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This loads a dictionary text file into memory to be used as part of a spell checker. It's part of a larger program, but I wanted general comments so I can clean it up further.

#define TABLESIZE 500
#define LENGTH 45

bool load(const char* dictionary)
{
    //initiate hash table
    node* hashtable[TABLESIZE];    

    //open dictionary and check
    FILE* dict = fopen(dictionary, "r");
    if (dict == NULL)
    {
        printf("Could not open file.");
        return false;
    }

    //initiate variable to store current word
    char* dword = calloc(LENGTH+ 1,sizeof(char)); 

    //read the file
    while(fscanf(dict, "%s", dword) != EOF)
    {
        //if there is a word, create node and put word in it
        node* new_node = malloc(sizeof(node));
        strcpy(new_node->word,dword);

        //find spot in hash table and put it in that bucket
        unsigned int hashkey= 0;
        for (int counter = 0; dword[counter]!= '\0'; counter++)
        {
            hashkey = (hashkey*dword[counter] + dword[counter] + counter)%TABLESIZE;
        }

        //check if spot in table exists; if not, start the linked list
        if (hashtable[hashkey] == NULL)
        {    
            hashtable[hashkey] = new_node;
            new_node->next = NULL;
        }
        //otherwise made current node the first, shift rest over
        else
        {
            new_node->next = hashtable[hashkey];
            hashtable[hashkey] = new_node;
        }       
        //count words for later use
        nwords++;

    }

    fclose(dict);
    return true;    
}
share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I see some problems that you'll probably want to address, and some other general comments that you may or may not want to use.

Provide missing pieces

It's not in what you've posted, but I'm inferring that your node is defined something like this:

typedef struct node
{
    char *word;
    node *next;
} node;

Also, your code refers to nwords which I'm assuming is defined like this:

static unsigned nwords;

Provide required #includes

What would be useful is for you to provide your own #include file, say, something like "mydict.h" with the following contents:

#ifndef MYDICT_H
#define MYDICT_H
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <stdbool.h>

typedef struct node
{
    char *word;
    struct node *next;
} node;

bool load(const char* dictionary);
#endif

The code implementation would then go into a corresponding mydict.c file.

Provide a way to actually use the dictionary

This code carefully constructs a dictionary from a file, and then throws the whole thing away because there is no way to access the dictionary after this function has returned! Clearly, to be useful, at least thehashtable must be made available outside the function.

Check return values and handle errors

The code calls calloc and malloc but never checks for error return values. This is a serious problem that must be addressed. Also, fscanf can return EOF if there was an error, but that condition is neither checked nor handled. Note too, that even fclose can fail.

Think about return values

The code is defined as returning a bool but only actually false if the file failed to open. However, there are a number of errors that are not handled (and should be), such as running out of memory. It would make more sense to return true only if there were no errors.

Allocate memory before using it

The code currently includes these three lines:

//if there is a word, create node and put word in it
node* new_node = malloc(sizeof(node));
strcpy(new_node->word,dword);

However, only the new_node is actually allocated. No memory has been allocated for new_node->word and so this is doomed to fail! This should be strdup (if your compiler is Posix compliant) instead as:

new_node->word = strdup(dword);

Don't use raw fscanf

The code that reads in a word is currently this:

while(fscanf(dict, "%s", dword) != EOF)

However, what happens if the word is longer than the allocated space? The result is a classic buffer overrun. You can easily prevent it using the length modifier:

while(fscanf(dict, "%45s", dword) != EOF)

The code should also make sure that the string is properly terminated.

Don't assume variables are magically initialized

If you need a variable initialized in C, you must initialize it yourself. The only exception is code that is declared in static or global scope, and hashtable is not. That means that code that checks for specific values, such as this line:

if (hashtable[hashkey] == NULL)

is only going to work by chance. If you initialize hashtable to contain NULLs when it's created, you can collapse this code:

//check if spot in table exists; if not, start the linked list
if (hashtable[hashkey] == NULL)
{    
    hashtable[hashkey] = new_node;
    new_node->next = NULL;
}
//otherwise made current node the first, shift rest over
else
{
    new_node->next = hashtable[hashkey];
    hashtable[hashkey] = new_node;
}      

to this:

// add new word to hashtable
new_node->next = hashtable[hashkey];
hashtable[hashkey] = new_node;
share|improve this answer
    
Thanks Edward. Regarding your comment about allocating memory for new_node->word using strdup, if my global struct is: typedef struct node { char word[LENGTH + 1]; struct node* next; } node; Do I still need to allocate since LENGTH is defined as 45? Same question with regard to your comment on using the length modifier in the fscanf call –  Andy Jul 28 at 1:19
1  
Because your node is a char array, no, you don't need to allocate it. However, you might find that you save some space if you do since strdup only uses just enough memory to store the string. You do still need to use the length modifier with fscanf either way. –  Edward Jul 28 at 1:35
  • Your constants could be named slightly differently; consider TABLE_SIZE and MAX_WORD_LENGTH.
  • You could also rename dictionary to better indicate that it's a file path and not a dictionary object.
  • Consider printing error output to stderr: fputs(stderr, ...) or fprintf(stderr, ...).
  • You're using a global nwords, but a local hashtable; this looks to me like a scoping error. You could consider just making a new struct.
share|improve this answer
  • Since the function will terminate right away if the file fails to open, hashtable doesn't need to be declared before the check. Do it sometime afterwards, preferably the closest point at which it's used for the first time. This will keep it in the lowest scope possible, which is good for maintenance.

  • Instead of using printf() to output a simple message, just use puts():

    puts("Could not open file.");
    
share|improve this answer
    
Thanks for the response. Is it preferred to put hashtable declaration close to its use and then initialize with {NULL} or put it as a global up top without the initialization and so I can use the table outside of the load function? –  Andy Jul 28 at 1:23
1  
@Andy: The first one is preferred, and definitely not the second. Having global access can just cause more problems. If another function needs it, then have it passed to that function. –  Jamal Jul 28 at 1:25

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