Skip to content
Home » Blog » LotusScript Linked List data structure

LotusScript Linked List data structure

I previously published two linked list data structures for objects in the LotusScript Gold Collection. These are in script libraries ObjectList and ObjectListLite. They’re actually — despite the “lite” — both a more complex implementation than you need for most purposes. Here I present a new, simpler class that does only the basics of a doubly-linked list.

The Queue class I wrote about previously is a variant of the linked list, but a list with limited functionality. The code is simpler, because you don’t need to be able to search the list for a particular value, or insert into the middle, or sort the values. If you do need those things, you have to choose a different data structure than Queue.

A simple linked list doesn’t do everything you might want to do, but it’s less limited than a queue. You can navigate to the beginning or end of the list, iterate through it in either direction, insert or delete values at any point.


The LinkedList class conceptually has a start and end element, and a “cursor” or current position that you can move around in the list.

Key principles

  • If there are any elements, there’s always a “current” element.
  • As much as possible, the “current” pointer doesn’t move unless the caller explicitly moves it. Of course if the current node is deleted some other one must be made current.


The class has the following properties and methods:

  • count (Long, read-only): the number of elements in the list.
  • value (Variant, read/write): the value stored in the “current” position.
  • IsEmpty (Boolean, read-only): True if the list contains no elements.
  • IsAtEnd (Boolean, read-only): True if the list is empty or the current position is the last element.
  • Sub New(devaultval As Variant): The constructor specifies the value to return for value if the list is empty (if it’s not empty there’s always a current element to supply a value). Recommend using Nothing if the list will contain objects.
  • Function First As Boolean: Set the current position to the first element. This returns True if there is a first element (i.e. list is not empty).
  • Function Last As Boolean: Set the current position to the last element. This returns True if there is a last element (i.e. list is not empty).
  • Function Next As Boolean: Advance “current” to the next element. Returns True if there is a next element.
  • Function Prev As Boolean: Back up “current” to the previous element. Returns True if there is a previous element.
  • Sub Append(value): add an element whose value is given to the end of the list. This doesn’t change which is the current element unless the list was empty before, then the added element becomes current. Same rule applies to the next two methods.
  • Sub Insert(value): Add an element before the current element, not changing the current element.
  • Sub AddAfter(value): Add an element after the current element, not changing the current element.
  • Function Remove: Delete the current element from the list. The new current element is either the next one if there is a next one, else the previous one.
Book covers.

If you find this website helpful and want to give back, may I suggest buying, reading, and reviewing one of my excellent books? More are coming soon!

If you want email whenever there’s a new post, you can subscribe to the email list, which is 100% private and used only to send you information about stuff on this site.

Implementation notes

A refresher: every object variable is just a pointer to the actual object, so when you assign an object variable, you’re not copying the object, just its address. By defining a class with some members whose datatypes are of that same class, you can chain them together and navigate the chain by following the pointers. For instance, here’s a class you can use as a “node” in a linked list.

Private Class ListNode
	Public value As Variant
	Public Next As ListNode
	Public Prev As ListNode
	Sub New(value)
		If IsObject(value) Then Set me.value = value Else me.value = value
	End Sub
End Class

The Next and Prev properties here will point to other occurrences of ListNode objects. You can also build other structures using these types of pointers. This example shows the connections between objects in a three-element list:

This record is intended for a general-purpose list class, so the value member, a Variant, can contain any value, including a (pointer to an) object of some other type.

This is just one way to implement the API shown given in the specification above. Behind the scenes, you might use an array to store the values instead. Or you might only have “next” pointers and no “prev” pointers, so the Prev method has to go to the start of the list and scan forward to find the previous node — inefficient, unless you know the caller will rarely try to go backwards or insert into the middle, in which case it might be more efficient. In fact if you refer back to the linked list used in the Queue class, that’s the case there. We know exactly how the list will be used, and that use doesn’t require ever going backwards, so we left out the Prev link and the unused methods, and gained simplicity and efficiency. The generalized code shown here is three times as long.

I chose to write a doubly-linked list for my general-purpose list class because I want it to perform well for general use — allowing for unlimited list length (which wouldn’t work if I used an array) and decent overall performance during navigation rather than maximizing a particular type of use.

One option I considered was to make the chain into a ring — have the Next pointer of the last node point to the first node, and vice versa. I wrote and tested that code, if anyone wants to see it. It’s a little counterintuitive, but doing so simplifies the logic of adding and deleting nodes, so the code ended up 7 lines shorter.

Point is, the caller doesn’t care how it’s implemented. The above-defined API hides these details from them. Unless, of course, the hidden details of the design impose limits or affect performance for their use case — but if so, you can redo the inner design while keeping the interface the same, minimizing code changes to the already tested calling code. You do of course have to unit test the updated inner code.


