
Category: algorithms  Component type: function 
template <class RandomAccessIterator> void partial_sort(RandomAccessIterator first, RandomAccessIterator middle, RandomAccessIterator last); template <class RandomAccessIterator, class StrictWeakOrdering> void partial_sort(RandomAccessIterator first, RandomAccessIterator middle, RandomAccessIterator last, StrictWeakOrdering comp);
The two versions of partial_sort differ in how they define whether one element is less than another. The first version compares objects using operator<, and the second compares objects using a function object comp.
The postcondition for the first version of partial_sort is as follows. If i and j are any two valid iterators in the range [first, middle) such that i precedes j, and if k is a valid iterator in the range [middle, last), then *j < *i and *k < *i will both be false. The corresponding postcondition for the second version of partial_sort is that comp(*j, *i) and comp(*k, *i) are both false. Informally, this postcondition means that the first middle  first elements are in ascending order and that none of the elements in [middle, last) is less than any of the elements in [first, middle).
int A[] = {7, 2, 6, 11, 9, 3, 12, 10, 8, 4, 1, 5}; const int N = sizeof(A) / sizeof(int); partial_sort(A, A + 5, A + N); copy(A, A + N, ostream_iterator<int>(cout, " ")); // The printed result is "1 2 3 4 5 11 12 10 9 8 7 6".
[1] Note that the elements in the range [first, middle) will be the same (ignoring, for the moment, equivalent elements) as if you had sorted the entire range using sort(first, last). The reason for using partial_sort in preference to sort is simply efficiency: a partial sort, in general, takes less time.
[2] partial_sort(first, last, last) has the effect of sorting the entire range [first, last), just like sort(first, last). They use different algorithms, however: sort uses the introsort algorithm (a variant of quicksort), and partial_sort uses heapsort. See section 5.2.3 of Knuth (D. E. Knuth, The Art of Computer Programming. Volume 3: Sorting and Searching. AddisonWesley, 1975.), and J. W. J. Williams (CACM 7, 347, 1964). Both heapsort and introsort have complexity of order N log(N), but introsort is usually faster by a factor of 2 to 5.
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