Java method to make a string representation of a matrix

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Problem

I have coded this static method for converting a `double` matrix into a nifty `String`.

It considers the width of the matrix to be equal to the length of the longest row. Now, if some matrix entries are considered missing, strings of the format `x.xx..` are added instead of them to the overall string.

Also, rows that are empty or `null` are considered to be empty rows, and thus, they consist only of the `x.xx..` tokens.

MatrixUtils.java:

``````package net.coderodde.util;

/**
* This class contains static utility methods for dealing with matrices of
* {@code double} values.
*
* @author Rodion "rodde" Efremov
* @version 1.6
*/
public class MatrixUtils {

private static final int DOUBLE_FORMAT_STRINGS = 0;
private static final int STRING_FORMAT_STRINGS = 1;

/**
* The default separator length. A separator is a string of spaces used to
* separate the values in the adjacent columns on the same row.
*/
private static final int DEFAULT_SEPARATOR_LENGTH = 2;

/**
* Returns the string representation of the input matrix. The amount of
* decimals in the output equals to the longest decimal part present in
* {@code matrix}.
*
* @param matrix the matrix whose string representation to compute.
* @return a string representing the input matrix.
*/
public static String toString(final double[][] matrix) {
final int lengthOfLongestDecimalPart =
findLengthOfLongestDecimalPart(matrix);

lengthOfLongestDecimalPart,
DEFAULT_SEPARATOR_LENGTH);
}

/**
* Returns the string representation of the input matrix. Each element in
* the output has exactly {@code decimalPartLength} decimals and the length
* of the separator is equal to {@code separatorLength} spaces.
*
* @param matrix            the input matrix.
* @param decimalPartLength the amount of decimals to print.
* @param separatorLength   the length of the separator.
* @return a string representing the input matrix.
*/
public static String toString(final double[][] matrix,
int decimalPartLength,
int separatorLength) {
if (matrix == null) {
return "null";
}

final int maximumRowLength = findMaximumRowLength(matrix);

if (maximumRowLength == 0) {
// Considered to be an empty matrix.
return "";
}

// Make sure that the requested decimal part length is nonnegative.
decimalPartLength = Math.max(decimalPartLength, 0);

// Make sure that the separator length is nonnegative.
separatorLength = Math.max(separatorLength, 0);

final String[][] formatStringData =
createColumnFormatStrings(matrix,
maximumRowLength,
decimalPartLength);

final String separatorString =
getColumnSeparatorString(separatorLength);

final String missingElementString =
getMissingElementString(decimalPartLength);

final StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder();

rowToString(sb,
matrix[0],
formatStringData,
separatorString,
missingElementString);

for (int y = 1; y < matrix.length; ++y) {
sb.append('n');
rowToString(sb,
matrix[y],
formatStringData,
separatorString,
missingElementString);
}

return sb.toString();
}

/**
* Returns the length of the longest row in the input matrix.
*
* @param matrix the matrix to process.
* @return the length of the longest row in the matrix.
*/
private static int findMaximumRowLength(final double[][] matrix) {
int maximumRowLength = 0;

for (final double[] row : matrix) {
if (row != null) {
maximumRowLength = Math.max(maximumRowLength, row.length);
}
}

return maximumRowLength;
}

/**
* Returns the length of the longest decimal number sequence present in the
* input matrix.
*
* @param matrix the matrix in which perform the search.
* @return the length in characters of the longest decimal part present in
*         the matrix.
*/
private static int findLengthOfLongestDecimalPart(final double[][] matrix) {
int lengthOfLongestDecimalPart = 0;

for (final double[] row : matrix) {
if (row != null) {
lengthOfLongestDecimalPart =
Math.max(lengthOfLongestDecimalPart,
findLengthOfLongestDecimalPart(row));
}
}

return lengthOfLongestDecimalPart;
}

/**
* Finds the length of the longest decimal part present in the {@code row}.
* If {@code row} is {@code null}, returns 0.
*
* @param row the row to search in.
* @return the length of the longest decimal part.
*/
private static int findLengthOfLongestDecimalPart(final double[] row) {
if (row == null) {
return 0;
}

int lengthOfLongestDecimalPart = 0;

for (final double element : row) {
final String string = String.valueOf(element);
final int currentElementDecimalPartLength =
string.length() - 1 - string.indexOf('.');

lengthOfLongestDecimalPart =
Math.max(lengthOfLongestDecimalPart,
currentElementDecimalPartLength);
}

return lengthOfLongestDecimalPart;
}

/**
* Returns an array containing two string arrays. The first array specifies
* the format strings for the double elements, and the second array
* specifies the format strings for the string representing missing tokens.
* Both arrays have the same length, equal to the length of the longest row
* in the input matrix.
*
* In each array, the first string specifies the format for the first matrix
