im learning about arrays and lists in java and i come across linked lists and i have yet to think of a useful way of using them... mabe im not fully understanding their capabilites? if anyone could clear this up greatly appreciated!
Linked lists are good when you are doing a lot of random insertions, in a linked list this operation is very cheap whereas in an array you need to shuffle things around. For instance, say you have an array with one billion items in it, and you want to insert some item right in the middle. You will need to take the 500 million items after the insertion point, and shift them up 1 place up the array to make space for the element you're about to insert. In a linked list? No problem, find the element before and the element after where you want to insert your element, and simply modify their "next element" (and "previous element", if applicable) pointers, which naturally inserts the new element into the list without touching any element other than the two surrounding the insertion point.
On the other hand, you cannot have random access in a traditional linked list - if you want to read the Nth element, you need to walk through the linked list until you reach it, costing you N operations, instead of 1 operation for an array, since you can just directly get the element you want in an array. As you can see, they both have pros and cons.
The way you use the list is exactly the same, because they ultimately perform the same function (they are both lists) but depending on what you do with the list - what kind of operations, what sort of data you're manipulating - you should select the most appropriate one for your particular situation to optimize performance.
It is worth noting that unless you are in a very particular situation, linked lists do not win over arrays, simply because arrays are faster in modern hardware due to cache coherency and sequential memory access, whereas linked list traversal tends to jump all over memory. So the places where you would realistically use a linked list, other than for learning, are quite limited.