Key differences between Iterator and ListIterator in Java

Iterator in Java

Iterator is an interface provided by the java.util package, designed to traverse elements in a collection, such as lists, sets, and maps. It offers a universal way to access and manipulate data within these collections irrespective of the specific implementation of the collection. An Iterator enables one to move through a collection’s elements one by one using methods like next(), which retrieves the next element, and hasNext(), which checks if there are more elements to access. Additionally, Iterator provides a remove() method, allowing elements to be removed during the iteration process, thus modifying the collection safely without causing ConcurrentModificationException. This makes Iterator a fundamental tool for collection manipulation in Java, supporting clean and flexible code design.

Functions of Iterator in Java:

  • hasNext():

This method returns true if the iteration has more elements. It allows the loop to continue as long as there are elements left to process in the collection.

  • next():

This method returns the next element in the iteration. Each call to next() moves the iterator forward by one position in the collection. If no more elements are available, it throws NoSuchElementException.

  • remove():

This method removes from the underlying collection the last element returned by the iterator (i.e., the last element returned by next()). This method must be called once per call to next() and can be called only once per call to next().

  • forEachRemaining(Consumer<? super E> action):

Introduced in Java 8, this method performs the given action for each remaining element until all elements have been processed or the action throws an exception. It provides a method to iteratively apply a consumer function on each element of the collection, which can be more concise than manually implementing while loops with hasNext() and next().

Example of Iterator in Java:

Here is a simple example of using the Iterator interface in Java to iterate over elements of an ArrayList:

import java.util.ArrayList;

import java.util.Iterator;

public class IteratorExample {

    public static void main(String[] args) {

        // Create an ArrayList and add some elements

        ArrayList<String> fruits = new ArrayList<>();





        // Obtain an iterator for the ArrayList

        Iterator<String> iterator = fruits.iterator();

        // Loop through the ArrayList elements using the Iterator

        System.out.println(“Fruits list:”);

        while (iterator.hasNext()) {

            String fruit =;


            // Remove “Date” from the list using Iterator

            if (“Date”.equals(fruit)) {




        // Display the ArrayList after removal

        System.out.println(“\nFruits list after removing ‘Date’:”);

        for (String fruit : fruits) {





ListIterator in Java

ListIterator is an interface that extends the Iterator interface, providing bidirectional traversal of list elements and more flexible list operations. Unlike a standard Iterator, which only allows forward movement through elements, a ListIterator can iterate through a list in either direction (forward and backward) using next() and previous() methods. It also offers enhanced functionality by allowing the insertion of elements at any point in the list, the modification of elements with the set() method, and the ability to obtain the index of the next or previous element via nextIndex() and previousIndex(). This interface is particularly useful for lists where one might need to alter the list or navigate backwards through the elements, making ListIterator ideal for complex list manipulations and navigations.

Functions of ListIterator in Java:

  • next():

Returns the next element in the list and advances the cursor position. This method throws NoSuchElementException if the list has no more elements.

  • hasNext():

Returns true if there are more elements when traversing the list in the forward direction.

  • previous():

Returns the previous element in the list and moves the cursor position backwards. This method throws NoSuchElementException if there are no elements before the current position.

  • hasPrevious():

Returns true if there are more elements when traversing the list in the reverse direction.

  • nextIndex():

Returns the index of the element that would be returned by a subsequent call to next(). Returns the list size if the list iterator is at the end of the list.

  • previousIndex():

Returns the index of the element that would be returned by a subsequent call to previous(). Returns -1 if the list iterator is at the beginning of the list.

  • remove():

Removes from the list the last element that was returned by next() or previous(). This method can only be called once per call to next() or previous().

  • set(E element):

Replaces the last element returned by next() or previous() with the specified element. This method can only be called after next() or previous() and before add().

  • add(E element):

Inserts the specified element into the list. The element is inserted immediately before the element that would be returned by next() and after the element that would be returned by previous(). After add() is called, a subsequent call to next() is unaffected, and a subsequent call to previous() returns the new element.

