CSci 1133 Lab Exercise 7 Fun With Strings


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In this lab we explore operations and methods using string objects. Strings are non-scalar, immutable
sequence objects consisting of an ordered collection of individual characters. Strings are primarily employed
to represent text (words, sentences, names, paragraphs, etc.) but are often useful as data structures for other
problems as well (genetic sequences, card games, state spaces, etc.). The primitive string operations and
methods in Python provide a rich set of powerful constructs for manipulating these data in creative ways. The
Python3 documentation is a great resource for learning about all the available (built-in) string methods:
Word Games
A palindrome is a word or phrase in which the letters “read” the same way forward and backward. For
example, “deed”, “kayak” and “Madam, I’m Adam” are all palindromes. An interesting computational
problem is to decide if any given string is a palindrome: you provide a string containing a possible
palindrome to the process, and it returns “yes” or “no”. Although this is fairly straightforward for humans to
accomplish, doing so on a computer requires some skill in manipulating strings. Start Python in commandline mode and begin by entering a possible palindrome:
>>> p = “A man, a plan, a canal… Panama!”
When testing palindromic phrases, we need to first eliminate punctuation and spaces. One of the string
methods we discussed is quite useful in this regard: .replace(oldstring,newstring). Let’s use it to remove
all the commas in the string. First, create a copy of the string:
>>> s = p
Now let’s replace all the instances of the substring “,” (comma) with “” which is a way of representing a
NULL string containing no characters at all:
>>> s.replace(“,”,””)
That’s a good start. The commas are gone. But are they really?
>>> s
The string method does not alter the string object because it’s immutable. .replace returns a new string
object. To effect the change, we need to bind the returned object with a variable name. Since we are
ultimately trying to simplify the entire string we can just bind it with the same name:
>>> s = s.replace(“,”,””)
>>> s
OK, let’s get rid of the periods in the same fashion:
>>> s=s.replace(“.”,””)
>>> s
…and the exclamation point:
>>> s = s.replace(“!”,””)
>>> s
This is starting to look pretty good. We’ve managed to get rid of all the punctuation. But in order to
determine if this is a palindrome, we have to compare the 1st letter to the last letter, the 2nd letter to the
penultimate letter and so on. In order for this to work, the spaces will also have to go:
>>> s = s.replace(” “,””)
>>> s
It all seems to work, but this is starting to become very tedious! We also have another problem: we’ve
selected specific punctuation based only on what was in our string. In order to make this a more general
procedure, we should anticipate and remove all possible punctuation characters. Here’s a less tedious way to
do everything we’ve accomplished so far using a single statement. First, restore the palindrome string to its
original condition:
>>> s = p
>>> s
Now let’s replace the punctuation and spaces all at once:
>>> for ch in “,.! “:
s = s.replace(ch,””)
>>> s
Voila! You simply define a string with all the punctuation you want to remove and iterate through the
punctuation string, removing all occurrences of each. You might want to define the punctuation string as a
variable to make it easier to change things later on.
We’re getting pretty close. All we need to do is construct some sort of loop that will do the necessary
comparisons and determine if the string reads the same way forward as it does backward. But the
comparisons will be case sensitive, and the first character (‘A’) is currently not the same as the last one (‘a’).
This is easy to fix:
>>> s = s.lower()
>>> s
… and we now have a string that is suitable for automatic comparison. Note that we could have used
s.upper() just as well.
Another recurring “pattern” that often occurs when processing text is the isolation of words in a sentence or
paragraph. In this case, spaces serve as delimiters. “Words” are those elements that occur between “white
space”. In order to obtain only the words, we need to remove the extra white space and extraneous
punctuation. However, we cannot simply remove all the spaces because we need them to determine where
words start and end! Let’s try to isolate and count all the words in a sentence:
>>> s = ” Now is the time for … what exactly?”
>>> s
This sentence has some issues with leading (extraneous) space, punctuation, etc. If we’re going to count just
the words, we need to figure out where words start and end. First let’s get rid of the punctuation:
>>> s = s.replace(“?”,””).replace(“.”,””)
>>> s
Initially we need to determine exactly where the first word starts. We could write a loop of some sort, but
there is a string method that can help us:
>>> s = s.lstrip()
>>> s
.lstrip() is a method that strips all the leading white space from the left end of the string. Since words
are delimited by spaces, the resulting string will (by definition) start with a word. After we strip the leading
white space, the word will always start at index [0]. But where does the word end? Well, here’s another
method that proves very useful:
>>> idx = s.find(‘ ‘)
Recall that the .find(substring) method will return the index of the first occurrence of the substring (or -1
if its not found). So idx should now contain the index of the space that immediately follows (delimits) the
word. Let’s see:
>>> idx
If we are counting words, we might increment our count at this point, but for now let’s figure out how to find
the next word in the string. Recall the slicing operator [start : end ], and also recall that if we omit the start
or end of the slice, we get “everything from the beginning”, or “everything to the end” respectively. This
provides a powerful capability to split the string at the index into two separate strings… Let’s try it:
>>> s[ : idx]
>>> s[ idx: ]
The first “slice” contains all of the string up to, but not including the space and the second “slice” is the
remainder of the string with the space at the beginning. Since we are finished with the first word, we can
essentially get rid of it by just keeping the remainder of the string. And since we know that the remaining
string starts with a space we may as well remove it at the same time:
>>> s = s[ idx: ].lstrip()
>>> s
Very nice! Now we just continue this process (in a loop would be more useful!) and count the words in the
sentence. Note that if you continue on in this way, the .find(‘ ‘) method for the last word will fail (and
return a -1). Why? How might you deal with this?
