Daily coding problem #28: Write an algorithm to justify text


Write an algorithm to justify text. Given a sequence of words and an integer line length k, return a list of strings which represents each line, fully justified.

More specifically, you should have as many words as possible in each line. There should be at least one space between each word. Pad extra spaces when necessary so that each line has exactly length k. Spaces should be distributed as equally as possible, with the extra spaces, if any, distributed starting from the left.

If you can only fit one word on a line, then you should pad the right-hand side with spaces.

Each word is guaranteed not to be longer than k.

For example, given the list of words ["the", "quick", "brown", "fox", "jumps", "over", "the", "lazy", "dog"] and k = 16, you should return the following:

["the quick brown", # 1 extra space on the left

"fox jumps over", # 2 extra spaces distributed evenly

"the lazy dog"] # 4 extra spaces distributed evenly

This looks like a problem that can be quickly solved in a few lines of codes, but it would actually require a little more lines than expected. While the case of a word longer than the given integer k is not specifically covered in the problem description, I assume than such word has to be split into k sized chunks.

The logic is going to be like this:

  • I keep a buffer that holds all words that can fit into a single line. This buffer is empty at first.
  • From the given array I read each word, one by one. I eventually split each word into k-sized chunks.
  • Is the current word / word chunk going to fit into the current line? If there’s still space for it I am going to add it to the current line buffer.
  • If the current word / chunk won’t fit, I am going to output the current line (all words in the buffer, with proper space justification). The buffer will then be set to contain only the current word.
  • When I am finished reading all words, I am going to output the current line (unless the buffer is empty, which will happen only if the array of words is empty as well)

This is how I am going to call the function:

if __name__ == '__main__':
	print("\n".join(justify(["the", "quick", "brown", "fox",
		"jumps", "over", "the", "lazy", "dog"], 16)))

And this is how my justify function looks like:

def justify(words, k):
	res = []
	current_length = 0
	current_words = []

	for word in words:
		# read each word
		for i in range(0, len(word), k):
			# split each row into k-sized chuncks
			chunk = word[i:i+k]

			# try to add a new word to current_words / current_length
			if len(chunk) + current_length + len(current_words) <= k:
				# can fit
				current_length += len(chunk)
				# won't fit
				res.append(justify_line(current_words, current_length, k))
				current_words = [chunk]
				current_length = len(chunk)

	if current_words:
		res.append(justify_line(current_words, current_length, k))

	return res

The final part is handled by the justify_line function, that accept as input the array w of words that fits in the current line, the length l of the current words (not considering spaces), and the width of the like k.

(l is not strictly necessary, I have all elements to calculate it inside the function, but since it’s alreay available I’ll just pass it to the function)

def justify_line(w, l, k):
	if len(w)==1:
		return w[0].ljust(k)
		narrow_spaces, wider_words = divmod(k - l, len(w)-1)
		ns = " " * narrow_spaces
		ws = " " * (narrow_spaces + 1)

		return ns.join([ws.join(w[0:wider_words+1]), *w[wider_words+1:]])
  • If the current line contains only one word then I’ll just return this word left-justified with spaces at the right (as from the problem specs).

  • If instead the line is composed by more words, we have to calculate:

    • the total number of spaces needed (k - l)
    • the minimum number of spaces between each word (total numer of spaces DIV number of words minus one)
    • the number of words that require an additional space (total number of spaces MOD number of words minus one)

For example if I call justify_line(['the', 'quick', 'brown'], 13, 16):

  • narrow_spaces will be set to 1 (one space between each word)
  • wider_words will be set to 1 (the first word needs one more extra space after it)
  • ws.join(w[0:wide_words+1]) will join the first and second words with wider spaces
  • ns.join() will then join the wider-spaced-words with all remaining words

To make things easier during developement, and to make sure that a little fix won’t mess up everything, I wrote this testing unit:

import unittest
import re
from justify_text import justify

class TestStringMethods(unittest.TestCase):

	def test_given(self):
				["the", "quick", "brown", "fox", "jumps", "over", "the", "lazy", "dog"], 16),
				["the  quick brown",
        		 "fox  jumps  over",
        		 "the   lazy   dog"])

	def test_lengths(self):
		for i in range(1,80):
			j = justify(["the", "quick", "brown", "fox", "jumps", "over", "the", "lazy", "dog"], i)
			lengths = list(map(lambda x: len(x), j))
			for n in range(0, len(lengths)):
				self.assertEqual(lengths[n], i)

	def test_decrease(self):
		for i in range(1,80):
			j = justify(["the", "quick", "brown", "fox", "jumps", "over", "the", "lazy", "dog"], i)

			spaces_split = list(map(lambda x: re.split('[^ ]+', x), j))
			for n in range(0, len(spaces_split)):
				self.assertEqual(spaces_split[n][0], '')
				for t in range(1, len(spaces_split[n])-2):

if __name__ == '__main__':
  • test_given: the result of the function has to match the result from the problem specification
  • test_lengths: all strings have to be of length k (k from 1 to 80)
  • test_decrease: all strings have to start with a word, not a space, and the number of spaces from left to right has not to increase
Written on February 13, 2019