# [CC150v4] 9.5 Search Array Containing Empty String

### Question

Given a sorted array of strings which is interspersed with empty strings, write a method to find the location of a given string.

Example: find “ball” in [“at”, “”, “”, “”, “ball”, “”, “”, “car”, “”, “”, “dad”, “”, “”] will return 4

Example: find “ballcar” in [“at”, “”, “”, “”, “”, “ball”, “car”, “”, “”, “dad”, “”, “”] will return -1

### Solution

The solution is binary search, but when reads empty, advance to the next non-empty string.

But wait, there can be a very big problem that causes looping forever. Eg.

“a”, “”, “”, “”, “c” (5 items), look for “b”

Now ‘left’ points to 1st string(“a”) and ‘right’ points to 4th(“”). If we read read ‘mid’ value and advance to the next non-empty string, it’ll be “c”.

since “c” is large than “b”, ‘right’ is set to the 4th index. It’s a endless loop!

There’re various ways to solve this. The book suggests locate ‘right’ pointer at non-empty string by moving left, and then locate ‘mid’ pointer at non-empty by moving right. This avoids endless loop.

My approach is to use 2 instances of ‘mid’:

1. calculatedMid
2. comparisonMid

Both ways are fine.

### Code

``````public static int search(String[] input, String target) {
if (target == null || target.length() == 0) {
return -1;
}
int len = input.length;
int left = 0, right = len - 1;
while (left < right) {
int calculatedMid = left + (right - left) / 2;
int comparisonMid = calculatedMid;
while (comparisonMid < len && input[comparisonMid].length() == 0) {
comparisonMid++;
}
if (input[comparisonMid].equals(target)) {
return comparisonMid;
} else if (input[comparisonMid].compareTo(target) < 0) {
left = comparisonMid + 1;
} else {
right = calculatedMid - 1;
}
}
if (left < len && input[left].equals(target)) {
return left;
} else {
return -1;
}
}
``````