How to sort an array of integers correctly

How to sort an array of integers correctly

Trying to get the highest and lowest value from an array that I know will contain only integers seems to be harder than I thought.

var numArray = [140000, 104, 99];
numArray = numArray.sort();
alert(numArray)

I’d expect this to show 99, 104, 140000. Instead it shows 104, 140000, 99. So it seems the sort is handling the values as strings.
Is there a way to get the sort function to actually sort on integer value?

Solutions/Answers:

Solution 1:

By default, the sort method sorts elements alphabetically. To sort numerically just add a new method which handles numeric sorts (sortNumber, shown below) –

function sortNumber(a, b) {
  return a - b;
}

var numArray = [140000, 104, 99];
numArray.sort(sortNumber);

console.log(numArray);

In ES6, you can simplify this with arrow functions:

numArray.sort((a, b) => a - b); // For ascending sort
numArray.sort((a, b) => b - a); // For descending sort

Solution 2:

Just building on all of the above answers, they can also be done in one line like this:

var numArray = [140000, 104, 99];

// ES5
numArray = numArray.sort(function (a, b) {  return a - b;  });

// ES2015
numArray = numArray.sort((a, b) => a - b);

//outputs: 99, 104, 140000

Solution 3:

array.sort does a lexicographic sort by default, for a numeric sort, provide your own function. Here’s a simple example:

function compareNumbers(a, b)
{
    return a - b;
}

numArray.sort(compareNumbers);

Also note that sort works “in place”, there’s no need for the assignment.

Solution 4:

This answer is equivalent to some of the existing answers, but ECMAScript 6 arrow functions provide a much more compact syntax that allows us to define an inline sort function without sacrificing readability:

numArray = numArray.sort((a, b) => a - b);

It is supported in most browsers today.

Solution 5:

The reason why the sort function behaves so weird

From the documentation:

[…] the array is sorted according to each character’s Unicode code point
value, according to the string conversion of each element.

If you print the unicode point values of the array then it will get clear.

console.log("140000".charCodeAt(0));
console.log("104".charCodeAt(0));
console.log("99".charCodeAt(0));

//Note that we only look at the first index of the number "charCodeAt(  0  )"

This returns: “49, 49, 57”.

49 (unicode value of first number at 140000)
49 (unicode value of first number at 104)
57 (unicode value of first number at 99)

Now, because 140000 and 104 returned the same values (49) it cuts the first index and checks again:

console.log("40000".charCodeAt(0));
console.log("04".charCodeAt(0));

//Note that we only look at the first index of the number "charCodeAt(  0  )"
52 (unicode value of first number at 40000)
40 (unicode value of first number at 04)

If we sort this, then we will get:

40 (unicode value of first number at 04)
52 (unicode value of first number at 40000)

so 104 comes before 140000.

So the final result will be:

var numArray = [140000, 104, 99];
numArray = numArray.sort();
console.log(numArray)

104, 140000, 99

Conclusion:

sort() does sorting by only looking at the first index of the numbers. sort() does not care if a whole number is bigger than another, it compares the value of the unicode of the digits, and if there are two equal unicode values, then it checks if there is a next digit and compares it as well.

To sort correctly, you have to pass a compare function to sort() like explained here.

Solution 6:

I agree with aks, however instead of using

return a - b;

You should use

return a > b ? 1 : a < b ? -1 : 0;