Circular Linked Lists
Normally, because the last element in a linked list has no next element, it is set to point to a special value, usually NULL, to indicate it is the last element in the list. In some linked lists, the last element does not point to a special value. Instead, it points back to the first value. This linked list is called a circular linked list because the links are cyclic. Circular linked lists can come in both doubly and singly linked versions. In a circular doubly linked list, the first node's "previous" pointer points to the last node. Figures A.3 and A.4 are singly and doubly circular linked lists, respectively.
Figure A.3. A circular singly linked list.
Figure A.4. A circular doubly linked list.
Moving Through a Linked List
Movement through a linked list occurs linearly. You visit one element, follow the next pointer, and visit the next element. Rinse and repeat. This is the easiest method of moving through a linked list, and the one by which linked lists are best suited. Linked lists are usually not used when random access is an important goal. Instead, you use linked lists when iterating over the whole list is important and the dynamic addition and removal of elements is required.
Often the first element is represented by a special pointercalled the headthat makes it quick and easy to find. In a noncircular-linked list, the last element is delineated by its next pointer being NULL. In a circular-linked list, the last element is delineated by the fact that it points to the head element. Traversing the list, therefore, occurs linearly through each element from the first to the last. In a doubly linked list, movement can also occur backward, linearly from the last element to the first. Of course, given a specific element in the list, you can go back and forth any number of elements, too. You need not traverse the whole list.