Optimize String operations

Published on: September 19, 2000
Last Updated: September 19, 2000

Optimize String operations

Published on: September 19, 2000
Last Updated: September 19, 2000

String concatenation via the “+” operator is one of the most convenient things to do in Java. It is also one of the most expensive, in terms of memory and performance.

When the compiler sees

   String s = "abc" + someInt + someArray[index];

or any other concatenation, it **ACTUALLY** generates (for runtime use) the code sequence that follows (or, at least, the bytecode equivalent of it):

         StringBuffer temp = new StringBuffer( );
         temp.append( String.valueOf( "abc" ) );
         temp.append( String.valueOf( someInt ) );
         temp.append( String.valueOf( someArray[index] );
         String s = temp.toString( );

The weak spot in all this is the construction of the StringBuffer object: the size of the buffer is ALWAYS 16 characters.

Then, as data is appended to the buffer, if more space is needed the size of the buffer is doubled and the old data is copied to the new buffer.

So to optimize we have to bypass the automatic StringBuffer when possible.

In ‘Replace/remove character in a String’, a snippet is given to replace a character at a specific position. An optimized version, using the StringBuffer would be:

    public static String replaceCharAt(String s, int pos, char c) {
      StringBuffer buf = new StringBuffer( s );
      buf.setCharAt( pos, c );
      return buf.toString( );    }

Only one buffer created, exactly the right size. Converting a StringBuffer to a String costs almost nothing, as the actual buffer is shared between the two.

In the same article, a snippet about removing a character in a String can be optimized like:

     public static String removeChar(String s, char c) {
        StringBuffer r = new StringBuffer( s.length() );
        r.setLength( s.length() ); 
        int current = 0;
        for (int i = 0; i < s.length(); i ++) {
            char cur = s.charAt(i);
            if (cur != c) r.setCharAt( current++, cur );
        return r.toString();
In the original version, a new String object was created and discarded immediately!

The weak spot of the original method to remove a character is when the parameter s passed have than 17 characters, the temporary StringBuffer created by the compiler will have to be extended. To optimize, simply rewrite the method using a StringBuffer with the correct size:

     public static String removeCharAt(String s, int pos) {
        StringBuffer buf = new StringBuffer( s.length() - 1 );
        buf.append( s.substring(0,pos) ).append( s.substring(pos+1) );
        return buf.toString();

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Written by Bobby

Bobby Lawson is a seasoned technology writer with over a decade of experience in the industry. He has written extensively on topics such as cybersecurity, cloud computing, and data analytics. His articles have been featured in several prominent publications, and he is known for his ability to distill complex technical concepts into easily digestible content.