# Compare length of iterator with as few next calls as possible. How can I deduplicate this code?

I'm writing a few simple functions that compare the length of an iterator to an integer, returning as early as possible. Right now I have:

class ILengthComparator:
def __init__(self, iterator: Iterator):
self.iterator = iterator

def has_more(self) -> bool:
try:
next(self.iterator)
except StopIteration:
return False

return True

def __eq__(self, length: int) -> bool:
if length < 0:
return False

if not self.has_more():
return length == 0

return self == length-1

def __gt__(self, length: int) -> bool:
if length < 1:
return False

if not self.has_more():
return True

return self > length-1

def __lt__(self, length: int) -> bool:
if length < 0:
return True

if not self.has_more():
return False

return self < length - 1


Clearly this class isn't finished (__neq__, __gte__, __lte__), and anything after the first comparison isn't guaranteed to work (as the iterator may be consumed), but I'm wondering: is it is possible to logically simplify this into a single function with an operator function as an argument (ie operator.eq, operator.lt), or at least just reduce the semi-duplicate parts (ie, every function has a comparison with length against a number, and a case for checking if the iterator is empty - each with a rather ad-hoc return value).

(any suggestions don't need to be recursive or use the has_more method, those were just the first thing I reached for when trying to solve this problem)

Pastebin with the above some quick and dirty unit tests: https://pastebin.com/N65Q2qcJ

• (Would you believe in total ordering? – greybeard Jan 13 '20 at 1:00
• @greybeard I could be wrong, but I don't think that would work, because these methods have the side effect of consuming the iterator. So if the implementation requires combining __eq__ and __lt__ to determine __gt__, by the time __lt__ was called, __eq__ would have already consumed the iterator. – Chris Real Jan 14 '20 at 1:06
• (For handling consuming, see 409_conflict's answer.) – greybeard Jan 14 '20 at 4:07
• As I understand it, .tee() often isn't a good idea, because it has to store the results of each next() call for _re_iteration (which can consume a decent amount of memory depending on what the iterator is iterating over). Even if not for this specific use case, it still seems like a pretty awesome decorator! – Chris Real Jan 14 '20 at 4:50

To know the answer to your comparison to $$\N\$$, you need to attempt at least:

• $$\N\$$ next calls if you test with $$\\lt\$$ (succeeding will result to False) or $$\\ge\$$ (succeeding will result to True);
• $$\N+1\$$ next calls in all 4 other cases.

Obviously, if the iterator length is fewer than $$\N\$$ there will be less calls.

So, in order to simplify things, you could extract the first $$\N+1\$$ elements of the iterator and count them to compare this count to $$\N\$$:

• extracting can be simplified with itertools.islice
• counting can be done using either

• enumerate and dumping the content into a 1-length collections.deque

from itertools import islice
from collections import deque

def compare_length(iterable, n, operation):
chunck = islice(iterable, max(0, n+1))
try:
(length, _) = deque(enumerate(chunk, 1), maxlen=1)
except ValueError:
length = 0
return operation(length, n)

• sum

from itertools import islice

def compare_length(iterable, n, operation):
chunck = islice(iterable, max(0, n+1))
length = sum(1 for _ in chunck)
return operation(length, n)


The former should be more efficient, the latter more readable. As suggested in the question, this function takes the operation to perform as its third argument and compares min(<iterable length>, n+1) to n. This is sufficient in most cases.

If you truly want to reduce the amount of next calls needed for $$\\lt\$$ and $$\\ge\$$, you can keep your class approach and factorize the min(<iterable length>, n) part into an helper method:

from itertools import islice

class ILengthComparator:
def __init__(self, iterable):
self._iterable = iterable

def _length_up_to(self, n):
return sum(1 for _ in islice(self._iterable, max(0, n)))

def __eq__(self, n):
return self._length_up_to(n+1) == n

def __ne__(self, n):
return self._length_up_to(n+1) != n

def __lt__(self, n):
return self._length_up_to(n) < n

def __le__(self, n):
return self._length_up_to(n+1) <= n

def __gt__(self, n):
return self._length_up_to(n+1) > n

def __ge__(self, n):
return self._length_up_to(n) >= n


Lastly, if you want to avoid consuming the iterator while performing those tests, you can check itertools.tee.