# Token-finding function

I want to make sure find_value_from_key() is safe and efficient. My constraints are language C++, use of standard library ok, but cannot use Boost or any new C++11 features.

Can anyone offer any comments/criticisms/feedback on my implementation of the function here? Any flaws in my test cases would also be interesting to hear.

#include <string>
#include <iostream>

using std::cout;
using std::endl;
using std::string;

bool find_value_from_key(const string& source, const string& key, string& value, const string& EndOfValueMarker) {
bool ret = false;
size_t pos_start = source.find(key);
if(pos_start != string::npos) {
size_t pos_end = source.find_first_of(EndOfValueMarker, pos_start+key.length());
if(pos_end == string::npos && source.length() > pos_start+key.length())
pos_end = source.length();

if(pos_end != string::npos) {
value = source.substr(pos_start+key.length(), pos_end-pos_start-key.length());
ret = true;
}
}
return ret;
}

int main(int argc, char* argv[])
{
//test strings to exercise find_value_from_key function
const char* test_strings[] = {
"key1 = value1",
"   key1 = value1   ",
"key1 = value1,key2 = value2 ,key3 = value3",
"_key1 = value1 ,key2 = value2 ,Gkey3 = value3,",
"key1 = value1,key2 =  value2 ,key3 = value3 x",
"key1 = value1,key2 = value2key3 = value3\n",
"key1 = value1_,key2 = value2 ,key3 = value3                    ",
"key1 = value1\$,key2 = value2 ,key3 =   value3",
"key1 = value1\t,key2 = value2  ,key3 = value3\t" };

const char* keys[] = {"key1 = ", "key2 = ", "key3 = "};

int elements = sizeof(test_strings) / sizeof(test_strings[0]);

for(int i = 0; i < elements; ++i) {
cout << "processing: " << test_strings[i] << endl;
string value;
if(find_value_from_key(test_strings[0], keys[0], value, ", \t\n"))
cout << value << endl;
}

return 0;
}

• What is the ultimate goal with this code. Are you being provided with comma separated key value pairs? Are you going to be doing repeated searches of this string of data? Will your keys always be unique in the string you are given? This implementation is case sensitive, do you need to worry about case insensitive key lookup? – pstrjds Nov 1 '12 at 19:24

## find_value_from_key

The core method find_value_from_key looks functional for the limited specification you have given. I am not a great fan of the specification though, I think the function should try to be a bit smarter about identifying values in the input strings. The two items I find most concerning are:

• It will successfully find key1 =  and value1 in "ThisIsSubkey1 = value1"
• it does not successfully find value1 in "key1 = value1" (note two spaces after =)

These are both items related to the context-naive usage of the find(...) method.

Still, as far as the specification goes, your code looks like it does the job.

There is one improvement that can/should be done to make it more readable. You reuse the value pos_start+key.length() four times. Performance-wise this may be sorted out by a compiler, but it does not help the readability at all...

I would prefer the function written as:

bool find_value_from_key(const string& source, const string& key, string& value, const string& endmarkers) {
bool ret = false;
size_t key_start = source.find(key);
size_t val_start = key_start + key.length();
if(key_start != string::npos) {
size_t val_end = source.find_first_of(endmarkers, val_start);
if(val_end == string::npos && source.length() > val_start)
val_end = source.length();

if(val_end != string::npos) {
value = source.substr(val_start, val_end - val_start);
ret = true;
}
}
return ret;
}


Note how there is no pos_start variable... it was being reused for different purposes in different places. It was confusing. Renaming the variables to self-document makes the code easier to understand. The compiler will sort out any optimizations in the same ways as before.

There is one additional item in that method... why the CamelCase parameter EndOfValueMarker? I have renamed it endmarkers.

## main

The main method has a couple of issues I think must just be an artifact from testing.

You set up the loop to check each input string, but, you do not use i (the loop variable) as an index to the actual data you check... you have the code:

   for(int i = 0; i < elements; ++i) {
cout << "processing: " << test_strings[i] << endl;
string value;
if(find_value_from_key(test_strings[0], keys[0], value, ", \t\n"))
cout << value << endl;
}


This code prints each test_strings[i] just fine, but the input to the function is always index 0... so you only actually test the first input.

The second item is that you only test for key1. The other keys are not tested.

The loop code should look like:

for(int i = 0; i < elements; ++i) {
cout << "processing: " << test_strings[i] << endl;
string value;
for (int k = 0; k < 3; k++) {
if(find_value_from_key(test_strings[i], keys[k], value, ", \t\n"))
cout << keys[k] << " -> " << value << endl;
}
}


I know, it has the magic number 3 for the k loop, but at least it checks each key....

## Ideone

I have put my recommendations in to this ideone... take it for a spin

@rolfl has mentioned some great points, so I won't repeat those. I'll address some C++-specific things I've found, keeping in mind that Boost and C++11 shouldn't be mentioned.

• These using statements:

using std::cout;
using std::endl;
using std::string;


are okay to use, but I'd still use std:: where needed, especially if this list ends up getting longer. But this is still better than having using namespace std.

• Regarding the use of char* []:

For this:

int elements = sizeof(test_strings) / sizeof(test_strings[0]);


elements should be of type std::size_t, which is the return type of the sizeof operator. You should also give it a more accurate name, such as numberOfElements.

Moreover, you shouldn't be needing to do this in C++ when you have access to the standard library. You can instead have an std::vector of std::strings instead of char* [].

For instance, this is what test_strings would look like:

std::vector<std::string> test_strings = { /* string 1 */, /* string n */ };


To get the size, just use size():

std::vector<std::string>::size_type elements = test_strings.size();


This type should also be used when incrementing through the number of elements.

Instead of using test_strings[0] to access the first element, you can use front():

test_strings.front();


I've also done a quick example test of all this here.