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1. Overview

In this article, we'll illustrate how to split a List into several sublists of a given size.

For a relatively simple operation, there's surprisingly no support in the standard Java collection APIs. Luckily, both Guava and the Apache Commons Collections have implemented the operation in a similar way.

This article is part of the “Java – Back to Basic” series here on Baeldung.

Further reading:

Converting a List to String in Java

Learn how to convert a List to a String using different techniques.

Shuffling Collections In Java

Learn how to shuffle various collections in Java.

Introduction to Spliterator in Java

Learn about the Spliterator interface that can be used for traversing and partitioning sequences.

2. Use Guava to Partition the List

Guava facilitates partitioning the List into sublists of a specified size via the Lists.partition operation:

@Test
public void givenList_whenParitioningIntoNSublists_thenCorrect() {
    List<Integer> intList = Lists.newArrayList(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8);
    List<List<Integer>> subSets = Lists.partition(intList, 3);

    List<Integer> lastPartition = subSets.get(2);
    List<Integer> expectedLastPartition = Lists.<Integer> newArrayList(7, 8);
    assertThat(subSets.size(), equalTo(3));
    assertThat(lastPartition, equalTo(expectedLastPartition));
}

3. Use Guava to Partition a Collection

Partitioning a Collection is also possible with Guava:

@Test
public void givenCollection_whenParitioningIntoNSublists_thenCorrect() {
    Collection<Integer> intCollection = Lists.newArrayList(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8);

    Iterable<List<Integer>> subSets = Iterables.partition(intCollection, 3);

    List<Integer> firstPartition = subSets.iterator().next();
    List<Integer> expectedLastPartition = Lists.<Integer> newArrayList(1, 2, 3);
    assertThat(firstPartition, equalTo(expectedLastPartition));
}

Keep in mind that the partitions are sublist views of the original collection, which means that changes in the original collection will be reflected in the partitions:

@Test
public void givenListPartitioned_whenOriginalListIsModified_thenPartitionsChangeAsWell() {
    // Given
    List<Integer> intList = Lists.newArrayList(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8);
    List<List<Integer>> subSets = Lists.partition(intList, 3);

    // When
    intList.add(9);

    // Then
    List<Integer> lastPartition = subSets.get(2);
    List<Integer> expectedLastPartition = Lists.<Integer> newArrayList(7, 8, 9);
    assertThat(lastPartition, equalTo(expectedLastPartition));
}

4. Use Apache Commons Collections to Partition the List

The latest releases of Apache Commons Collections have recently added support for partitioning a List as well:

@Test
public void givenList_whenParitioningIntoNSublists_thenCorrect() {
    List<Integer> intList = Lists.newArrayList(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8);
    List<List<Integer>> subSets = ListUtils.partition(intList, 3);

    List<Integer> lastPartition = subSets.get(2);
    List<Integer> expectedLastPartition = Lists.<Integer> newArrayList(7, 8);
    assertThat(subSets.size(), equalTo(3));
    assertThat(lastPartition, equalTo(expectedLastPartition));
}

Commons Collections doesn't have a corresponding option to partition a raw Collection similar to the Guava Iterables.partition.

Finally, the same caveat applies here as well: the resulting partitions are views of the original List.

5. Use Java8 to Partition the List

Now let's see how to use Java8 to partition our List.

5.1. Collectors partitioningBy

We can use Collectors.partitioningBy() to split the list into 2 sublists:

@Test
public void givenList_whenParitioningIntoSublistsUsingPartitionBy_thenCorrect() {
    List<Integer> intList = Lists.newArrayList(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8);

    Map<Boolean, List<Integer>> groups = 
      intList.stream().collect(Collectors.partitioningBy(s -> s > 6));
    List<List<Integer>> subSets = new ArrayList<List<Integer>>(groups.values());

    List<Integer> lastPartition = subSets.get(1);
    List<Integer> expectedLastPartition = Lists.<Integer> newArrayList(7, 8);
    assertThat(subSets.size(), equalTo(2));
    assertThat(lastPartition, equalTo(expectedLastPartition));
}

Note: The resulting partitions aren't a view of the main List, so any changes happening to the main List won't affect the partitions.

5.2. Collectors groupingBy

We can also use Collectors.groupingBy() to split our list into multiple partitions:

@Test
public final void givenList_whenParitioningIntoNSublistsUsingGroupingBy_thenCorrect() {
    List<Integer> intList = Lists.newArrayList(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8);

    Map<Integer, List<Integer>> groups = 
      intList.stream().collect(Collectors.groupingBy(s -> (s - 1) / 3));
    List<List<Integer>> subSets = new ArrayList<List<Integer>>(groups.values());

    List<Integer> lastPartition = subSets.get(2);
    List<Integer> expectedLastPartition = Lists.<Integer> newArrayList(7, 8);
    assertThat(subSets.size(), equalTo(3));
    assertThat(lastPartition, equalTo(expectedLastPartition));
}

Note: Just as with Collectors.partitioningBy(), the resulting partitions won't be affected by changes in the main List.

5.3. Split the List by Separator

We can also use Java8 to split our List by separator:

@Test
public void givenList_whenSplittingBySeparator_thenCorrect() {
    List<Integer> intList = Lists.newArrayList(1, 2, 3, 0, 4, 5, 6, 0, 7, 8);

    int[] indexes = 
      Stream.of(IntStream.of(-1), IntStream.range(0, intList.size())
      .filter(i -> intList.get(i) == 0), IntStream.of(intList.size()))
      .flatMapToInt(s -> s).toArray();
    List<List<Integer>> subSets = 
      IntStream.range(0, indexes.length - 1)
               .mapToObj(i -> intList.subList(indexes[i] + 1, indexes[i + 1]))
               .collect(Collectors.toList());

    List<Integer> lastPartition = subSets.get(2);
    List<Integer> expectedLastPartition = Lists.<Integer> newArrayList(7, 8);
    assertThat(subSets.size(), equalTo(3));
    assertThat(lastPartition, equalTo(expectedLastPartition));
}

Note: We used “0” as separator. We first obtained the indices of all “0” elements in the List, and then we split the List on these indices.

6. Conclusion

The solutions presented here make use of additional libraries, namely Guava and the Apache Commons Collections. Both of these are very lightweight and extremely useful overall, so it makes perfect sense to have one of them on the classpath. However, if that's not an option, a Java only solution is shown here.

The implementation of all these examples and code snippets can be found over on GitHub. This is a Maven-based project, so it should be easy to import and run as it is.

Course – LS (cat=Java)

Get started with Spring 5 and Spring Boot 2, through the Learn Spring course:

>> CHECK OUT THE COURSE
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