# 5 Best Ways to Program to Find Number of Steps to Solve 8-Puzzle in Python

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π‘ Problem Formulation: Solving the 8-puzzle involves moving tiles on a 3×3 grid into the correct position with the least number of moves, where one of the positions is a blank space that can be used to slide adjacent tiles. This article explores various programming methods in Python to calculate the minimum number of steps needed to solve a given 8-puzzle configuration. We’ll look at inputs such as the puzzle’s initial state and what the solved state looks like, with the desired output being the number of steps taken to reach the solution.

## Method 1: Breadth-First Search (BFS)

A breadth-first search method iteratively explores the puzzle configuration tree, level by level, until it finds the solution. Each level represents the possible moves from a given configuration, and BFS guarantees to find the shortest path to the puzzle solution.

Here’s an example:

```import collections

def solve_puzzle_bfs(initial_state):
# Your BFS logic here
# Placeholder method implementation
pass

# Initial configuration of the 8-puzzle (0 represents the blank tile)
initial_state = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 0]

# Call the BFS solve function with the initial state
print(solve_puzzle_bfs(initial_state))
```

Assuming the function is properly implemented, the output will be the minimum number of steps. For example:

`The minimum number of steps is: 22`

This code snippet demonstrates how one could set up a Python function to utilize the breadth-first search algorithm to solve the 8-puzzle. The BFS is methodical and comprehensive but can become resource-intensive as the number of explored configurations (or depth) increases.

## Method 2: Depth-First Search (DFS)

Depth-first search is another brute-force approach, but unlike BFS, it dives deep into one branch of the puzzle configuration tree before backtracking. DFS uses less memory but does not necessarily find the shortest path.

Here’s an example:

```def solve_puzzle_dfs(initial_state):
# Your DFS logic here
# Placeholder method implementation
pass

# Call the DFS solve function with the initial state
print(solve_puzzle_dfs(initial_state))
```

Assuming the function is properly implemented, the output may vary since DFS does not always yield the shortest path. For example:

`The number of steps is: 28`

This code leverages depth-first search; it gives a potential solution but due to DFS’s nature, it might not be optimal. It’s used for less complex configurations or where solutions at any depth are sufficient.

## Method 3: A* Search Algorithm

The A* search algorithm combines the strengths of BFS and DFS and includes a heuristic to improve efficiency. It uses an evaluation function (f(n) = g(n) + h(n)) where g(n) is the path cost and h(n) the heuristic cost, aiming to reduce the total number steps.

Here’s an example:

```def solve_puzzle_astar(initial_state):
# Your A* logic here
# Placeholder method implementation
pass

# Call the A* solve function with the initial state
print(solve_puzzle_astar(initial_state))
```

Assuming the function is properly implemented, the output should be the optimal number of steps. For example:

`The minimum number of steps is: 22`

This snippet is for setting up an A* algorithm to solve the 8-puzzle, utilizing a heuristic to offer a potentially more optimal solution than BFS or DFS while balancing time and space complexity.

## Method 4: Iterative Deepening A* Algorithm (IDA*)

Iterative Deepening A* (IDA*) is a recursive variant of the A* search that combines the space efficiency of DFS and the optimality of BFS. It performs iterative deepening while applying the A* heuristic to prune less promising paths.

Here’s an example:

```def solve_puzzle_idastar(initial_state):
# Your IDA* logic here
# Placeholder method implementation
pass

# Call the IDA* solve function with the initial state
print(solve_puzzle_idastar(initial_state))
```

Assuming the function is implemented correctly, the outcome should represent the minimal number of steps. For example:

`The minimum number of steps is: 22`

In this snippet, a placeholder for the IDA* function highlights its use for space-efficient solutions; it recursively searches paths with incremental depth limits based on the A* heuristic.

## Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Using External Libraries

For those who seek immediate results without implementing complex algorithms, external libraries like numpy or specialized puzzle-solver packages can be used to find solutions efficiently.

Here’s an example:

```from some_8_puzzle_solver_library import solve_puzzle

# Call the external library solve function
print(solve_puzzle(initial_state))
```

Depending on the library’s internal implementation, it provides the number of steps for the solution found. For example:

`The minimum number of steps is: 22`

This example illustrates leveraging an external library to solve the 8-puzzle. It abstracts away the algorithmic complexity, providing convenience at the cost of less customization and potential dependencies on third-party code.

## Summary/Discussion

• Method 1: Breadth-First Search (BFS). Best for guaranteed shortest path. May become slow and memory-intensive as depth increases.
• Method 2: Depth-First Search (DFS). Less memory use. Does not guarantee the shortest path and can get stuck in deep searches.
• Method 3: A* Search Algorithm. Optimizes pathfinding with heuristics. More complex to implement but provides optimal results in most cases.
• Method 4: Iterative Deepening A* Algorithm (IDA*). Combines A* efficiency and space savings. Can be faster than A* for some puzzles.
• Method 5: Using External Libraries. Fast and easy to implement. Depends on third-party code and may limit understanding of the underlying process.