I have written a program, in which I have to find the number of occurrences (overlapping + non-overlapping) of a string in another string.

// variable to keep track of word
int i=0;
for(vector<string>::iterator it = p.begin(); it!=p.end(); it++){
    int start=0;
        start = s.find(*it, start);

        if(start==-1){  // not found
        } else{


I am finding the starting index start of the match, and then again searching for the string starting from 'start+1' this time, and so on. The length of the string s, in which searching has to be performed is 50,00,000. And total number of keywords (stored in vector p here) is 500 (each having length of 5000).

  • \$\begingroup\$ What exactly are you looking to improve? Or are you looking for a general review? \$\endgroup\$
    – svick
    Commented Aug 11, 2013 at 12:35

1 Answer 1


I don't like nested loops. They are generally unnecessry and are often confusing. So instead of your two loops, I would extrac the inner loop to a function, for example:

int key_search(const std::string& s, const std::string& key)
    int count = 0;
    size_t pos=0;
    while ((pos = s.find(key, pos)) != std::string::npos) {
    return count;

This searches the inputs string s for occurances of string key and returns the number of matches. A few things are worth noting:

  • The parameters are passed as const references - const because you don't change them and references for efficiency.

  • I used string::npos as the idicator of failure from strings find method, instead of -1 (-1 would give a warning from the compiler if you have sign conversion warnings enabled).

  • I didn't use a while(true) loop but instead used the return from s.find directly to control the loop.

  • I pre-incremented variables instead of post-increment (++pos, not pos++) which can be more efficient (although with built in types it makes no difference).

  • pos (your start) is of type size_t, not int. Or you could use std::string::size_type, which is the also size_t.

  • It is normal to prefix your use of standard library things with std::, so string becomes std::string etc.

The main loop now just needs to call key_search

int i = 0;
for (auto it = keys.begin(); it != keys.end(); ++it){
    frequency[i] = key_search(s, *it);

With C++11 you can use auto to simplify the iterator definition. You don't show what frequency is, but I'm assuming it is an array (which are generally best avoided in C++).


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