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# Infix to Postfix Conversion

Updated on 19/07/20242,588 Views

## Introduction

Mathematical expressions are frequently written using infix notation in both computer technology and mathematics. The reason it's termed an "infix" is because the operators are positioned in front of the operands. The operator " " is positioned between the operands "2" and "3" in the infix expression "2 3," for instance. Although infix notation is simple to understand for humans, programmatic evaluation and manipulation can be difficult.

## Overview

Mathematical expressions are frequently expressed using infix notation in both computer science and mathematics. Because the operators exist in-between the operands, it is known as an "infix". Humans naturally understand this notation because that is how mathematical equations are typically written. For instance, the operator " " is positioned between the operands "2" and "3" in the expression "2 3" written in infix notation. Infix notation can be difficult to use when evaluating and modifying expressions programmatically, though.

## What is Infix Notation?

Infix notation is a standard way of writing mathematical expressions, where operators are placed between the operands they operate on. This notation allows for a clear and concise representation of mathematical operations. It is commonly used in everyday mathematical expressions and is familiar to most people. Infix notation follows the conventional order of operations, where multiplication and division are performed before addition and subtraction. For instance, the expression "2 3 * 4" evaluates to 14 in infix notation because the multiplication is performed before the addition.

Infix notation is widely used in mathematical textbooks and mathematical software. It is also used in infix to postfix conversion calculators. It is easy for humans to read and understand, as it aligns with the way we traditionally write and communicate mathematical expressions. However, when it comes to evaluating and manipulating expressions programmatically, infix notation can be less convenient. It requires additional parsing and evaluation rules to ensure the correct order of operations and handle parentheses.

In the context of programming, converting infix notation to postfix notation can be beneficial for easier evaluation and computation. Postfix notation, also known as Reverse Polish Notation (RPN), places the operators after their respective operands, eliminating the need for parentheses and following a specific set of rules for evaluation. The process of converting infix notation to postfix notation, known as the Shunting Yard Algorithm, simplifies expression evaluation and facilitates the use of stack-based computation methods.

## Convert Infix Expression to Postfix Expression

Reverse Polish Notation (RPN), commonly referred to as postfix notation, is an alternate method of expressing mathematical statements. The operators are positioned following their appropriate operands in postfix notation. For instance, the postfix notation for the infix equation "2 3" is "2 3 ".

There are various benefits of changing an infix statement to a postfix notation. By adhering to a predetermined sequence of procedures, it removes the need for brackets and streamlines the evaluation process. Additionally, postfix notation removes the uncertainty brought on by infix notation and facilitates the implementation of expression evaluators.

## Why Postfix Representation of the Expression?

Reverse Polish Notation (RPN), commonly referred to as postfix encoding of expressions, has many benefits for computation and evaluation. An explanation of the advantages of postfix representation is given below, along with an illustration:

1. Parentheses are no longer required in mathematical expressions when using postfix notation: Parentheses are used in infix notation to indicate the order of operations, especially when there are numerous operators. Postfix notation, on the other hand, simplifies the expression structure by relying entirely on the position of the operators to establish the order of operations.

Example:

Consider the infix expression: (3 4) * 2

In postfix notation, this expression would be represented as 3 4 2 *

As you can see, the postfix representation removes the need for parentheses, making the expression more concise.

2. Clear Operator Precedence: Postfix notation provides an unambiguous representation of operator precedence. In infix notation, operator precedence is determined by rules such as "PEMDAS" (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication and Division, Addition and Subtraction). However, these rules can sometimes be complex and lead to confusion.

In postfix notation, the position of operators directly reflects their precedence. Operators that appear closer to the right have higher precedence, while those on the left have lower precedence. This makes the evaluation process simpler and less prone to errors.

Example:

Consider the infix expression: 3 4 * 2

In postfix notation, this expression would be represented as 3 4 2 *

The postfix representation indicates that the multiplication operation should be performed before the addition operation.

3. Ease of Evaluation: Postfix notation lends itself well to stack-based evaluation algorithms. The evaluation process becomes more straightforward as operators are encountered in the postfix expression.

Example:

Using the postfix expression from the previous example: 3 4 2 *

We can evaluate it using a stack-based algorithm:

Scan the expression from left to right.

When an operand is encountered, push it onto the stack.

When an operator is encountered, pop the necessary number of operands from the stack, perform the operation, and push the result back onto the stack.

Repeat until the entire expression is evaluated.

The final result will be the top element of the stack.

For the postfix expression "3 4 2 * ", the evaluation steps are as follows:

Stack: [3]

Stack: [3, 4]

Stack: [3, 4, 2]

Perform multiplication: 4 * 2 = 8

Stack: [3, 8]

Perform addition: 3 8 = 11

Final result: 11

Postfix notation simplifies the evaluation process by avoiding the need for parentheses and providing a clear order of operations.

