Anagrams ― The Ultimate Guide to JavaScript Algorithms

February 13, 2019 0 Comments

Anagrams ― The Ultimate Guide to JavaScript Algorithms



Table of Contents

Hooray! This article marks the last string manipulation challenge in this section of this course. We've come a long way!

In this challenge, we consider two ways to detect anagrams in JavaScript.

What is an Anagram?

A word is said to be an anagram of another when it can be formed by rearranging the letters of the other word using each letter just once. E.g listen is an anagram of silent.

Let’s get busy, shall we?

You should already have your development environment setup for this course. Update your cloned repository by running the command git pull. Inside the Beginner folder, navigate to the isAnagram folder. Our work for this challenge will be done in here. Make sure to follow along in theindex-START.js file.

The Challenge

Given two strings, write an algorithm to check if they are anagrams of each other. Return true if they pass the test and false if they don't. E.g

isAnagram('silent', 'listen') 

Algorithmic Thinking

In solving this challenge, we write a function that'd accept two parameters i.e the two strings to be compared.

Within the function, we compare both words to see if they contain the same characters used the same number of times. To avoid errors, we sanitize the string thus getting rid of unwanted characters and spaces since these are not letters of the alphabet.

We also convert all characters to a common letter case before carrying out any comparisons to avoid errors due to varying capitalization. Checking that both words are of the same length is also very important as this is a primary factor for a valid comparison.

Let's do this.

Code Implementation

We will now consider two ways to implement our solution following our algorithmic logic above. They are:

  • Direct Comparison
  • Character Map Comparison

Direct comparison

In this approach, we define a function that accepts two parameters i.e the two strings to be compared. We then go ahead to clean up both strings to ensure that we are comparing only letters and in a common case.

Cleaning Up the String To clean up the string, we create a function sanitizeString. This function accepts the string to be sanitized as a parameter and the uses the .toLowerCase(), .replace(), .split(), .sort() and .join() methods to manipulate the string as shown below:

const sanitizeString = function (str) { return str.toLowerCase().replace(/[^a-z\d]/g, '').split('').sort().join('');  

Lets break things down a little:

  • First, we convert the entire string to lowercase using the .toLowerCase() method.
  • Next, we use the .replace() method to search through the string using the specified regular expression pattern and replace every non alphabetical character with an empty string. This leaves us with only letters. No spaces, no symbols!
  • Next, we call .split() to split the string into an array of characters.
  • Using the .sort() method, we sort the letters (elements) within the array in alphabetical order.
  • And finally, we join the now alphabetically ordered array of letters back together to form a string once again.

This string is what we return as the sanitized string.

Smooth!** Right?**

Comparing the Sanitized Strings Sanitizing the string as done above is perhaps the trickiest part of this solution. Next, we simply clean up the strings received using the sanitizeString function and compare the results. If both strings match, we return true signifying that they pass as anagrams. If they do not match, we return false signifying that they aren't.

See the complete solution below:

function isAnagram(stringA, stringB) { const sanitizeString = function (str) { return str.toLowerCase().replace(/[^a-z\d]/g, '').split('').sort().join(''); } return sanitizeString(stringA)  sanitizeString(stringB)  

One down!** Let's get weirder! 😈**

As you'll see, the approach we shall now consider follows a more step-by-step procedure to solving the problem.

Character Map Comparison

In this approach, we first generate a character map using our createCharMap function.

What is a character map?

As used in this context , a character map object is an object that maps every character in a string to the number of times it occurs within the string.

Creating the Character Map In our createCharMap function below, we use a for…of loop to iterate through each character of the string received.

function createCharMap(text) { let charMap = {} for (let char of text) { if (charMap.hasOwnProperty(char)) { charMap[char]++ } else { charMap[char] = 1 } } return charMap  

For each character, we check if the character already exist as a property in the charcter map charMap using the .hasOwnProperty() method. If it does, we increment it's value and if it doesn't, we add the character as a property and set it's value to 1.

In the end, we return charMap which is the character map object.

Comparing Character Maps Now that we have a way of generating the character maps, the next step will be to compare the character maps for both strings as shown in the complete solution below:

function isAnagram(stringA, stringB) { function createCharMap(text) { let charMap = {} for (let char of text) { if (charMap.hasOwnProperty(char)) { charMap[char]++ } else { charMap[char] = 1 } } return charMap } if (stringA.length = stringB.length) { let stringAMap = createCharMap(stringA) let stringBMap = createCharMap(stringB) for (let char in stringAMap) { if (stringAMap[char] !== stringBMap[char]) { return false } } return true } else { return false }  

Notice that we first check if the length of both strings are equal. If they aren't, we return false as this is an indicator that they can never be anagrams. If they are however, we go further to generate their character maps stored as variables stringAMap and stringBMap.

Next, we use the for…in loop to compare every character and value in stringAMap to the character’s corresponding value in stringBMap. If any values do not match, we return false as an indication that the strings aren't anagrams. However, if all values match, the test is passed and we return true as an indication that the tested strings are anagrams indeed.

We made it. A longer implementation indeed but it's definitely a more explanatory one.

Lets run our tests now, shall we?


Testing Correctness with Jest

To test each solution above, run the following command from your terminal:

npm run test isAnagram
  • Direct Comparison

  • Character Map Comparison

It appears we always do great! We passed all tests.

Testing Performance with JSPerf

Here, we run a performance test to determine which solution is faster. Find a screenshot of the result below:

From the result, we observe that:

The faster implementation is the Character Map Comparison approach and the Direct Comparison method though concise is approximately 52% slower.

**Surprising isn’t it? The metrics never lie though!**

Practical Application

The algorithms explored above may be applied in various ways. These include:

  • Encryption
  • Password Generation
  • Trusted Time-stamping
  • Coding Interviews
  • Generating Mnemonics
  • Word games

While considering the techniques and concepts explored above, we have learnt valuable ways to manipulate strings in order to determine if they are anagrams. We also explored various areas in which this knowledge can be directly utilized.

After running our performance tests we can now conclude that the most optimal approach to solving this problem is the Character Map Comparison method.

Further Reading

To learn more about the concepts and techniques highlighted above, you may use the following links:

See you in the next set of articles focused on array manipulation algorithms!✌🏿

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