matching strings in a large set of strings

Mark Tolonen metolone+gmane at
Thu Apr 29 13:00:43 CEST 2010

"Karin Lagesen" <karin.lagesen at> wrote in message 
news:416f727c6f5b0edb932b425db9579808.squirrel at
> Hello.
> I have approx 83 million strings, all 14 characters long. I need to be
> able to take another string and find out whether this one is present
> within the 83 million strings.
> Now, I have tried storing these strings as a list, a set and a dictionary.
> I know that finding things in a set and a dictionary is very much faster
> than working with a list, so I tried those first. However, I run out of
> memory building both the set and the dictionary, so what I seem to be left
> with is the list, and using the in method.
> I imagine that there should be a faster/better way than this?

You may be overthinking it.  How fast does it need to be?  I generated the 
following file:

    >>> f=open('test.txt','wt')
    >>> for i in xrange(83000000):
    ...  f.write('0123456789ABCD\n')
    >>> f.close()

It took about 15 seconds to search that file with a command line search tool 
(Windows, and a slow IDE hard drive):

     findstr xyz test.txt

It took about twice that to search via Python with 'in':

    >>> for line in open('test.txt'):
    ...  if 'xyz' in line:
    ...   print line

Reading only a line at a time has the advantage of using very little memory. 
Storing 83 million 14-character strings in memory requires a minimum of 
about 1.2GB not counting overhead for lists/sets/dictionaries.


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