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Clockwise Triangles Performance: Addendum

A quick update on my previous article.

Nicholas Wilcox (@redbluemonkey) on Twitter made a very good point:

I might need a full sort for polygons, but with a focus on triangles right now this sounded like a good idea to investigate. Am I being nerd-sniped? Hmm.

Here’s the new code as a method on the Triangle struct we defined previously:

impl Triangle {
    // ...

    /// Create a new triangle with points sorted in a clockwise direction.
    pub fn sorted_clockwise(&self) -> Self {
        let Self { p1, p2, p3 } = self;

        let determinant = -p2.y * p3.x + p1.y * (p3.x - p2.x) + p1.x * (p2.y - p3.y) + p2.x * p3.y;

        match determinant.cmp(&0) {
            // Triangle is wound CCW. Swap two points to make it CW.
            Ordering::Less => Self::new(p2, p1, p3),
            // Triangle is already CW, do nothing.
            Ordering::Greater => *self,
            // Triangle is colinear. Sort points so they lie sequentially along the line.
            Ordering::Equal => {
                let (p1, p2, p3) = sort_yx(p1, p2, p3);

                Self::new(p1, p2, p3)

The determinant calculation is an optimised version of the formula presented here. It’s actually the doubled area of the triangle where counter-clockwise triangles produce negative values. This behaviour is useful because we can just swap two of the triangle’s points to make it clockwise if the result is negative.

If the determinant is zero, the triangle is colinear. In this instance, we’ll sort the triangle’s points in ascending Y then X direction. This ensures the points always lie on the single line in order.

The sort_yx function above is implemented like this:

fn sort_two_yx(p1: Point, p2: Point) -> (Point, Point) {
    // If p1.y is less than p2.y, return it first. Otherwise, if they have the same Y coordinate,
    // the first point becomes the one with the lesser X coordinate.
    if p1.y < p2.y || (p1.y == p2.y && p1.x < p2.x) {
        (p1, p2)
    } else {
        (p2, p1)

/// Sort 3 points in order of increasing Y value. If two points have the same Y value, the one with
/// the lesser X value is put before.
fn sort_yx(p1: Point, p2: Point, p3: Point) -> (Point, Point, Point) {
    let (y1, y2) = sort_two_yx(p1, p2);
    let (y1, y3) = sort_two_yx(p3, y1);
    let (y2, y3) = sort_two_yx(y3, y2);

    (y1, y2, y3)


Here’s the table from the original investigation with this new method added in:

Suite Result (avg)
Straight C port (baseline) 9.4473 ns
Use Ordering instead of bool 10.712 ns
Hoist some repeated comparisons 10.160 ns
Convert everything to a big, single match 12.024 ns
Simplified algorithm 2.9 ns

A huge improvement! Thanks internet!

And we didn’t even need to look at the generated assembly.

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