The helper class ListNode is shown above. Here’s the code for LinkedList class:

Public Const ERR_INVALIDPOS = 20034
Private Const MSG_INVALIDPOS = "Cannot operate on current list node; list is empty"
	Class LinkedList
	By Andre Guirard
	Description: Basic doubly-linked list data structure
	Constructor: New LinkedList(defaultval)
		where defaultval is value to return if asked for a value while the list is empty.
Class LinkedList
	Private z_first As ListNode
	Private z_current As ListNode	' last-accessed node in the list.
	Private z_last As ListNode
	Private z_count As Long
	Private z_defval As Variant
	Sub New(defaultval)
		If IsObject(defaultval) Then Set z_defval = defaultval Else z_defval = defaultval
	End Sub
	Sub Delete
		Dim nnext As ListNode
		Do Until z_first Is Nothing
			Set nnext =
			Delete z_first
			Set z_first = nnext
	End Sub

		Property Get Count (read only)
		Description: Return number of elements in the list
	Public Property Get Count As Long
		count = z_count
	End Property
		Property Get IsEmpty (read only)
		Description: TRUE if list contains no elements.
	Public Property Get IsEmpty As Boolean
		me.IsEmpty = (z_count = 0&)
	End Property
		Property Get IsAtEnd (read only)
		Description: Return TRUE if there's no "next" list element from current position.
	Public Property Get IsAtEnd As Boolean
		IsAtEnd = z_current Is z_last ' they might both be Nothing if list is empty, this still works
	End Property
	' methods to position the cursor
		Function First
		Description: Position to the first element.
		Returns: FALSE if list is empty
	Function First As Boolean
		Set z_current = z_first
		First = Not (z_current Is Nothing)
	End Function
		Function Last
		Description: Position to the last element.
		Returns: FALSE if list is empty.
	Function Last As Boolean
		Set z_current = z_last
		Last = Not (z_current Is Nothing)
	End Function

		Function Next
		Description: Advance cursor to next item
		Returns: FALSE if there is no next item (in which case cursor doesn't move) 
	Function Next As Boolean
		If Not (z_current Is z_last) Then
			Set z_current =
			me.Next = True
		End If
	End Function

		Function Prev
		Description: back up cursor to previous item
		Returns: FALSE if there is no previous item (in which case cursor doesn't move)
	Function Prev As Boolean
		If Not (z_current Is z_first) Then
			Set z_current = z_current.prev
			Prev = True
		End If
	End Function
		Property Value (read/write)
		Description: The value stored at the current list position.
			Returns the "default value" if there is no current position (which only happens if the list is empty).
			Setting Current when list is empty causes an error.
	Public Property Get Value As Variant
		If z_current Is Nothing Then
			If IsObject(z_defval) Then Set Value = z_defval Else Value = z_defval
			If IsObject(z_current.value) Then Set Value = z_current.value Else Value = z_current.value
		End If
	End Property
	Public Property Set Value As Variant
		If z_current Is Nothing Then Error ERR_INVALIDPOS, MSG_INVALIDPOS
		If IsObject(Value) Then Set z_current.value = Value Else z_current.value = Value
	End Property
		Function addNode
		Description: Insert a node before the specified node. Patch in all the pointers correctly. Don't adjust first or current position.
			Nothing as argument adds to end of list.
	Private Function addNode(value, beforeNode As ListNode) As ListNode
		Set addNode = New ListNode(value)
		If z_first Is Nothing Then
			Set z_first = addNode
			Set z_last = addNode
			Set z_current = addNode
		Else ' list is not empty
			Set = beforeNode
			If beforeNode Is Nothing Then ' add to end
				Set z_last.Next = addNode
				Set addnode.Prev = z_last
				Set z_last = addNode
			Else ' not at end
				Set addNode.Prev = beforeNode.Prev
				Set beforenode.prev = addNode
				If addnode.prev Is Nothing Then ' adding before first node
					Set z_first = addnode
					Set = addNode
				End If
			End If
		End If
		z_count = z_count + 1
	End Function
		Sub Append
		Description: Add a new item to the end of the list. Current position unaffected unless the list was empty, in which case new node is now current.
	Sub Append(value)
		Call addNode(value, Nothing)
	End Sub
		Sub Insert
		Description: Add a new item before the current position. If list is empty this is the same as Append. Else current position is unchanged.
	Sub Insert(value)
		Call addNode(value, z_current)
	End Sub
		Sub AddAfter
		Description: Add a new item after the current position. If list is empty this is the same as Append. Else current position is unchanged.
	Sub AddAfter(value)
		If z_count = 0 Then Call addNode(value, Nothing) Else Call addNode(value,
	End Sub

		Function Remove
		Description: Delete the current node, if any. The new current position will be the node following the current node, if any, else
			the last node, if any, else (no nodes left) current position will be invalid.
		Returns: TRUE if list is not empty after deletion.
	Function Remove As boolean
		Dim nod As ListNode
		If Not (z_current Is Nothing) Then
			z_count = z_count - 1
			If z_count = 0 Then
				Delete z_current ' this was the last node, we are done.
				me.Remove = True
				Set nod = z_current
				' if the last node is being deleted, the new current node is the one before it, else it's the one after.
				If nod Is z_last Then
					Set z_current = nod.prev
					Set z_last = z_current 
					Set z_current =
					Set z_current.prev = nod.Prev
				End If 
				If nod Is z_first Then
				 Set z_first =
					Set =
				End If
				Delete nod
			End If
		End if
	End Function
End Class

Example code

To see how we could use this class, I’ll revisit a previous example — the FileSearch function that uses the Queue class. You may recall, there was a problem in that implementation in terms of the order in which it processed subfolders, resulting in the array of matching filepaths it returns being in what some might regard as the wrong order — not grouped by their higher level containing folders.

