All about strings in Python3

Strings are one of the most important data types in any programming language, no application can be done without dealing with strings.

Python provides a bunch of string methods for different usages, in this post I’m going to describe the most important string methods in Python, but before I do this, let’s see the basic of strings in Python.

Strings in Python

Python 3 stores strings as a sequence of Unicode code point, this means that we can represent any Unicode characters, like Arabic, Hebrew, Danish and even emojis.

Strings are immutable, so once you create a string you can’t change it at a later point.

String in Python could be created either by enclosing it with a double/single quotes or by using the str object, both ways produce a str object, because everything in Python is an object:

# Double quotes
hello = "Hello World I'm using Python!"

# Single quotes
hello = 'Hello World I'm using Python!'

# str object
hello = str("Hello World I'm using Python!")

print(type(hello)) # This should always return "<class 'str'>"

Sometimes we need to create a raw string, a string that should be treated as it is, without handling the escaping characters like (\n \r \t etc…) for this purpose we can use the r operator as follows:

print(r"Hello World\nI'm using Python!\t\t\t Amazing")

The triple quotes """ can be used for multi line string:

python = """
Python is an interpreted, high-level, general-purpose programming language. Created by Guido van Rossum and first released in 1991, Python has a design philosophy that emphasizes code readability, notably using significant whitespace. It provides constructs that enable clear programming on both small and large scales.[26] Van Rossum led the language community until stepping down as leader in July 2018
"""

print(python)

Please note that the triple quotes are also used in multi-line code comments in Python.

What if we need to concatenate a string? this can be achieved the plus (+) sign:

hello = "Hello" + " " + "World

As I mentioned earlier, Python treats the string as a set of sequences, which means each character gets its own index, as if it were a list() or dict() let’s demystify this by an example:

hello = "Hello World! I'm using Python!"
h = hello[0]
print(h) # Output: H

for char in hello:
    print(char, " ") #Output: H\ne\nl etc...

We can cut off a string by using the slice operator:

hello = "Hello World"
print( hello[:5] ) # Output: Hello
print( hello[6:] ) # Output: World
print( hello[-1:-5] ) # Output: World

Use the multiplication operator to print the string twice:

print("Hi" * 2) # Output: HiHi

Since Python3 deals with Unicode code points, this means we can print out emojis as simple as strings:

# All these statements produce the same output

print("I love Python :-)")
print("I love Python \U0001F600") # Emoji using the Unicode code number
print("I love Python \N{grinning face}") #Emojis using the CLDR

By :-) I mean this emoji (😀), I had to write it like that because I couldn’t insert an emoji inside a code block in WordPress.

Visit the full emoji list page from the Unicode website to know all about emoji codes.

When it comes to emojis representation, I encourage you to either use the CLDR or the Unicode charachter, and don’t use the direct emojis like 😀 in your code

You might also be interested in emoji module from pip.

We’ve done with emojis, so now I’d like to show you something else, which is printing none-Latin characterless, like Arabic. Since Python3 uses Unicode by default, we might print out any Unicode strings such as Arabic:

print("أنا أحبُّ لغة بايثون!") # Arabic
print("Jeg er så glad for at møde dig!") # Danish
print("Jeg er s\u00e5 glad for at m\xf8ode dig!") # Danish with Unicode chars.

From my experience, writing none-Latin strings directly into your code is a bad practice, instead use something like GNU gettext for this purpose, see Python Multilingual internationalization Services.

How about bytes?

bytes type is similar to str except it’s stored as a sequence of bytes, instead of a sequence of Unicode code points (str case),bytes is used in binary data, and a fixed single-byte character encoding.

bytes can be either represented by the b operator or by the bytes() object:

hello = bytes(source="Hello World", encoding="utf8")
print(hello) #Output: b'Hello World'

Different data types could be set to the source parameter:

  • String: the given string will be converted to bytes (as we’ve seen earlier).
  • Integer: creates an array of zero values within the provided size.
  • Object.
  • Iterable: creates a numeric array of the given size, each element must be between 0 and 255.

