SequenceMatcher is a flexible class for comparing pairs of sequences of any type, so long as the sequence elements are hashable. The basic algorithm predates, and is a little fancier than, an algorithm published in the late 1980's by Ratcliff and Obershelp under the hyperbolic name "gestalt pattern matching". The basic idea is to find the longest contiguous matching subsequence that contains no "junk" elements (R-O doesn't address junk). The same idea is then applied recursively to the pieces of the sequences to the left and to the right of the matching subsequence. This does not yield minimal edit sequences, but does tend to yield matches that "look right" to people. SequenceMatcher tries to compute a "human-friendly diff" between two sequences. Unlike e.g. UNIX(tm) diff, the fundamental notion is the longest *contiguous* & junk-free matching subsequence. That's what catches peoples' eyes. The Windows(tm) windiff has another interesting notion, pairing up elements that appear uniquely in each sequence. That, and the method here, appear to yield more intuitive difference reports than does diff. This method appears to be the least vulnerable to synching up on blocks of "junk lines", though (like blank lines in ordinary text files, or maybe "<P>" lines in HTML files). That may be because this is the only method of the 3 that has a *concept* of "junk" <wink>. Example, comparing two strings, and considering blanks to be "junk": >>> s = SequenceMatcher(lambda x: x == " ", ... "private Thread currentThread;", ... "private volatile Thread currentThread;") >>> .ratio() returns a float in [0, 1], measuring the "similarity" of the sequences. As a rule of thumb, a .ratio() value over 0.6 means the sequences are close matches: >>> print round(s.ratio(), 3) 0.866 >>> If you're only interested in where the sequences match, .get_matching_blocks() is handy: >>> for block in s.get_matching_blocks(): ... print "a[%d] and b[%d] match for %d elements" % block a and b match for 8 elements a and b match for 6 elements a and b match for 15 elements a and b match for 0 elements Note that the last tuple returned by .get_matching_blocks() is always a dummy, (len(a), len(b), 0), and this is the only case in which the last tuple element (number of elements matched) is 0. If you want to know how to change the first sequence into the second, use .get_opcodes(): >>> for opcode in s.get_opcodes(): ... print "%6s a[%d:%d] b[%d:%d]" % opcode equal a[0:8] b[0:8] insert a[8:8] b[8:17] equal a[8:14] b[17:23] equal a[14:29] b[23:38] See the Differ class for a fancy human-friendly file differencer, which uses SequenceMatcher both to compare sequences of lines, and to compare sequences of characters within similar (near-matching) lines. See also function get_close_matches() in this module, which shows how simple code building on SequenceMatcher can be used to do useful work. Timing: Basic R-O is cubic time worst case and quadratic time expected case. SequenceMatcher is quadratic time for the worst case and has expected-case behavior dependent in a complicated way on how many elements the sequences have in common; best case time is linear. Methods: __init__(isjunk=None, a='', b='') Construct a SequenceMatcher. set_seqs(a, b) Set the two sequences to be compared. set_seq1(a) Set the first sequence to be compared. set_seq2(b) Set the second sequence to be compared. find_longest_match(alo, ahi, blo, bhi) Find longest matching block in a[alo:ahi] and b[blo:bhi]. get_matching_blocks() Return list of triples describing matching subsequences. get_opcodes() Return list of 5-tuples describing how to turn a into b. ratio() Return a measure of the sequences' similarity (float in [0,1]). quick_ratio() Return an upper bound on .ratio() relatively quickly. real_quick_ratio() Return an upper bound on ratio() very quickly.
Public Member Functions
Private Member Functions