* column, second string specifies the format for the second matrix column,
* and so on.
*
* @param matrix            the matrix to process.
* @param maximumRowLength  the maximum row length in the matrix.
* @param decimalPartLength the requested decimal part length.
* @return two string arrays describing the formats for the matrix columns.
*/
private static String[][]
createColumnFormatStrings(final double[][] matrix,
final int maximumRowLength,
final int decimalPartLength) {
final String[] doubleFormatStrings = new String[maximumRowLength];
final String[] stringFormatStrings = new String[maximumRowLength];
final String[][] result = new String[2][];

result[DOUBLE_FORMAT_STRINGS] = doubleFormatStrings;
result[STRING_FORMAT_STRINGS] = stringFormatStrings;

final int[] columnIndexToIntegerPartLengthMap =
getColumnIntegerPartLengths(matrix, maximumRowLength);

for (int columnIndex = 0;
columnIndex < doubleFormatStrings.length;
columnIndex++) {
final int integerPartLength =
columnIndexToIntegerPartLengthMap[columnIndex];

final String doubleFormat =
"%" + (integerPartLength
+ (decimalPartLength > 0 ? 1 : 0) + decimalPartLength)
+ "."
+ decimalPartLength
+ "f";

final String stringFormat =
"%" + (integerPartLength
+ (decimalPartLength > 0 ? 1 : 0)
+ decimalPartLength)
+ "s";

doubleFormatStrings[columnIndex] = doubleFormat;
stringFormatStrings[columnIndex] = stringFormat;
}

return result;
}

/**
* Creates a space token used for separating the matrix columns.
*
* @param length the number of spaces to use as a separator.
* @return the column separator string.
*/
private static String getColumnSeparatorString(final int length) {
final StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder(length);

for (int i = 0; i < length; ++i) {
sb.append(' ');
}

return sb.toString();
}

/**
* Creates a string representing a missing value in the input matrix.
*
* @param decimalPartLength the requested length of the decimal parts.
* @return the string representing a missing matrix value.
*/
private static String getMissingElementString(final int decimalPartLength) {
if (decimalPartLength == 0) {
return "x";
}

final StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder(2 + decimalPartLength);

sb.append("x.");

for (int i = 0; i < decimalPartLength; ++i) {
sb.append('x');
}

return sb.toString();
}

/**
* Converts {@code row} to a string representing it.
*
* @param sb                   the {@link java.lang.StringBuilder} for
*                             holding the text data.
* @param row                  the row to convert to a string.
* @param formatStringData     the data structure holding the format strings
*                             for each matrix column.
* @param separatorString      the string used for separating matrix
*                             columns.
* @param missingElementString the string used for denoting a missing
*                             value in the matrix.
*/
private static void rowToString(final StringBuilder sb,
final double[] row,
final String[][] formatStringData,
final String separatorString,
final String missingElementString) {
if (row == null || row.length == 0) {
sb.append(String.format(formatStringData[STRING_FORMAT_STRINGS][0],
missingElementString));
} else {
sb.append(String.format(formatStringData[DOUBLE_FORMAT_STRINGS][0],
row[0]));
}

int x = 1;

final int boundX = row == null ? 0 : row.length;

for (; x < boundX; ++x) {
sb.append(separatorString)
.append(String.format(formatStringData[DOUBLE_FORMAT_STRINGS][x],
row[x]));
}

final int maximumRowLength = formatStringData[0].length;

for (; x < maximumRowLength; ++x) {
sb.append(separatorString)
.append(String.format(formatStringData[STRING_FORMAT_STRINGS][x],
missingElementString));
}
}

/**
* Returns an array of integers describing the maximum lengths of the
* integer parts in each column, i.e., {@code result[index]} gives the
* length of the longest integer part (in digits) in the column indexed by
* {@code index}.
*
* @param matrix           the matrix to process.
* @param maximumRowLength the maximum row length.
* @return the array describing the maximum integer part lengths in each
*         matrix column.
*/
private static int[]
getColumnIntegerPartLengths(final double[][] matrix,
final int maximumRowLength) {
final int[] columnIndexToIntegerPartLengthMap =
new int[maximumRowLength];

for (int columnIndex = 0;
columnIndex < maximumRowLength;
columnIndex++) {
int currentMaximumIntegerPartLength = 1;

for (int y = 0; y < matrix.length; ++y) {
if (matrix[y] != null && columnIndex < matrix[y].length) {
final String currentElementString =
String.valueOf(matrix[y][columnIndex]);

final int currentIntegerPartLength =
currentElementString.indexOf('.');

currentMaximumIntegerPartLength =
Math.max(currentMaximumIntegerPartLength,
currentIntegerPartLength);
}
}

columnIndexToIntegerPartLengthMap[columnIndex] =
currentMaximumIntegerPartLength;
}

return columnIndexToIntegerPartLengthMap;
}

public static void main(final String[] args) {
final double[][] matrix = {
{ 1.23, Math.PI, 0.0, 5400.376 },
{},
{ 5.55, Math.E, -10.10 },
null,
{ 0.0, -1000 }
};

System.out.println(toString(matrix, 5, 3));
}
}
``````