Let’s see how these types work with bytes.

n = bytes(5)
print(n) # Output: b'\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00'
print(list(n)) # Output: [0, 0, 0, 0, 0]

items = [1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32]
arr = bytes(items)
print(arr) # Output: b'\x01\x02\x04\x08\x10 '
print(list(arr)) # Output: [1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32]

We can encode/decode a string/bytes by using the encode/decode methods as follows:

my_string = ("Jeg er så glad for at møde dig!")
my_string_encode = my_string.encode()
my_string_decode = my_string_encode.decode('utf8')

print(my_string_encode) # Output: b'Jeg er s\xc3\xa5 glad for at m\xc3\xb8de dig!'
print(my_string_decode) # Output: Jeg er så glad for at møde dig!

String operators

Python provides a set of string operators, so far we’ve dealt with the concatenation operator (+), string repetition operator (*), slice ([]), and range slice ([from:to]) operators, let’s checkout the full list:

OperatorDescription
+String concatenation
*String repetition
[n]Slice a string by getting a specific char.
[from:to]Range slice, gets a portion of a string
inReturns true if the char. exists in the string
not inReturns true if the char. doesn’t exist in the string
%String formatting
string = "Hello World I love Python"
print("Python" in string) # True

string = "Hello World I love Python"
print("Python" not in string) # False

String formatting operator is one of the coolest string operators in Python, it adds the ability to add placeholders in a string, let’s demystify this by an example:

string = "My name is %s and I love to use %s"
print(string % ("Ahmad", "Python")) # Output: My name is Ahmad and I love to use Python

As we see here, the %s replaced by Ahmad and Python respectively, but what does %s mean here? %s represents a string placeholder. Python provides many placeholders such as %c for character, %d for decimal integer, %f for floating points and etc…

Python has a more readable method format() it’s highly recommend to use the format method instead of the regular string formatting, we’re going to discuss it later in string methods section.

String methods

Python provides a bunch of string methods, some of these methods require explanation but some of them are too easy to understand:

Capitalize first letter of string

print( "hello".capitalize() ) # Output: Hello

All words become uppercase (title-case)

print( "hello world".title() ) # Output: Hello World

Converts string to upper/lower case or swapcase

print( "hello world".upper() ) # Output: HELLO WORLD
print( "HELLO WORLD".lower() ) # Output: hello world
print( "Hello WORLD".swapcase() ) # Output: hELLO world

Gets the length of the string

This function doesn’t belong to the string object, it can also be used in other types such as lists, dictionaries and tuples.

print (len("Hello World")) # Output: 11

Add right and left padding to the string

This function adds char. padding to the right and left side the string:

# Output: ----Hello World-----
print ( "Hello World".center(20, "-") )

In this example, dash symbol (-) has been repeated ten times, five on right and five on left.

Count the occurrences of sub-string

This method returns the number of occurrences of sub-string:

string = """
Python is an interpreted, high-level, general-purpose programming language. Created by Guido van Rossum and first released in 1991, Python has a design philosophy that emphasizes code readability, notably using significant whitespace. It provides constructs that enable clear programming on both small and large scales.[26] Van Rossum led the language community until stepping down as leader in July 2018
"""

print( string.count("i") ) # Output: 23

#Starting from 10->20 char
print( string.count("i", 10, 20)) #Output: 1

Determines if string starts/ends with a substring

As their names implies, they used to determine if the string starts/ends with a substring:

string = "Python is one of the most popular programming languages"
print( string.startswith("Python") ) # Output: True
print( string.endswith("languages") ) # Output: True

#Start from 0 position to 6th position.
print( string.startswith("Python", 0, 6) ) # Output: True

is methods

All the methods which start with is are boolean methods, and they are used to determine if the given string has a special meaning:

MethodDescription
isalnum()Checks if the string is an alpha-numeric string.
isalpha()Check if the string is an alphabetic string.
isascii()Checks if all characters in the string are ASCII.
isdecimal()Checks if the string is a decimal string.
isdigit()Checks if the string is a decimal string.
isidentifier()Checks if the string is a valid Python identifier.
islower()Checks if the string is a valid Python identifier.
isnumeric()Checks if the string is a valid Python identifier.
isprintable()Checks if if the string is printable.
isspace()Checks if the string is printable.
istitle()Checks if the string is a title-cased string.
isupper()Checks if the string is an uppercase string.

