An algorithm sets out a sequence of steps, that, when executed, will carry out a specific task.

For example there are algorithms worked out for sorting a list efficiently.

A computer programmer can buy a book of algorithms so they not need to re-invent the wheel when they have to code for a job that has already been worked out. Having bought the book, they would look up the problem of 'How to sort a list' and a good book would tell them a number of ways to do this.

Note: Algorithms are not computer code, so a programmer using C++ can use the same algorithm as someone programming in Java, they use the same steps, just coded differently.

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