## Problem with Infix Notation

Infix notation, while widely used, can present certain challenges when it comes to evaluating mathematical expressions. The primary difficulties lie in determining the order of operations and dealing with parentheses. Let's explore these issues further with infix to postfix conversion examples.

1. Ambiguity in Operator Precedence: Infix notation requires following specific rules for operator precedence, which can sometimes lead to confusion. Consider the expression "3 4 * 2". Depending on the precedence rules, it could be interpreted as either "(3 4) * 2" or "3 (4 * 2)". This ambiguity can cause errors or misunderstandings when evaluating expressions, especially if the expression contains multiple operators.

2. Complex Parentheses Handling: Infix notation heavily relies on parentheses to indicate the order of operations. While parentheses are necessary for grouping subexpressions, they can make expressions visually complex and harder to read. Moreover, managing nested parentheses can be challenging. For example, consider the expression "2 * (3 4) - (5 6)". Evaluating this expression correctly requires carefully tracking the opening and closing parentheses.

## Postfix Expression

Postfix notation, also known as Reverse Polish Notation (RPN), offers a solution to the problems associated with infix notation. In postfix notation, the operators are placed after their corresponding operands, eliminating the need for parentheses and reducing ambiguity.

## Evaluation of Postfix Expression Using Stack

Once we have converted an infix expression to postfix notation, evaluating the expression becomes straightforward. We can use a stack-based approach to evaluate postfix expressions.

• Initialize an empty stack.
• Scan the postfix expression from left to right.
• If the scanned element is an operand, push it onto the stack.
• If the scanned element is an operator, pop two operands from the stack, operate, and push the result back onto the stack.
• Repeat steps 3-4 until all elements in the postfix expression are scanned.
• The final result will be the top element of the stack.

## Conversion of Infix to Postfix

Let's consider an example to illustrate the infix to postfix conversion in data structure process. Suppose we have the infix expression "3 4 * 2 / ( 1 - 5 ) ^ 2 ^ 3".

Step 1: Convert the expression without considering operator precedence:

"3 4 2 * 1 5 - 2 3 ^ ^ / "

Step 2: Consider operator precedence:

"3 4 2 * 1 5 - 2 3 ^ ^ / "

becomes

"3 4 2 * 1 5 - 2 3 ^ ^ / "

## Implementation of Infix to Postfix

Implementing the infix to postfix conversion algorithm requires a good understanding of stacks and string manipulation. Various programming languages can be used to implement this algorithm, including Java, Python, C , and more. Here's an example implementation in Python:

`def infix_to_postfix(infix_expression):Â  Â  precedence = {' ': 1, '-': 1, '*': 2, '/': 2, '^': 3}Â  Â  postfix_expression = ""Â  Â  stack = []Â  Â  for char in infix_expression:Â  Â  Â  Â  if char.isalnum():Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  postfix_expression = charÂ  Â  Â  Â  elif char == '(':Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  stack.append('(')Â  Â  Â  Â  elif char == ')':Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  while stack and stack[-1] != '(':Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  postfix_expression = stack.pop()Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  stack.pop() Â # Remove the '(' from the stackÂ  Â  Â  Â  else:Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  while stack and stack[-1] != '(' and precedence[char] <= precedence.get(stack[-1], 0):Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  postfix_expression = stack.pop()Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  stack.append(char)Â  Â  while stack:Â  Â  Â  Â  postfix_expression = stack.pop()Â  Â  return postfix_expressioninfix_expression = "3 4 * 2 / ( 1 - 5 ) ^ 2 ^ 3"postfix_expression = infix_to_postfix(infix_expression)print(postfix_expression) Â # Output: 3 4 2 * 1 5 - 2 3 ^ ^ /`

## Conclusion

Infix to postfix conversion using stack in C simplifies the evaluation of mathematical expressions by eliminating the ambiguity and complexity associated with infix notation. Postfix notation provides a well-defined order of operations and makes it easier to implement expression evaluators. By understanding the infix to postfix conversion using stack process and utilizing stack-based evaluation techniques, you can simplify mathematical expressions and enhance your problem-solving skills.

## FAQs

1. Can I convert any infix expression to postfix notation?

Yes, the infix to postfix conversion program in C works for any valid infix expression.

2. Is there any performance advantage of using postfix notation?

Postfix notation does not provide a significant performance advantage, but it simplifies the evaluation process and eliminates ambiguity.

3. Can I convert postfix notation back to infix notation?

Yes, it is possible to convert a postfix expression back to an infix notation, but it involves additional complexity.

4. Are there any programming libraries available for infix to postfix conversion?

Yes, many programming languages provide built-in libraries or functions to convert infix expressions to postfix notation.

5. Can I use infix to postfix conversion for non-mathematical expressions?

Infix to postfix conversion using stack in C++ is primarily used for mathematical expressions, but it can also be adapted for other types of expressions.

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