I know, some of these methods seem obvious, but some of them requires more explanation, so let’s dentistry one by one:

#isalnum
print( "Copenhagen 2000".isalnum() ) # Output: False because of the space
print( "2000i".isalnum() ) # True

#isalpha()
print( "Iraq".isalpha() ) # Output: True
print( "ar_IQ".isalpha() ) # Output: False because of the underscore charachter

#isascii
print( "Hello World \xb6".isascii() ) # Output: false because \xb6 is a hex. character not an ascii
print( "Hello World".isascii() ) # Output: True

#islower
print( "hello world".islower() ) # Output: True

#isupper
print( "HELLO WORLD".isupper() ) # Output: True

#isspace
print( " ".isspace() ) # Output: True
print( "".isspace() ) # Output: False
print( "\t \n".isspace() ) # Output: True

#istitle
print( "hello world".istitle() ) # Output: False
print( "Hello World".istitle() ) # Output: True

Those methods were the easiest methods because they are self-explained, but methods like isdigi, isnumeric, isdecimal need more clarification.

As their names implies, all these methods deals with numbers, but what is the difference between them? in short answers the difference lies in Unicode classification, let’s see how this is done.

isdecimal checks if the given string is a decimal number, numbers from 0-9 are valid, otherwise they aren’t:

print( "123".isdecimal() ) # Output: True
print( "-123".isdecimal() ) # Output: False
print( "¼".isdecimal() ) # Output: False
print( "١٢٣".isdecimal() ) # Output: False ١٢٣ is the 123 in Hindu numeric system

isnumeric checks if the given string is a number in any kind (Unicode) numeric system:

#isnumeric
print( "123".isnumeric() ) # Output: True (Arabic numerals)
print( "١٢٣".isnumeric() ) # Output: True (Hindu numerals)
print( "۴۵۶".isnumeric() ) # Output: True (Farsi numerals)
print( "¼½".isnumeric() ) # Output: True
print( "四五六".isnumeric() ) # Output: True (Chinese numerals)

If you are building a multilingual application where it deals with different numeric system, you must consider using the isnumeric system.

More about numeric value in Unicode.

isdigit checks if the number is decimal and it can also be in a typographic context:

print( "①".isdigit() ) # Output: True
print( "⒈".isdigit() ) # Output: True
print( "¹".isdigit() ) # Output: True

More about numerals in Unicode.

Now, it’s time to checkout the isidentifier method and see what does this method do for us.

Imagine you want to give a particular name to a variable and you aren’t sure if this name is valid or not in Python, so isidentifier checks if the given name is a value Python identifier.

print( "hello".isidentifier() ) # Output: True
print( "123hello".isidentifier() ) # Output: False
print( "\t".isidentifier() ) # Output: False
print( "hello123".isidentifier() ) # Output: True

The last method in our list is isprintable, this method checks if the given string can be printed or not, in other words if the string contains any of the following classes:

  • Letters from A-Z (Uppercase)
  • Letters from a-z (Lowercase)
  • Digits from 0-9
  • Punctuation characters ( !”#$%&'()*+, -./:;?@[]^_`{ | }~ )
  • Space.
print( "Hello World".isprintable() ) # Output: True
print( "أنا أتحدّث العربيّة".isprintable() ) # Output: True
print( "123".isprintable() ) #Output: True
print("Hello\nWorld".isprintable() ) # Output: False
print("Hello\r\tWorld".isprintable() ) # Output: False

Join a sequence of elements by a separator

Joins all the items in list, tuple, or dictionary using a separator:

# All these statements produce A,B,C string
print( ",".join(["A", "B", "C"]) ) # Using lists
print( ",".join(("A", "B", "C")) ) # Using tuples
print( ",".join({"A", "B", "C"}) ) # Using dictionaries

Create a list from a given string using a separator

If you have a string and you want to cut it off by a given separator and store it in a list, then consider using split:

# Output: ['Baghdad', ' Basra', ' Anbar', ' Erbil']
print( "Baghdad, Basra, Anbar, Erbil".split(",") ) 

By default, split is cutting off the whole string, if you’d like to cut a bunch of items, then you might set the second argument to the number of elements you want:

# ['Baghdad', ' Basra', ' Anbar, Erbil']
print( "Baghdad, Basra, Anbar, Erbil".split(",", 2) )

Use rsplit() method if you want to start the splitting from the right hand side.

splitlines converts all the new lines into a list:

# Output: ['Hello World', 'I love Python!']
print("Hello World\nI love Python!".splitlines())

Formatting

Sometimes we can make our code more readable and a bit shorter when it comes to strings.

