This article aims to familiarise you with the KMP(Knuth Morris Pratt) string matching algorithm.

We will see how the KMP algorithm makes string search very efficient. Due to its efficiency and usefulness, we use it almost everywhere. Knowingly or unknowingly, we use the KMP algorithm every day.

Let’s see the problem statement in the next section.

Problem Statement

We are given a target string “target” and a search string “search”. We have to find out all the possible locations of the search string in the target string. Then we have to return the index of all the occurrences of the search string in the target string.

Consider n= length(search) and m= length(target).

The overlapping of the answers is also allowed. See example 2 below for a clear understanding.

Note: Throughout this article, we will be using the term “KMP”, a short form for Knuth Morris Pratt and “Lps” which stands for the longest proper prefix which is also a suffix.

Now, let us see a few of the examples of the problem statement:

1. target= ”heyhihey” search=”hey”

Output: [1,6]

Explanation: The search key “hey” occurs twice in the target key. It appears on position 1 and position 6 of the target. Thus we have returned array [1,6]. See the below figure for a better understanding.

Figure I:”hey” matches at index 1 and at index 6.

2. target=”aaaa” search = “aaa”

Output: [1,2]

Explanation: The search key occurs on index 1 and index 2. Here we have to note that the second “a” and the third “a” is counted twice. Thus the answers of index 1 and index 2 overlap, i.e. one character can be in more than one answer. See the below figure for better understanding.

Figure II: The positions of “aaa” in “aaaa”

3. target=”abcdefghij” search = “abcj”

Output: []

Explanation: The search string is not present in the target string.

You can see the naive approach for the string matching algorithm here but it is not efficient as the time complexity is O(n*m), where m=length(search) and n=length(target). Let us learn in this blog how with the help of the KMP algorithm, we can achieve a linear time complexity.

Approach

For the algorithm, we must first precompute the lps_array.

Then using the LPS array, we will search the “search” string in the “target” string. We do the following, Whenever a match is found, we move ahead and whenever a mismatch occurs, we find the last index of the search string which matches with the target string using the lps_array.

Steps to find LPS array

1. First, we make an LPS array of size m where m=length(search) to store integers. LPS[i] is used to get the last longest matching. The LPS array is initialised with 0.

2. We make previous = 0. The previous variable tells us the last longest proper prefix which was also a suffix.

3. As we are looking for the proper prefix we start searching from index 1 to the last index of the search array.

4. We compare search[current index] with the search[previous]. If they match we increment the previous and current index pointers and also update lps[current index] as previous+1.

5. If they don’t match we do the following:

i) If the previous variable is equal to 0, this means that there is no suffix that ends at search[current index] and is also a proper prefix in search. Thus we make lps[current index] = 0.

ii) If the previous variable is not equal to 0, this means that there was a previous match. Thus we make previous= lps[previous-1].

6. At last, we return the LPS array.

Note: LPS[i] means the longest proper prefix which is also a suffix for the substring search[0:i]. The whole string can’t be lps because we are looking for a proper prefix.

Let us write a code to find the LPS array in python.

def get_lps(search):
# lps array is the longest proper prefix which is also a suffix
lps_arr=[0 for i in range(len(search))]
# previous is the last longest proper prefix which is also a suffix
previous=0
# Here we are checking proper prefix so that we start with the index 1
# as the prefix can't be itself
curr_index=1
while curr_index<len(lps_arr):
if search[curr_index]==search[previous]:
"""This means that we have found a match for the last longest lps
and the current prefix
Thus we update the lps array"""
previous+=1
lps_arr[curr_index]=previous
curr_index+=1
elif previous==0:
"""This means that we have not found a match for the current prefix with the
last lps.
As previous=0 then there does not exist previous longest lps."""
# no lps[curr index] exist so lps[curr_index]=0
lps_arr[curr_index]=0
curr_index+=1
else:
# we replace current_index
previous=lps_arr[previous-1]
return lps_arr
search="abcdabcabcd"
answer=get_lps(search)
print(answer)

You can also try this code with Online Python Compiler

1. First, we get the lps_array by calling the function get_lps and passing search as an argument.

2. We then make two variables, namely search_iter and target_iter, for iterating search and target respectively.

3. Whenever search[search iter] equals target[target iter], we increment both of them for comparing further indices.

4. When search iterator equals search.length, this means that the search string is found in the target at target_iter- search_iter. Thus we print that the search is found in target at the found index.