The problem is that the Queue class only lets you retrieve the oldest value. You don’t know that a folder contains subfolders until you process that folder. By that time, the folder’s siblings are already queued up for processing. When you discover subfolders, you want to process them next after the current folder — you want them inserted at the beginning of your work list, not at the end. A Queue doesn’t allow this, but with the LinkedList class you can add the new entries wherever you like.

	Function FileSearch
	Description: Recursively search a given folder for files who name match a set of patterns. Works on any OS.
		baseDir: the folder you want to search. May optionally have a directory delimiter at the end, e.g. "C:\foo" or "C:\foo\".
			Should work on any OS.
		patterns: a string delimited with "|" listing the second operands for a LIKE operator to match against the filename, case insensitive.
			E.g. "*.dat|ac[0-5]*.cab" to find all ".DAT" files and all ".CAB" files whose names begin "ac" followed by digit 0 to 5.
	Returns: array of strings containing full filepaths of all matching files, or if no matches found, array containing one blank element.
Function FileSearch(ByVal baseDir$, ByVal patterns$) As Variant
	Dim delim$, afile$, results$, adir$, patternarr
	Dim work As New LinkedList("")
	Dim files List As Boolean
	' find what path delimiter the caller prefers.
	If basedir Like "/*" Then
		delim = "/" ' linux style path
	ElseIf basedir Like "\*" Or basedir Like "[A-Z]:\*" Then
		delim = "\" ' windows style path
		Error 20030, "FileSearch needs an absolute filepath."
	End If
	patternarr = Split(LCase(patterns), "|")
	' internally we want all filepaths to end with the folder separator
	If baseDir Like "*[!\/]" Then baseDir = baseDir & delim
	work.Append basedir
	' while there are directories in the queue, process the first directory.
	Do While work.First
		adir = work.value
		Erase files
		afile = Dir$(aDir & "*", Attr_hidden + Attr_system) ' all files but not directories.
		Do Until afile = ""
			files(afile) = True ' remember the names of the files
			If IsLikeAnyOf(LCase(aFile), patternarr) Then
				results = results & NEWLINE & adir & afile
			End If
			afile = Dir$
		' now find the names of each subfolder.
		afile = Dir$(aDir, Attr_directory + attr_hidden) ' this will include files also
		Do Until afile = ""
			If afile <> "." And afile <> ".." Then
				If Not IsElement(files(afile)) Then
					' this is a folder. Add it to work queue for processing on later iteration.
					work.Insert adir & afile & delim
				End If
			End If
			afile = Dir$
	FileSearch = Split(Mid$(results, 2), NEWLINE)
End Function

I take advantage of how LinkedList repositions the current item after an item is deleted or added. The main loop takes the first list item to work on, so that’s still the current item while the code processes the files and subfolders in that folder.

When it discovers a subfolder name, which Dir$ provides in alphabetical order (at least on Windows), the code would like to add it to the beginning of the list, but still in alphabetical order — to be processed after any previous subfolders in that same folder.

Since the Insert method doesn’t change the current position, we can do this by just calling Insert. It adds the new entry to the list just before the current entry, for the folder we’re processing. The current element is no longer the first element, but it’s still the point where if we find another subfolder, we want to insert it there, just below any subfolders we added earlier.

At the end of the loop, the Remove method is used to get the folder we just processed out of the list. The current list position is we don’t care where, because in the next iteration of the big loop, it uses First to navigate to the top of the list, which in this example would contain the first subfolder name. And so it goes.

Final thoughts

As I mentioned above, while you can’t always see (and don’t always care) how a class is implemented, you can observe the consequences of those design choices in terms of performance. As an example, we can deduce from its performance that the built-in class NotesDocumentCollection must use an implementation similar to this linked list. It’s well known that the GetNextDocument methods and GetPrevDocument are efficient, while GetNthDocument is slow, even if you’re getting the next document after the one you just processed.

When you ask for document 348, the class doesn’t know the index of the last-fetched document, so it has to rewind to the first document, then follow the “next” link 347 times to find the requested entry. This is of course very slow, especially if you’re iterating through the whole list, giving you order of n2 performance.

HCL could make this more efficient by keeping track of the numerical index of their current position so GetNthDocument has the data to calculate that it can get to the requested element by using “next” or “prev” just once. The ObjectListLite class in the LotusScript Gold Collection is an example of this approach.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *