NavigableSet vs SortedSet in Java

1. Introduction

In Java, SortedSet and NavigableSet are interfaces that extend the Set interface, which is a collection that contains no duplicate elements. SortedSet provides a total ordering on its elements, whereas NavigableSet further extends SortedSet with additional methods that allow for more precise retrieval operations.

2. Key Points

1. SortedSet offers basic functionality for maintaining a sorted set.

2. NavigableSet includes all the features of SortedSet and adds methods for navigation.

3. NavigableSet provides methods to retrieve elements based on the closest match to a given target value.

4. TreeSet is an example of a class that implements both SortedSet and NavigableSet.

3. Differences

NavigableSet SortedSet
An extension of the SortedSet interface, providing richer navigation operations. An interface that represents a set sorted according to the natural ordering of its elements or by a specified comparator.
Includes methods like lower(), floor(), ceiling(), higher(), pollFirst(), and pollLast(). Includes methods like first(), last(), headSet(), tailSet(), and subSet().
Allows for retrieving and removing elements from both ends of the set with methods like pollFirst() and pollLast(). Does not offer methods to retrieve and remove elements based on their position within the set.
Supports descending iterators and sets, allowing for reverse order navigation through descendingIterator() and descendingSet() Does not support navigation in reverse order directly through its interface.
Examples of NavigableSet implementations include TreeSet, which provides an efficient way to store elements in a sorted manner while allowing for enhanced navigation. SortedSet implementations, such as TreeSet, also maintain elements in a sorted manner but with a more basic set of navigational operations.

4. Example

// Import the necessary classes
import java.util.NavigableSet;
import java.util.SortedSet;
import java.util.TreeSet;

public class SetComparison {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        // Step 1: Create a TreeSet, which is both a NavigableSet and SortedSet
        NavigableSet<Integer> navigableSet = new TreeSet<>();

        // Step 2: Add elements to the TreeSet

        // Step 3: Use NavigableSet methods to navigate the set
        System.out.println("First element: " + navigableSet.first());
        System.out.println("Last element: " + navigableSet.last());
        System.out.println("Lower than 4: " + navigableSet.lower(4));
        System.out.println("Floor of 4: " + navigableSet.floor(4));
        System.out.println("Ceiling of 4: " + navigableSet.ceiling(4));
        System.out.println("Higher than 4: " + navigableSet.higher(4));


First element: 1
Last element: 5
Lower than 4: 3
Floor of 4: 3
Ceiling of 4: 5
Higher than 4: 5


1. A TreeSet, which implements both NavigableSet and SortedSet, is created and populated.

2. Elements are added to the set, which are automatically ordered based on their natural ordering.

3. Different methods from the NavigableSet interface are used to find elements relative to the specified target (the number 4), demonstrating how NavigableSet provides precise control over the retrieval of elements.

5. When to use?

- Use SortedSet when you need a set that maintains its elements in sorted order and you only need basic set operations.

- Opt for NavigableSet when you need to perform more complex searches, such as finding the closest matches to a particular element, or when you need to iterate through a subset of a set in reverse order.