2.1. Strings (class string)

Learning objectives

The class string
Creating, copying, modifying, and concatenating strings
Accessing substrings

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” It is already a sciptural wisdom that words are tremendously important. We therefore start with the data type of LEDA that is useful for storing and processing words and sentences, the type string, one of the simplest data types of LEDA.

A string is a sequence of several (maybe null) characters. The LEDA type string is therefore closely related to the C++ type char[], however, it has a number of advantages over the latter type, which we will soon get to know.

First of all we want to use this type in order to play a bit with words. Many further examples of this tutorial are games with words and sentences. With them complex facts can often be represented in a vivid and amusing way.

EVA, CAN I STAB BATS IN A CAVE? Pardon? The author is so angry about the complexity of the language C++ and would like to agonize innocent animals?[4] No, he has formed a sentence that reads the same forward as backward! Such a sentence or word is called a palindrome. (Blanks, punctuation marks and case are neglected when building palindromes, so that the definitions of word palindromes and sentence palindromes are equivalent.) Some other famous palindromes are “Doc, note: I dissent a fatness. I diet on cod.” and “A man, a plan, a canal - Panama!”.

At first let us write a LEDA program that reads a string from standard input and tests whether this string is a palindrome. For this purpose the program creates the reversed string from the input string, that is the string with reversed order of the individual characters, and compares it with the original one. To reverse the string, it successively appends all characters from behind to a second string. This program already reveals a lot of qualities of LEDA in general and of LEDA strings in particular.

Filename: PalindromeTest.C
LEDA users as of version 5.0: Note that header files are now partitioned into modules (subfolders)!
#include <LEDA/string.h>
#include <iostream>

using leda::string;
using std::cout;

int main() {
  string s; // default initialization


  string r; 

  for(int i = s.length() - 1 ; i >= 0 ; i--) 
    r += s[i];   // inefficient, see below!

  if(s == r) // fast comparison of handle-like type
    cout << s << " is a palindrome\n";
    cout << s << " is not a palindrome\n";

Here the string s is first defined with default initialization, that is, the variable s is set to the default value of the data type[5] in the moment of the definition. This is typically the “simplest” value of the type; concerning strings, this is the empty string, that is the string consisting of null characters.

Strings offer a large number of operations.[6] By a call of the method


a string s can be read from standard input. Thereby, the line separator \n serves as the end marker of a line.

The above program appends the respectively next character of the string s to the string r by using the operator +=. In general a string s can be appended to the string r by

r += s;

In doing so, the operator += returns a reference to r.

The individual characters of a string are accessed by the subscript operator []:

char& c = s[i];

It returns a reference to the i-th character so that this character can also be modified by operator [].

The comparison operator

s == r;

compares two strings s and r.

In comparison with the type char[] of C++ it stands out that we do not have to take care of storage allocation here. The string r becomes longer and longer by the operator += in a magical way.

[4] Yes, C++ sometimes is frustrating. The author has tried in this tutorial to use the basic concepts of this mighty programming language only. The main focus herein lies on the description of the types and algorithms of LEDA; therefore, most of the programs consist of a single main().

[5] If there is one. The built-in types like char, int, or double have no default value, nor have some types of LEDA.

[6] Admittedly LEDA's strings are not as powerful as the corresponding data types of languages like Perl and AWK; these languages are specialized in string processing. But LEDA's strings do bear comparison with the homonymous class string of the C++ standard library; both classes offer nearly the same functionality.