrayList a1 = new ArrayList();
ArrayList a2 = new ArrayList();
HashMap h = new HashMap();
Set s = new TreeSet();

String s1 = "S1";
String s2 = "S2";
String s3 = "S3";


Integer i1 = new Integer("1");
Integer i2 = new Integer("2");
Integer i3 = new Integer("3");


ArrayList fin = new ArrayList();
fin.add(new Integer(2));

Iterator it = fin.iterator();
int i=0;
Object obj = it.next();
ArrayList ao1 = (ArrayList)obj;
Iterator it1 = ao1.iterator();
System.out.println("Out put: "+it1.next());
} else {
System.out.println("Out put: "+it.next());


Javin @ decorator pattern example said...

@Raaki, I see what you are saying. actually it was ArrayList i.e. generic version of ArrayList to store only Strings. some how those angle bracket lost, must be I have use them as literal instead of escape version like <. Anyway Thanks for pointing it out.

Joseph Plant said...

**Correction **

ArrayList stringList = Arrays.asList(new String[]{"One", "Two", "Three");

should be

ArrayList stringList = new ArrayList( Arrays.asList(new String[]{"One", "Two", "Three"}));

The list, returned from 'Arrays.asList', needs casting to an Arraylist. Also a '}' was missing from the inner array.

Pritam_Ghosh said...

Very nice article..Appreciate for your efforts.Thanks and Keep Posting More...

Anonymous said...

Hello Javin, I am getting following error, java.util.arraylist cannot be cast to java.lang.string while converting ArrayList to String e.g.

ArrayList listOfStudents = getListOfStudents();
String content = (String) listOfStudents;

Can you please help?

Marc Janssen said...

Dear Sir,

Your articles about Java, and therefore this blog, are a big help to me.

I am trying to learn the Java programming language and every time i come across something new i check your blog for a tutorial explaining this new subject.

I like to thank you and keep up the good work.


Shane said...

Hello Javin, What is difference between capacity and size of ArrayList in Java? Also what is the default capacity when we create instance of ArrayList as aList = new ArrayList(). It would be nice, if you can also explain, how ArrayList resize itself dynamically by using load factor and capacity, as I still has to get hold of this piece.

Anonymous said...

If anybody is interested on some ArrayList base interview question, which is very important from Java interview point of view, can see this list, which contains questions contributed by community.

Anonymous said...

Can you please explain how can write custom ArrayList without using Collection?

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