Output:

```
1.23000       3.14159     0.00000   5400.37600
x.xxxxx       x.xxxxx     x.xxxxx      x.xxxxx
5.55000       2.71828   -10.10000      x.xxxxx
x.xxxxx       x.xxxxx     x.xxxxx      x.xxxxx
0.00000   -1000.00000     x.xxxxx      x.xxxxx

```

Solution

First, I’d like to say that you’ve already done a truly fantastic job with your code. You clearly understand the value of good documentation, modular programming, and reuse of code. These are very important concepts and I can tell that you have good grasp of them already. Well done!

As for review items, I did find a few things to comment on while looking through your code. So here’s what I found:

1. If you’re going to use a constant to represent a fixed number of spaces, then why not just make the constant a String whose value is that number of spaces? For example `public static final String SEPARATOR=" ";`

The following is how your code is written:

``````private static final int DEFAULT_SEPARATOR_LENGTH = 2;

...

private static String getColumnSeparatorString(final int length) {
final StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder(length);

for (int i = 0; i < length; ++i) {
sb.append(' ');
}

return sb.toString();
}
``````

Now, if your intention is to create a parameter for this value later on and remove the constant then please ignore what I just said. If, however, this is truly meant to be a constant then you don’t really need the extra logic to generate your separator if you simply define it differently.

2. While reading your `rowToString` method I couldn’t help but think that it would easier to read if the method return type were String. From a technical standpoint this method call is fine – it works, it accomplishes your goal. However, from a readability perspective I feel like it would be better if it returned a `String` and you called `sb.append(...)` to append the returned `String` rather than relying on a side-effect of the method to alter the builder that is passed in. As a general rule I find it wise to avoid side effects as much as possible and when they are needed document them to the extreme because they tend to be the source of much confusion. Here your documentation says

“Converts row to a string representing it.”

which, when I read it, is confusing as the method does not return a String or anything for that matter since it’s a void method.

3. Next, when I look at the method `createColumnFormatStrings` I find myself asking: Why do both collections of strings need to be contained within a single array rather than each having their own separate structure? I suggest you could improve your code here by creating an object (or objects) that encapsulates all of this data, but holds it in two separate fields of the object so that you can easily get and set the data separately. This also solves your problem of wanting to return two things from a method instead of just one thing because you can return one object that contains all of your data, but keep the data separate and easy to understand at the same time.

I also notice that you’re doing things like this inside of this method:

``````final String doubleFormat =
"%" + (integerPartLength
+ (decimalPartLength > 0 ? 1 : 0) + decimalPartLength)
+ "."
+ decimalPartLength
+ "f";
``````

Elsewhere in your code you use `StringBuilder` to do your `String` concatenation so I have to assume you’re trying to be as efficient as possible. If this is the case I think you should definitely use `StringBuilder` here as well. Consider what happens if you have a very large matrix that you wish to transform into a `String` – it could be a lot of concatenation.