For instance, let’s take the following code:

name = input("Enter your name? ")
age = input("How old are you? ")
print("Hello " + name + " , you are " + age + " years old")

By using the format() method we can make this code more readable:

print("Hello {name}, you are {age} years old.".format(name=name, age=age))

You can eliminate the named placeholders as follows:

print("Hello {}, you are {} years old.".format(name,age))

You can also specify the the conversion type with a colon : followed by the type:

# Format number 123456 to hex.
print("{name:x}".format(name=123456)) # Output: 1e240

Available conversion types:

ConversionMeaning
dSigned integer decimal.
iSigned integer decimal.
oUnsigned octal.
uUnsigned decimal.
xUnsigned hexadecimal (lowercase).
XUnsigned hexadecimal (uppercase).
eFloating point exponential format (lowercase).
EFloating point exponential format (uppercase).
fFloating point decimal format.
FFloating point decimal format.
gSame as “e” if exponent is greater than -4 or less than precision, “f” otherwise.
GSame as “E” if exponent is greater than -4 or less than precision, “F” otherwise.
cSingle character (accepts integer or single character string).
rString (converts any python object using repr()).
sString (converts any python object using str()).
%No argument is converted, results in a “%” character in the result.

I think all the conversions are obvious except r and s, so let’s demystify these two conversions.

Python provides a special method names starting and ending with double underlines, for instance.__str__ and __repr__, theses methods are used to extend the classes by providing extra features.

By default, Python returns the class identifier if we try to print it out:

class Person(object): pass
print( Person ) # Ouput: <class '__main__.MyClass'>

By using either __str__ or __repr__ we can change this behavior by returning our custom data:

class Person(object):
	def __init__(self, name, age):
	  self.name, self.age = name, age
	
	def __str__(self):
		return "Your name is {name}, and you are {age} years old".format(name=self.name, age=self.age)
		
print( Person("Ahmad", "32") ) # Output: Your name is Ahmad, and you are 32 years old

Back to r and s conversions, we can represent any object which is impelements __repr__ or __str__ when we format the string:

class Ahmad():
	def __str__(self):
		return "Ahmad";

print( "My name is {name}".format(name=Ahmad()) )

If you write the class name with parentheses () then it’ll always returns the class name instead of calling the __str__.

__str__ and __repr__ are almost the same except that __repr__ adds single quotes to the output while ___str__ doesn’t, and it’s more precise than __str__ when it comes to number representation.

__str__ is almost always used than __repr__ so consider using it whenever you need a string representation of an object.

Tab expansion

Sometimes, we might need to change the size of a special tab character (\t) this can be achieved by using the expandtabs method and give it the desired size of the \t character:

print("Hello\tWorld".expandtabs(16)) # Output: Hello   World

Partitioning strings

partition method is used to divide a string into three sections based on the given separator, these sections are the part before a separator, the separator itself, and the part after the separator.

Let’s demystify it by an example:

# Separate Hello World by a space
greeting = "Hello World".partition(" ")

# This outputs a tuple containing three parts
print(greeting)

# Since it's a tuple we can use the unpacking feature
hello, _, world = greeting

print(hello) # Output: Hello
print(world) # Output: World

Finding substring

find and index methods are used to determine the first occurrence in a string, both methods return an integer which indicates the occurrence place in string:

python = """
Python is powerful... and fast;
plays well with others; 
runs everywhere; 
is friendly & easy to learn; 
is Open.
"""

print( python.find("Python") ) # Output: 0
print( python.find("like") ) # Output: -1 (not found)
print( python.find("is", 31) ) # Output: 76 (start from)
print( python.find("is", 79, len(python)) ) # Output: 106 (start and end)

index is exactly the same as find except it raises an exception if it doesn’t find the string.

You might to need to use rfind() or rindex() to search backwards in a string (search from the right side).

Replacing

replace() is used for string replacement:

print( "Hello World".replace("Hello", "Hi") ) # Output: Hi World

The 3rd argument of replace() specifies the max number of replacment:

print( "Hello World, Hello, Hello".replace("Hello", "Hi", 1) ) # Output: Hi World, Hello, Hello

Conclusion

In this post, I highlighted the most popular string methods, but there are many other methods which can be found on python documentation page.

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