Efficient FIFO/Queue data structure in Python

For the types of algorithms I implement these days, I need a fast FIFO-like data structure. Actually, I need a double-ended queue. Python has a list type, but it is somewhat a misnomer because its performance characterics are those of a vector. Recently, I found mxQueue which is a separate (non-free) download. Unfortunately, mxQueue has a non-Pythonic interface and, to make matters worse, I found out that Python comes by default with a really nice Queue of its own, called deque: you can find it in the new collection module.

Thus, as a good scientist, I decided to test these 3 implementations. As it turns out, Queue.deque is a perfectly good FIFO data structure:

Python class time (s)
list (Python’s default) 2.26
Queue.deque 0.42
mx.Queue.mxQueue 0.42

Through other tests, I was able to verify that both Queue.deque and mx.Queue.mxQueue have constant time deletion from both the head and the tail, unlike Python’s list.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

2 thoughts on “Efficient FIFO/Queue data structure in Python”

  1. Weird, I got the following numbers:

    >>> execfile(‘de.py’)




    Lists are worse but not that much worse. They might have improved performance of lists, I’m running 2.4.3.

  2. I reran the tests with this code and differencese are indeed massive:

    >>> execfile(‘de2.py’)

    Increasing iterations of each loop 10 times:

    >>> execfile(‘de2.py’)

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