Documentation / Algorithms / Shortest path

The A* Shortest path algorithm

A* computes the shortest path from a node to another in a graph. It can eventually fail if the two nodes are in two distinct connected components.

In this A* implementation, the various costs (often called g, h and f) are given by a org.graphstream.algorithm.AStar.Costs class. This class must provide a way to compute:

  • The cost of moving from a node to another, often called g;
  • The estimated cost from a node to the destination, the heuristic, often noted h;
  • f is the sum of g and h and is computed automatically.

By default the org.graphstream.algorithm.AStar.Costs implementation used uses a heuristic that returns 0 for any heuristic. This makes A an equivalent of the Dijkstra algorithm, but also makes it far less efficient.


Depends on the cost functions used…


  • Hart, P. E.; Nilsson, N. J.; Raphael, B. (1972). “Correction to “A Formal Basis for the Heuristic Determination of Minimum Cost Paths””. SIGART Newsletter 37: 28–29.


The basic usage is to create an instance of A*, then to ask it to compute from a shortest path from one target to one destination, and finally to ask for that path:

 AStart astar = new AStar(graph);
 astar.compute("A", "Z"); // with A and Z node identifiers in the graph.
 Path path = astar.getShortestPath();

The advantage of A* is that it can consider any cost function to drive the search. You can create your own cost functions implementing the Costs interface.

You can also test the default “distance” cost function on a graph that has “x” and “y” values. You specify the Cost function before calling the compute(String,String) method:

 AStart astar = new AStar(graph);
 astar.setCosts(new DistanceCosts());
 astar.compute("A", "Z");
 Path path = astar.getShortestPath();


 import org.graphstream.algorithm.AStar;
 import org.graphstream.algorithm.AStar.DistanceCosts;
 import org.graphstream.graph.Graph;
 import org.graphstream.graph.implementations.DefaultGraph;
 public class AStarTest {
 	//     B-(1)-C
 	//    /       \
 	//  (1)       (10)
 	//  /           \
 	// A             F
 	//  \           /
 	//  (1)       (1)
 	//    \       /
 	//     D-(1)-E
 	static String my_graph = 
 		+ "my 0 0\n" 
 		+ "an A xy: 0,1\n" 
 		+ "an B xy: 1,2\n"
 		+ "an C xy: 2,2\n"
 		+ "an D xy: 1,0\n"
 		+ "an E xy: 2,0\n"
 		+ "an F xy: 3,1\n"
 		+ "ae AB A B weight:1 \n"
 		+ "ae AD A D weight:1 \n"
 		+ "ae BC B C weight:1 \n"
 		+ "ae CF C F weight:10 \n"
 		+ "ae DE D E weight:1 \n"
 		+ "ae EF E F weight:1 \n"
 	public static void main(String[] args) throws IOException {
 		Graph graph = new DefaultGraph("A Test");
 		StringReader reader = new StringReader(my_graph);
 		FileSourceDGS source = new FileSourceDGS();
 		AStar astar = new AStar(graph);
 		//astar.setCosts(new DistanceCosts());
 		astar.compute("C", "F");

The output of this test program should give:

[C, B, A, D, E, F]

If you un comment the setCosts line, then you get:

[C, F]