The Many Uses of the Split Function

s Visual Basic and VBScript have progressed from version to version, chances are you have not kept up to date with some of the new functions introduced in the later releases. I have met many developers who are unaware of the existence of some really useful functions in VB6 or in VBScript that could help in coding VB or ASP applications. These developers rely on older workarounds for writing code that could be handled by the new built-in functions. In this installment of Tactical ASP, I explore the new explore the new “Split” function and its myriad uses.

The Split function may not necessarily be new to you and you probably already looked at it and said, “Ho hum. Another functionwho needs it!” But waitdon’t drop this function into the trash yet. The Split function can provide unexpected returns if used properly.

What’s the Split?
Let’s look at the function itself. The Split function, according to the documentation, “returns a zero based, one-dimensional array containing a specified number of substrings.” Yes, I can hear the groans; “oh no, not another array function. I don’t use no stinkin’ arrays in my code anyway!”

Don’t give up yet. There is hope. The Split function is defined by this syntax:

Split(expression [, delimiter [, count [, compare]]])

This is how it is explained:

  • The function name is Split, and yes, it is a function, so it needs to be on the right hand side of an equal-to sign.
  • “Expression” is a required string expression containing substrings and delimiters.
  • “Delimiter” is an optional string identifying the delimiter character. By default, a space character (” “) is considered to be the delimiter.
  • “Count” is an optional number of substrings to return. The default is -1, which indicates all substrings are to be returned.
  • “Compare” is an optional numeric value signifying how the comparison should take place for evaluating substrings. A 0 indicates binary comparison; a 1 (the default) signifies textual comparison.

Given a text string, the Split function can quickly and efficiently break it down into an array of strings, based on your chosen delimiter. So, if you had the following string:

“This is the tactical ASP column by Rama Ramachandran”

the following code breaks the string into an array of strings, each containing one word.

Dim strAryWordsDim strValuestrValue = “This is the tactical ASP column by Rama Ramachandran”strAryWords = Split(strValue, ” “)’ – strAryWords is now an array Dim iFor i = 0 to Ubound(strAryWords)	Response.Write i & ” = ” & strAryWords(i) & “
“Next

The above code will produce the following output:

0 = This1 = is2 = the3 = tactical4 = ASP5 = column6 = by7 = Rama8 = Ramachandran

So, What’s the Big Deal with the Split Function?
You can use the Split function to quickly parse a text string and break it into an array. Working with an array is easier if you need to access a particular value quickly or iterate through all values. You can therefore replace all the following code, with the one line Split function we used above.

Dim strValueDim strAryWords()Dim i, iCountstrValue = “This is the tactical ASP column by Rama Ramachandran”i = Instr(strValue, ” “)iCount = 0Do While i > 0	Redim Preserve strAryWords(iCount)	strAryWords(iCount) = Left(strValue, i-1)	iCount = iCount + 1	strValue = Mid(strValue, i+1)	i = Instr(strValue, ” “)LoopIf strValue <> “” Then	Redim Preserve strAryWords(iCount)	strAryWords(iCount) = strValueEnd if’ – NOW, strAryWords is an array of all the words in the sentence.’ – All the above code can be replaced by one function callstrAryWords = Split(strValue, ” “)

You can see how the built-in function can be faster and more efficient than a lot of interpreted code, especially in an ASP application.

What the documentation does not indicate is that the Split function does not just use a single character as a delimiter?this is where its myriad uses pop up. You can use any text string as a delimiter with the Split function. Let us see how we can use this.

Suck in an Entire File from Disk into a Memory Array
There is one use of the Split function that I bet most of you did not think of or know about. The Split function can be used to suck in an entire file from disk into a neat memory array in one fell swoop. Let’s see how we used to do it and see how we can do it now.

This is the old way (pseudocode):
Open a File
Read one Line
Place the line into the memory array as an item
Read the next line
Till we are at end of the file
Close the file


This is the new way (pseudocode):
Open the file
Read entire file into a text string in memory
Close the file
Split entire file into its separate lines, placing each line into memory array as an item?using the Split function

And here’s the code for a Visual Basic application:

Dim iFile as integerDim strFileBuff as stringDim strAryLines() as string’ – Get a handle for the fileiFile = FreeFile’ – Open the fileOpen “C:FileName.txt” for input as #iFile’ – Read entire file into a text string in memorystrFileBuff = Input(LOF(iFile), #iFile)’ – close the fileClose #iFile’ – split entire file, placing each line into array as an itemstrAryLines = Split(strFileBuff, vbCrLF)

The magic happens at the very last line. Before that, we have sucked an entire file from disk into a memory variable using the single line of code:

strFileBuff = Input(LOF(iFile), #iFile)

This code reads an entire line into a memory variable (I tested this with a 25MB text file containing 25 million characters separated into 118,000 lines on a machine with 128MB RAM, running Win2000 Professional with no problems?it read the file in under two seconds). After closing the file, the Split function uses the end-of-line characters (Carriage return and Line Feed, or vbCrLF) to split the memory variable into an array of lines from the file in memory?again, in under two seconds. At the end of the above code, you have every line from the file in your memory array that you can then manipulate. You can find the total number of lines in the file by using the UBound function on the Array variable, and you can access any line by using the Array Name (item number) notation.

To use the code in an ASP page, you use the FileSystemObject to read a text file and use the ReadAll method to read the entire contents of the file into a variable. Then use the function to split it into an array.

Count the Number of Times a Word Occurs
You can use the same split function to also count the number of times a word occurs in a file. Using the same code as above, we can read the file into a memory text variable. Instead of using the vbCrLF characters to split the variable into an array, use the word you are counting for. For example, to find out the number of times the word “cool” appears in a text file, use this code:

‘ – split entire file, placing each line into array as an itemstrAryLines = Split(strFileBuff, “cool”)

Then you can find out the number by using this line of code:

intCount = Ubound(strAryLines)

You can also use the same technique to count the number of times a word occurs within the content of a record. Just substitute the file contents with your record contents. Assuming you had opened a recordset called objRS, you could use the following code:

‘ – split entire file, placing each line into array as an itemstrAryLines = Split(objRS(“FieldName”), “cool”)intCount = Ubound(strAryLines)

Rank Your Records
If you are using Access as your back-end database, you can use the Split function within an Access query to return records that contain the words “cool” ranked in order based on the number of times the word “cool” occurs within the text. To do so, use the following code to create a generic function that returns a count of the number of times a word occurs within another text string (your field). As you can see, this function uses the split function to break the text apart at the word and returns the count:

Function GetCount(ByVal strText, ByVal strWord)    GetCount = UBound(Split(strText, strWord))End Function

Then use the GetCount function within your query to bring back ranked records. Use the following SQL as your query. The reason why it will work in Access is that Access supports the UBound and the Split function. If you try this query within any other database, such as SQL Server, you will not be able to use the Split and UBound functions within the query itself.

SELECT Table1.Field1, Table1.Field2…FROM Table1WHERE Table1.Field1 LIKE “*cool*”ORDER BY GetCount(Table1.Field1, “cool”) DESC;

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