Python is the world’s most popular programming language, and it’s due to tools like String | Split(). You see, Python incorporates many native shortcuts and alternative ways of coding things, making the lives of new programmers infinitely easier.
String | Split() is one of these methods and will serve you well when working with strings, text documents, or long databases. This article will explain all you need to know about it, from its syntax to the most common mistakes newbies make and how to avoid them.
Let’s jump into it!
What is the String | Split() Method?
When coding with Python, we can process a vast spectrum of data. This data receives a name or class depending on its kind. Strings are a class of data that usually contain text, numbers, and any other information displayed as Unicode characters.
You can approach Classes with a variety of tools that are included natively in Python. Split() is one of these predefined classes and works exclusively with strings.
Strings have their own collection of methods. The methods act as a function specifically designed for one class only and can’t work in any other except the one that is assigned.
So, the split() method can (like its name implies) split a string and then return a new list based on the results. We can specify what we want it to return based on some parameters, but let’s first get into the basics.
String | Split() Syntax
The syntax when working with Split() is very simple, which makes it really attractive for new and experienced programmers alike.
First, we establish the string variable attached to the method. Then, the first parameter between the brackets, called the separator, defines when the string splits. If not defined, then any whitespace will act as a separator.
The second parameter, maxsplit, is the maximum number of times the string gets divided. If we don’t specify it, then -1 is established as default, which means an infinite number of splits.
Now, let’s see what this all looks like:
As you can see, we’ve created a new list with the words of the original string.
In this example the parameters are not specified, meaning that the separator and maxsplit parameters are left in their default state. Thus, the original string is split whenever there is a whitespace, as many times as possible.
Let’s see how Split works when we define a specific separator.
As you can see, in this example we’ve specified the separator parameter to where we wanted the string to be split. It’s worth noting that while we’ve used punctuation marks as examples, the separator parameter can be anything you need. The printed code is the same in both cases.
String | Split() With A Max Number of Splits
When the maxsplit parameter is assigned a value the return stops at that specified count.
As you can see, the split() method reads the code from left to right, meaning if we specify a maximum number of 1 split in this string with 4 elements, we get the first element in a separate string from the following three.
Why Use String | Split()?
We just had a look at what the split method can do using simple examples, but they are far from showcasing a real-life situation.
Now, take a moment and imagine that you are working with a very large document, full of text and content that you need to process. Usually, Python projects deal with large amounts of data, so this is pretty accurate.
This is when you can appreciate the full power of split().
You can convert any text to uppercase or lowercase, make a list of items or replace the content using a combination of other string methods.
With the split() method, you can change any text document as if they were a string. You just need to specify the parameters (if needed) and you’re good to go. A new list is created, ready for any modification that you can think of.
Let’s write a sample text so we can process it. Imagine that this is in a .txt document that we import to the code:
Now that we have a document let’s see how the syntax works.
The “with” feature is a context manager that allows us to call and utilize a file inside a Python project.
Using the read() method, you store the document in a new variable. We then apply Split() to the variable containing the text and set the exclamation mark as the separator. Then, a new list of items is created.
Finally, each item in the list gets printed using a for loop. Let’s take a look at the output:
This is a lifesaver when working with long text documents! You can start to see that there’s real utility in the string.split() method: it saves time and resources while making the code tidier and easier to debug.
In the following video, Real Python demonstrates how to split strings in Python.
Common mistakes to avoid
A common mistake when using split() is entering a separator or character that the chosen string doesn’t contain. Let’s see what Split() would return in that case:
As you can see, Split() doesn’t return an error but instead prints a single item of a list containing the string. This can actually be worse than when a part of your code returns an error, as it can be harder to find and debug. Keep this one in mind when working with large databases, as this mistake can make your code output nonsensical strings of data.
Another common situation is receiving a bunch of consecutive whitespaces in a single string. This is largely due to how this method interprets the parameters we give it.
When two or more whitespaces appear consecutively in a string, Split() processes it as if they are one single whitespace in line.
Let’s see an example:
Now, we get something very different when we specify whitespace as a separator. The returned result will vary because Split() understands the two extra whitespaces as different characters.
This can be a tricky error because you might not be sure what parameters to specify to get your desired return. Therefore, try to write both arguments and pick the one that returns what you need. Also, get used to revisiting the string you are working with to avoid errors.
Conclusion: Python String | Split And How To Use It
That was quite a ride! Let’s review what we’ve learned.
Split() is a simple yet incredibly useful method that allows us to manipulate any information stored as a string, such as names, addresses, and any data represented as Unicode characters.
You can use split() with other string methods such as slice() and format() for interesting combinations. As we saw in the examples above, the syntax is simple and easy to use, which will make your code more professional, more efficient, and simpler to debug.
You will find the split() method particularly useful when working with long text documents or long databases represented as strings. Whether you’re a game programmer or a data analyst, this method is sure to help you along your programming journey.
Now is the time to open your code editor and try Split() in your projects. Good luck!
The image featured at the top of this post is ©metamorworks/Shutterstock.com.