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>The simplest length is the one provided by ipairs().
>It only iterates the "proper sequence" part of a table.
>That is, it iterates the >set of contiguous positive integer keys of a table.[1]
>When in doubt, this is the length you should rely on. Don't do `for i=1,#t`, but instead use `for i,v in ipairs(t)`.

From what I've seen so far, term 'rely on' is not completely compatible with Lua, and this is an important thing to know for any lua developer, especially novice one. Let me elaborate a little bit, so you get the idea of what I'm talking about.

It is possible that surrounding code will hijack pairs/ipairs. What should I do if I doubt whether or not the next/ipairs_aux iterators are really what I expect them to be? Will they work as I expect them to work? The safest approach here would've been to re-implement them locally and call local implementations. After that, I'd post these implementations to this list and insist to add them in the next lua release.
Unfortunately, this does not seem to be feasible in pure lua. This might be done using C code, but that seems to be an overkill.

What I really can do, is I can include a number of simple tests in my library code, testing if pairs/ipairs behave like I expect them to behave (with some realistic probability ofc). You know, a couple of simple runners and a dozen test cases. Then I run these tests on the module initialization, and, if they pass, I save the actual function object of next/ipairs_aux (as returned by pairs/ipairs) locally and call it via my own wrapper [1]. Surely, it will add some overhead on library initialization, but I'll be 100% sure on what length I rely on.

But wait, I can simply write some tests. Suddenly, that changes a lot.

Best regards,
Igor A. Ehrlich

[1] I understand that we might go down that road a little bit further, but I'm not sadistic enough, and I assume that the surrounding code does not intervene in the library code itself.

On Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 7:25 AM, Steve Litt <> wrote:
On Wed, 14 Sep 2016 16:00:03 -0300
"Soni L." <> wrote:

> Lua has many lengths. From string lengths to table lengths, from
> number lengths to sequence lengths, from sequence lengths to proper
> sequence lengths. They are the many lengths of Lua.
> The # operator returns string lengths and table lengths. It is the
> standard length operator, and it's what you usually use to get the
> length of an object.
> The string.len() function returns string lengths. It typechecks the
> argument to make sure it's a string, but otherwise returns the same
> value as #.
> There are various types of table length. Some of them are sequences,
> some of them are not. Some have nothing to do with length, but rather
> with count.
> The simplest length is the one provided by ipairs(). It only iterates
> the "proper sequence" part of a table. That is, it iterates the set
> of contiguous positive integer keys of a table.[1]
> When in doubt, this is the length you should rely on. Don't do `for
> i=1,#t`, but instead use `for i,v in ipairs(t)`.
> Another simple length is the one provided by pairs(). This is
> actually a count. If for every iteration of pairs() you increment a
> counter, you'll end up with the number of keys in a table. It is
> rarely used, but can be useful sometimes.
> If you want a manual table length, the simplest way to do it is
> probably to just use an `n` field. While Lua supports this usage, the
> standard library doesn't, so you have to deal with it manually. While
> the standard library doesn't natively support the `n` field, some
> functions, such as table.pack(), may emit it.
> Another length option is the highest key of a table. You can get this
> length by combining pairs() and math.max(). It can be useful in some
> niche applications but it's quite slow, so consider a manual length
> (see previous paragraph) instead.
> By combining pairs() with type(), you can get the number of
> non-integer keys in a table. While this count does exist, I have
> never seen it used in practice.
> The length operator, #, can also be applied to tables. If your table
> has a positive integer key, and there's a smaller possitive integer
> that is not a key (i.e. the value associated with it is `nil`), then
> this shouldn't be used. When using a table without manual length,
> this operator is usually faster than any other method[2], but it does
> have the aforementioned drawback. This table length is the only table
> length that is unspecified for some tables.
> Finally, you can also use your own length algorithm. Use this if you
> want fast runtime, but the drawbacks of the length operator make it
> unsuitable for your use-case.
> And these are the many lengths of Lua!
> [1] - I'm not sure how many people know this, but this property
> (stopping on first `nil`) is actually described in the manual. That
> is, ipairs() on a table with "holes" is actually well-defined.
> [2] - The Lua manual doesn't guarantee O(log n) time complexity for
> the length operator. If you want guaranteed O(log n) runtime, use
> your own length algorithm. This means # could have O(n) time
> complexity (i.e. equivalent to ipairs()), or even O(m) where m = the
> number of keys in the table (i.e. equivalent to pairs() + math.max()).
> PS: Sorry for the wall of text.

The description and list of lengths given by Soni L above should be
copied, verbatim, into some easy to find and easy to search Lua
documentation. There have been many times I could have used Soni's


Best regards,
Igor A. Ehrlich