What is Bit Manipulation?

In this lesson, you will learn more about Bit Manipulation.

Bit manipulation is the act of algorithmically manipulating bits or other pieces of data shorter than a word. Bit manipulation is something that has constant time complexity. This tutorial explains the basics and why Bitwise operators are used in programming.


Bit manipulation is the process of applying logical operations on a sequence of bits to achieve a required result. It is an act of algorithmically manipulating bits or other pieces of data shorter than a word.

Computer programming tasks that require bit manipulation include:

  • Low-level device control
  • Error detection and correction algorithms
  • Data compression
  • Encryption algorithms
  • Optimization

For most other tasks, modern programming languages allow the programmer to work directly with abstractions instead of bits representing those abstractions.

Bit manipulation can obviate or reduce the need to loop over a data structure and speed up coding as bit manipulations are processed in parallel.

Throughout the course, we offer many examples to help you understand the patterns in solving bit manipulation algorithmic problems.

The problems solved under these patterns use a varied set of algorithmic techniques that you will encounter day to day.

We will start with a brief introduction to each topic before jumping into practice problems. Under each subject, the first problem will explain the underlying pattern in detail to build the concepts that can be applied to later problems. The later problems will focus on each problem’s different constraints and how our algorithm needs to change to handle them.

Let’s start to understand the essential concepts of Bitwise operators.

Bit-level operations

  • Sometimes, it becomes mandatory to consider data at the bit level.
  • We have to operate on the individual data bit. We must also turn on/off particular data bits during source code drafting. At that time, we must use a bitwise operator to make our task more manageable.
  • Programming languages provide us with different bitwise operators for manipulating bits.
  • Bitwise operators operate on integers and characters but not on data types float or double.
  • Using Bitwise operators, we can easily manipulate individual bits.
  • Programming languages support six bitwise operators.

List of Bitwise operators

Operator Name of operator
& Bitwise AND
| Bitwise OR
~ One’s complement / NOT
^ Bitwise XOR
<< Left shift
>> Right shift

Operator Uses

Operator Usage
One’s complement operator Used to turn a bit on/off
AND bitwise operator Used to mask particular part of byte
Left shift bitwise operator Used to shift the bit to the left
Right shift bitwise operator Used to shift the bit to the right

We will cover all of these in this course.