From Code Wars:

This kata is part of a series on the Morse code. After you solve this kata, you may move to the next one.

In this kata you have to write a simple Morse code decoder. While the Morse code is now mostly superceded by voice and digital data communication channels, it still has its use in some applications around the world. The Morse code encodes every character as a sequence of "dots" and "dashes". For example, the letter A is coded as ·−, letter Q is coded as −−·−, and digit 1 is coded as ·−−−−. The Morse code is case-insensitive, traditionally capital letters are used. When the message is written in Morse code, a single space is used to separate the character codes and 3 spaces are used to separate words. For example, the message HEY JUDE in Morse code is ···· · −·−− ·−−− ··− −·· ·.

NOTE: Extra spaces before or after the code have no meaning and should be ignored.

In addition to letters, digits and some punctuation, there are some special service codes, the most notorious of those is the international distress signal SOS (that was first issued by Titanic), that is coded as ···−−−···. These special codes are treated as single special characters, and usually are transmitted as separate words.

Your task is to implement a function that would take the morse code as input and return a decoded human-readable string.

For example:

decodeMorse('.... . -.--   .--- ..- -.. .')
#should return "HEY JUDE"

NOTE: For coding purposes you have to use ASCII characters . and -, not Unicode characters.

The Morse code table is preloaded for you as a dictionary, feel free to use it:

Coffeescript/C++/Go/JavaScript/PHP/Python/Ruby/TypeScript: MORSE_CODE['.--']
C#: MorseCode.Get(".--") (returns string)
Elixir: morse_codes variable
Haskell: morseCodes ! ".--" (Codes are in a Map String String)
Java: MorseCode.get(".--")
Kotlin: MorseCode[".--"] ?: "" or MorseCode.getOrDefault(".--", "")
Rust: self.morse_code
All the test strings would contain valid Morse code, so you may skip checking for errors and exceptions. In C#, tests will fail if the solution code throws an exception, please keep that in mind. This is mostly because otherwise the engine would simply ignore the tests, resulting in a "valid" solution.

Good luck!

After you complete this kata, you may try yourself at Decode the Morse code, advanced.

I wrote a program that works, but it was essentially done with ad hoc patches to cover the edge cases/exceptions the program initially didn't cover. I'd appreciate a critique of my code, such as best practices and the program logic itself.

# "Code Wars: Decode the Morse Code"

def decodeMorse(morse_code):
    clear_text = ''
    char = ''
    index = 0
    length = len(morse_code)
    delim1 = " "    # Next character delimiter.
    delim2 = "   "  # Next word delimiter. 
    while index < (length):   
        if morse_code[index] != delim1:
            # Build the character to be added to the clear text.
            char += morse_code[index]
            # When the delimiter is encountered.
            if char != '':
                # To cover the program encountering erroneous whitespace. 
                clear_text += MORSE_CODE[char]
                    # Add said character to clear text
                char = ''
                    # Reset "char".
                if index < (length-2):
                    # If it is possible to encounter a space.
                    if morse_code[index:(index+3)] == delim2:
                        # When a space is encountered.
                        clear_text += " "
                        index += 2
                        if index == length-1:
                            # If the last character in the code is a space, assign a control value to "char"
                            char = ""
        index += 1

    if char != "":
        # If the last character isn't a space.
        clear_text += MORSE_CODE[char]
            # Add the final character to the clear text.
    return clear_text

2 Answers 2


Iterating in Python

In Python if you find yourself writing something like:

while index < (length):   

There is good chance you are not writing Pythonic code. Looping over an index is just not needed that often. I will start with showing some ways to improve your code. And then at the end will show a more Pythonic solution.

I would suggest changing your looping statement to:

for index, di_dah in enumerate(morse_code.strip() + ' '):

enumerate() is used to iterate over an object and give the index of of the current element. The str.strip() removes leading and trailing spaces, and the + ' ' at the end removes the need special casing after the loop. This fairly simple change can greatly simplify the code needed inside the loop:

def decodeMorse2(morse_code):
    clear_text = ''
    char = ''

    for index, di_dah in enumerate(morse_code.strip() + ' '):
        if di_dah != ' ':
            char += di_dah
        elif char:
            clear_text += MORSE_CODE[char]
            char = ''
            if index < len(morse_code) - 2:
                if morse_code[index: index + 3] == '   ':
                    clear_text += " "

    return clear_text    

More Pythonic?

I don't have access to the test cases, but I read the spec I think this would do the job:

def decodeMorse(morse_code):
    return ' '.join(
        ''.join(MORSE_CODE[char] for char in word.split())
        for word in morse_code.strip().split('   ')

How does this work?

This code uses two nested loops in the form of generator expressions. It uses str.split() to initially split the words in the outer loop and then again to split the characters in the inner loop. Then does a character lookup and finally uses str.join() to build the sentence.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I can't fully understand the More Pythonic code, but I would read up on Generator expressions and the documentation of the functions you used and try and reconstruct the more pythonic version myself. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 13:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for enumerate, str.split(), str.join() and generator expressions. Maybe it would be even more pythonic to define a words-generator first and then joining them on the next line of code. Reasoning: "pythonic" is usually not only associated with clever use of built-in tools, but also with legibility, and your code basically has to be read from bottom to top, because you use word one line before defining it. Yes, this is very nitpicky and a bit philosophical, I really like your overall approach. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 17:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NiklasMertsch, Thanks. But a words generator would just be the .split(). It is unclear to me how defining that on a previous line helps here. Except in the case of a conditional, the use of word is always going to come before the definition of word in a generator (comprehension). I don't know how to structure a words generator to avoid that in this case. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 18:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ You are actually right, there seems to be no elegant way to use and join nested generators. Should have put more thought into my previous comment. While your solution is kind of impressing in its shortness, I still would not call it very pythonic as this one expression you are returning does a lot of things at once that don't happen in the order of the lines of code. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 18:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Using and reading generators and comprehensions does take some time to get used to. Practicing will help there. Good luck, and thanks again for the feedback. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 19:02

Since strings in Python are an immutable sequence type, building strings using += is not good practice, because it can lead to poor performance. Such concatenation may require the interpreter to allocate a new string and copy both the old and new parts into the new string (though CPython tries to avoid that when possible).

I'd think of this as a string substitution exercise. String substitutions based on patterns can be done using regular expressions. The solution could be greatly simplified using re.sub():

import re

def decodeMorse(morse_code):
    return re.sub(
        '([.-]+)|(?<=[.-])(   )(?=[.-])| *',
        lambda code: MORSE_CODE[code.group(1)] if code.group(1) else
                     ' ' if code.group(2) else '',

The code above says:

  • ([.-]+) — For any sequence of one or more dots and/or dashes, perform the MORSE_CODE[…] lookup on that group.
  • (?<=[.-])( )(?=[.-]) — For any sequence of three spaces that is…

    • (?<=[.-]) — preceded by a dot or dash (a "positive lookbehind assertion"), and
    • (?=[.-]) — followed by a dot or dash (a "positive lookahead assertion")

    … then replace that group with a single space.

  •  * — Any other spaces should be replaced with nothing.

It's unfortunate that the lookbehind and lookahead assertions are necessary, because the online test cases expect you to discard leading and trailing spaces. (An alternate technique you could use is to .strip() the input or the output.)


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