C program to create and traverse a Linked List

Linked list creation and traversal is the stepping stone in data structures. In this article, I will explain how to create and traverse a linked list in C programming. I will explain step by step process to create and traverse a linked list of n nodes and display its elements.

Write a C program to implement Singly linked list data structure. C program to create a linked list and display elements of linked list.

Create and traverse Linked List in C

Required knowledge

Functions, Structures, Pointers, Dynamic Memory Allocation

How to create and traverse a linked list?

In previous article we discussed about singly linked list data structure, its need and advantages. Here we will learn to create and traverse a linked list in C program.

How to create a linked list?

Step by step descriptive logic to create a linked list.

  1. The first step of creating linked list of n nodes starts from defining node structure. We need a custom type to store our data and location of next linked node. Let us define our custom node structure
    struct node {
        int data;
        struct node *next;
    };

    Where data is the data you want to store in list. *next is pointer to the same structure type. The *next will store location of next node if exists otherwise NULL.

    Note: The node structure may vary based on your requirement. You can also have user defined types as node data section.

  2. Declare a pointer to node type variable to store link of first node of linked list. Say struct node *head;.

    Note: You can also declare variable of node type along with node structure definition.

  3. Input number of nodes to create from user, store it in some variable say n.
  4. Declare two more helper variable of node type, say struct node *newNode, *temp;.
  5. If n > 0 then, create our first node i.e. head node. Use dynamic memory allocation to allocate memory for a node. Say head = (struct node*)malloc(sizeof(struct node));.
  6. If there is no memory to allocate for head node i.e. head == NULL. Then print some error message and terminate program, otherwise move to below step.
  7. Input data from user and assign to head using head->data = data;.
  8. At first head node points to NULL. Hence, assign head->next = NULL;.
  9. Now, we are done with head node we should move to creation of other nodes. Copy reference of head to some other temporary variable, say temp = head;. We will use temp to store reference of previous node.
  10. Allocate memory and assign memory reference to newNode, say newNode = (struct node*)malloc(sizeof(node));.
  11. If memory got allocated successfully then read data from user and assign to data section of new node. Say newNode->data = data;.
  12. Make sure new node points to NULL.
  13. Now link previous node with newly created node i.e. temp->next = newNode;.
  14. Make current node as previous node using temp = temp->next;.
  15. Repeat step 10-14 for remaining n - 2 other nodes.

How to traverse a linked list?

Step by step descriptive logic to traverse a linked list.

  1. Create a temporary variable for traversing. Assign reference of head node to it, say temp = head.
  2. Repeat below step till temp != NULL.
  3. temp->data contains the current node data. You can print it or can perform some calculation on it.
  4. Once done, move to next node using temp = temp->next;.
  5. Go back to 2nd step.

Example program to create and traverse a linked list

/**
 * C program to create and traverse a Linked List
 */

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

/* Structure of a node */
struct node {
    int data;          // Data 
    struct node *next; // Address 
}*head;


/* 
 * Functions to create and display list
 */
void createList(int n);
void traverseList();


int main()
{
    int n;

    printf("Enter the total number of nodes: ");
    scanf("%d", &n);

    createList(n);

    printf("\nData in the list \n");
    traverseList();

    return 0;
}

/*
 * Create a list of n nodes
 */
void createList(int n)
{
    struct node *newNode, *temp;
    int data, i;

    head = (struct node *)malloc(sizeof(struct node));

    // Terminate if memory not allocated
    if(head == NULL)
    {
        printf("Unable to allocate memory.");
        exit(0);
    }


    // Input data of node from the user
    printf("Enter the data of node 1: ");
    scanf("%d", &data);

    head->data = data; // Link data field with data
    head->next = NULL; // Link address field to NULL


    // Create n - 1 nodes and add to list
    temp = head;
    for(i=2; i<=n; i++)
    {
        newNode = (struct node *)malloc(sizeof(struct node));

        /* If memory is not allocated for newNode */
        if(newNode == NULL)
        {
            printf("Unable to allocate memory.");
            break;
        }

        printf("Enter the data of node %d: ", i);
        scanf("%d", &data);

        newNode->data = data; // Link data field of newNode
        newNode->next = NULL; // Make sure new node points to NULL 

        temp->next = newNode; // Link previous node with newNode
        temp = temp->next;    // Make current node as previous node
    }
}


/*
 * Display entire list
 */
void traverseList()
{
    struct node *temp;

    // Return if list is empty 
    if(head == NULL)
    {
        printf("List is empty.");
        return;
    }
    
    temp = head;
    while(temp != NULL)
    {
        printf("Data = %d\n", temp->data); // Print data of current node
        temp = temp->next;                 // Move to next node
    }
}

Output

Enter the total number of nodes: 5
Enter the data of node 1: 10
Enter the data of node 2: 20
Enter the data of node 3: 30
Enter the data of node 4: 40
Enter the data of node 5: 50

Data in the list
Data = 10
Data = 20
Data = 30
Data = 40
Data = 50

Happy coding 😉

About Pankaj

Pankaj Prakash is the founder, editor and blogger at Codeforwin. He loves to learn new techs and write programming articles especially for beginners. He works at Vasudhaika Software Sols as a Software Design Engineer and manages Codeforwin. In short Pankaj is Web developer, Blogger, Learner, Tech and Music lover.

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