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Dijkstra's algorithm

Dijkstra's algorithm named after Dutch computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra who discovered it in 1956 and published in 1959.


What is it?

- it is a graph search algorithm. It means when you want to use it, you have to have a graph (map) of the world. Edges of the graph can not have negative cost.


What it does?

- finds a shortest path from a single source to a single destination. Since the alg. useses costs, the shortest path means the path with the lowest cost.



- graph consists of nodes (vertexes) and edges. In this alg. there has to be assigned a cost for every edge.


Example of use:

- we are located at the position A and want to move to position Z. If there other positions {B,C,D,....} between our start and end possition with a differenct distances, we can use Dijkstra's algorithm to find the shortest path from A to Z. Distances between every position would be the costs of the edges of the graph and positions would be vertexes (nodes).


Practial usage:

- Dijkstra's algorithm is in real life used by CISCO routers when using link-state routing protocols - OSPF, IS-IS. Physical position of the router represents a vertex and paths between specific networks represent edges. To each path is given a cost - how good or bad the connetion is, and the value of cost is propagated between routers. Each router informs other routes about the costs he knows.


Useful link:

This page contains excelent materials about not only Dijkstra's algorithm.


function Dijkstra(Graph, source):
// Initializations
for each vertex v in Graph:
// Distance = cost from source node to v-th node
dist[v] := infinity ;                                // One can use a huge number e.g. "1000000" as approximation for infinity.
// Previous node in optimal path from source
previous[v] := undefined ;                           // One cau use e.g. "-1" => -1st node does not exist, so we say is not defined.
end for
dist[source] := 0 ;                                  // Distance from source to source is 0, so cost = 0
Q := the set of all nodes in Graph ;                 // All nodes in the graph are unoptimized - thus are in Q
while Q is not empty:                                // Loop until we find the path
u := vertex in Q with smallest distance in dist[] ;  // Which is actually the start node in first case. At the beginning all nodes have cost of "1000000" and the start node has cost of "0".
remove u from Q ;                                    // Somehow mark the node as alredy examined
if dist[u] = infinity:                               // Test if it is worth it to examine u-th node.
break ;                                              // All remaining vertices are inaccessible from source
end if
for each neighbor v of u:                            // Where v-th node has not yet been removed from Q.
alt := dist[u] + dist_between(u, v) ;                // alt - possible alternative best distance
if alt < dist[v]:                                    // alt is better than dist[v] so overwrite dist[v]
dist[v] := alt ;
previous[v] := u ;                                   // Remember a path to this node, because the point is important, it has a good cost.
end if
end for
end while
return dist;


How to get the shortest path?

S := empty sequence                                           // Stack "S" will contain our path 
 u := target
 while previous[u] is defined:                                 // Construct the shortest path by looking backwards - traverse from end to start
 insert u at the beginning of S                            // Push the vertex into the stack "S"
 u := previous[u]                                          // Traverse from target to source
 end while ;


The demo below demonstrates how Dijkstra's algorithm works. There are 2 white rectangles. The left one is the start position and the right one is the position we want to get. Obviously there is also an obstacle between them so the algorithm has to find the way around it.




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