Understanding the basic function of string operations and methods is important, but perhaps more important is
the skill (developed through practice!) of using these methods to transform strings into forms that are suitable
for the task at hand. As always, you should explore on your own and experiment with various ways of
manipulating strings.
Mystery-Box Challenge
The “Mystery-Box Challenge” is designed to help you develop a better understanding of how programs work.
The Mystery-Box Challenge presents a short code fragment that you must interpret to determine what
computation it is intending to accomplish at a “high” (semantic) level. For example, the following line of
3.14159 * radius * radius
is intended to “compute the area of a circle whose radius is contained in a variable named ‘radius'”. An
answer such as “multiply 3.14159 by radius and then multiply it by radius again”, although technically
accurate, would not be considered a correct answer!
Here is your first mystery-box challenge: Determine what the following Python function does and describe it
to one of your Lab TAs :
def foo(istring):
p = ‘0123456789’
os = ”
for iterator in istring:
if iterator not in p:
os += iterator
return os
Use the command-line Python interface to accomplish the following:
1) Using the string class .count method, display the number of occurrences of the character ‘s’ in the string
2) Replace all occurrences of the substring ‘iss’ with ‘ox’ in the string “mississippi”.
3) Find the index of the first occurrence of ‘p’ in the string “mississippi”.
4) Construct a 20-character string that contains the word ‘python’ in all capital letters in the exact center.
The remaining characters should all be spaces.
1) Letter Count
Write a function named ltrcount that will take a single string argument containing any legal character and
return the number of characters in the string that are alphabetic letters (lower-case a-z or upper-case A-Z).
Test your function using the command-line interface with the following strings:
2) Reverse a String
Write a function named reverse that will take a single string argument and return a string that is the reverse
(mirror-image) of the argument. Do not convert the string to a list and .reverse() it! Test your function using
the command-line interface.
3) Palindrome Check
Now write a Python program that will include the function from the previous problem and an additional userdefined function named ispalindrome that will take a single string argument and return True if the
argument is a palindrome, False otherwise. The ispalindrome function must call the reverse
function you created in Stretch Problem (2). Be sure to normalize the strings to uppercase or lowercase
before the comparison!
Your program should input a string containing a palindrome or palindromic phrase, call the ispalindrome
function, and display a message indicating if the string is indeed a palindrome. Include a loop to allow the
user to repeat the process as many times as he/she desires.
Enter a string: Abba
Abba is a palindrome
Continue? (y/n): y
Enter a string: Telex
Telex is not a palindrome
Continue? (y/n): y
Enter a string: MadaM I’m Adam
MadaM I’m Adam is a palindrome
Continue? (y/n): n
1) Split
The Python language provides numerous powerful and concise object methods that facilitate the rapid
construction of compact scripts. One of the most useful string methods is .split(delimiter)that will split a
string into a list of substrings and will later prove quite useful when we begin to read data from files.
Assume for the moment that Python does not have such a method. Create a non-recursive function named
mysplit that will take two arguments: a string object and a delimiter string, and return a list of all the
substrings separated by the delimiter. Your function should exactly replicate the functionality of the .split
string method:
def mysplit(stringarg, delimiter):
Test your function using the command-line interface and compare the results to those obtained when you use
the .split method. e.g.,:
>>> s = “yada,yada,yada”
>>> mysplit(s,’,’)
[yada, yada, yada]
>>> s.split(‘,’)
[yada, yada, yada]
>>> s = “my country tis of me but not tis of thou”
>>> mysplit(s,’tis’)
[‘my country ‘, ‘ of me but not ‘, ‘ of thou’]
>>> s.split(’tis’)
[‘my country ‘, ‘ of me but not ‘, ‘ of thou’]
2) DNA
The DNA molecule employs a 4-element code consisting of sequences of the following nucleotides: Adenine,
Guanine, Cytosine and Thymine. Biologists often use a letter sequence to represent the genome, in which
each letter stands for one of the four nucleotides. For example:
Individual genes are substrings of a genome delineated by 3-element start and stop codons. The majority of
genes begin with the start codon: ATG and end with one of the following 3 stop codons: TAG, TAA or TGA.
Start codons can appear anywhere in the string, followed by a series of 3-element codons and ending with a
stop codon. Note that genes are multiples of 3 in length and do not contain any of the triples ATG, TAG,
Write a Python program that will read in a genome as a string and display all the genes in the genome. Note
that that finding a substring matching an end codon but which overlaps two codons would not be an actual
end codon (i.e., the resulting gene string should be divisible by three).
1) Check Amount
Write a function named dollarstring that will accept a dollar value (float) and return a string
representing the value (in words) as it should appear on a printed voucher. For example, the value 356.37
should be converted to the string: ‘three hundred fifty-six and 37/100 dollars”. Note the following:
• You may ssume the largest possible amount will be 99,999.99
• Do not report amounts of “zero” (e.g., 3,000.28 would be ‘three thousand and 28/100 dollars’)
• Report all cents using exactly two digits (e.g., 2 cents would be ’02/100 dollars’)
• Tens and ones values should be separated by a dash, but only if the ones value is not zero (e.g., 21.36
would be ‘twenty-one and 36/100 dollars’ but 20.36 would be ‘twenty and 36/100’
Write a Python program that will input a dollar amount, call the dollarstring function and print the
converted value:
Enter a dollar amount: 50300.45
fifty thousand three hundred and 45/100 dollars
Enter a dollar amount: 1256.32
one thousand two hundred fifty-six and 32/100 dollars
Enter a dollar amount: 5.99
five and 99/100 dollars
Enter a dollar amount: 801.22
eight hundred one and 22/100 dollars
Enter a dollar amount: 4000.07
four thousand and 07/100 dollars
Enter a dollar amount: .36
36/100 dollars