Example of ListIterator in Java:

Here’s an example demonstrating the use of ListIterator in Java to manipulate and traverse a list of integers in both forward and backward directions:

import java.util.ArrayList;

import java.util.List;

import java.util.ListIterator;

public class ListIteratorExample {

    public static void main(String[] args) {

        // Creating a list and adding elements

        List<Integer> numbers = new ArrayList<>();






        // Obtaining a ListIterator

        ListIterator<Integer> listIterator = numbers.listIterator();

        // Forward traversal using the ListIterator

        System.out.println(“Forward traversal:”);

        while (listIterator.hasNext()) {

            Integer number =;

            System.out.println(“Element: ” + number);

            // Modify elements: multiply each by 2

            listIterator.set(number * 2);


        // Backward traversal using the ListIterator

        System.out.println(“\nBackward traversal:”);

        while (listIterator.hasPrevious()) {

            Integer number = listIterator.previous();

            System.out.println(“Element: ” + number);


        // Adding a new element just before the first element using ListIterator

        if (listIterator.hasPrevious() == false) {

            listIterator.add(0);  // Adding ‘0’ at the beginning


        // Displaying the updated list

        System.out.println(“\nUpdated List:”);

        for (Integer num : numbers) {






  • Initialization:

A list of integers is created and populated with initial values (1 to 5).

  • Obtaining ListIterator:

ListIterator is obtained from the list to traverse and modify the list elements.

  • Forward Traversal:

The list is traversed forward using hasNext() and next(). During this traversal, each element is modified by multiplying it by 2, which is accomplished with the set() method of the iterator.

  • Backward Traversal:

After reaching the end of the list, the list is traversed backward using hasPrevious() and previous(), printing each element.

  • Adding Elements:

At the beginning of the list (since hasPrevious() returns false when the iterator is at the start), a new element (0) is added. This is done using the add() method of the ListIterator.

  • Final List Display:

The list is printed after all modifications to show the effect of the set() and add() operations.

Key differences between Iterator and ListIterator in Java

Aspect Iterator ListIterator
Direction of Iteration Forward only Bidirectional (forward and backward)
Traversal Methods hasNext(), next() hasNext(), next(), hasPrevious(), previous()
Add Operation Not supported Supported (add())
Set Operation Not supported Supported (set())
Remove Operation Supported (remove()) Supported (remove())
Index Access Not supported Supported (nextIndex(), previousIndex())
Usage Scope General use List-specific use
Element Insertion Not possible Possible during iteration
Element Replacement Not possible Possible during iteration
Specific to Data Structure No specific structure Specific to List interface
Method Count Fewer methods More methods
Modification During Iteration Limited Extensive modifications allowed
Concurrency Control Depends on Collection implementation Depends on Collection implementation
Return type of next() Object or generic type Object or generic type
Availability All Collections Lists only

Key Similarities between Iterator and ListIterator in Java

  • Purpose:

Both Iterator and ListIterator are used for traversing collections in Java, providing a means to systematically access elements.

  • Interface Based:

They are both interfaces provided by the Java Collections Framework to iterate over elements.

  • Forward Traversal:

Both iterators support forward iteration through a collection using methods like next() and hasNext(), which allow moving through the collection and checking for more elements respectively.

  • Remove Elements:

Both Iterator and ListIterator provide the capability to remove elements from the collection during iteration using the remove() method. This helps in modifying the collection dynamically while iterating.

  • Method of Use:

Usage typically involves obtaining an iterator from a collection and then using its methods to traverse and optionally remove elements from the collection.

  • Throws Exceptions:

Both can throw a ConcurrentModificationException if the underlying collection is modified in any way other than through the iterator’s own remove() method.

  • No Construction:

You cannot directly instantiate either Iterator or ListIterator. Instead, they are obtained from the collection classes that provide a contextually appropriate iterator.

  • Fail-Fast Behavior:

Both Iterator and ListIterator exhibit fail-fast behavior if they detect that the structure of the underlying collection has been modified, except through their own methods.

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