5. If they do not match, we update the search_iter with the last index that matches with the target[target_iter] using the precomputed LPS array.

6. Thus, we print all the indices where the search is found in the target string in the above way.

Having understood the LPS array formation, we can easily understand the KMP algorithm.

Pseudocode for KMP algorithm

DEFINE FUNCTION get_lps(search):
lps_arr: array of length len(search) initialized with 0
previous=0
curr_index=1
WHILE curr_index is length than the length of (lps_arr):
IF search[curr_index] is equal to search[previous]:
previous+=1
set lps_arr[curr_index] as previous
curr_index+=1
ELSEIF previous==0:
lps_arr[curr_index]=0
curr_index+=1
ELSE:
previous=lps_arr[previous-1]
RETURN lps_arr
DEFINE FUNCTION kmp_algo(search,target):
we get lps array from get_lps function
i.e. lps= get_lps(search)
search_iter=0
target_iter=0
WHILE target_iter<lenght of the target:
IF search[search_iter] is equal to target[target_iter]:
search_iter+=1
target_iter+=1
IF search_iter is equal to the length of (search):
OUTPUT("Search found at index:",target_iter-search_iter+1)
search_iter=lps[search_iter-1]
ELSEIF target_iter is less than the length of (target):
IF target[target_iter]!=search[search_iter]:
IF search_iter!=0:
search_iter=lps[search_iter-1]
ELSE:
target_iter+=1

Code in Python

def get_lps(search):
# lps array is the longest proper prefix which is also a suffix
lps_arr=[0 for i in range(len(search))]
# previous is the last longest proper prefix which is also a suffix
previous=0
# Here we are checking proper prefix so that we start with the index 1
# as the prefix can't be itself
curr_index=1
while curr_index<len(lps_arr):
if search[curr_index]==search[previous]:
"""This means that we have found a match for the last longest lps
and the current prefix
Thus we update the lps array"""
previous+=1
lps_arr[curr_index]=previous
curr_index+=1
elif previous==0:
"""This means that we have not found a match for the current prefix with the
last lps.
As previous=0 then there does not exist previous longest lps."""
# no lps[curr index] exist so lps[curr_index]=0
lps_arr[curr_index]=0
curr_index+=1
else:
# we replace current_index
previous=lps_arr[previous-1]
return lps_arr
def kmp_algo(search,target):
lps=get_lps(search)
search_iter=0 # iterates indices over search
target_iter=0 # iterates indices over target
while target_iter<len(target):
if search[search_iter]==target[target_iter]:
search_iter+=1
target_iter+=1
# as they match we move to the next index
if search_iter==len(search):
# this means that whole of the search string is matched in target
# thus they match at target_iter-search_iter+1(1 added as we print 1 based indexing)
print("Search found at index:",target_iter-search_iter+1)
""" now as they matched we check for the last match of the target[target_iter] in the search string
This is because in some cases like search="aaa" target ="aaaa"
When the search is matched. Then for the next query we have to check for the last search that matches with the target.
This is because there are two answers i.e. [1,2].
So when search[2]=target[2] matches we have to again check for search[2] with target[3] for the next match.
"""
search_iter=lps[search_iter-1]
elif target_iter<len(target):
if target[target_iter]!=search[search_iter]:
if search_iter!=0:
# we update the lps to the last matched
search_iter=lps[search_iter-1]
else:
# if they don't match at all we move to the next index
target_iter+=1
target = "abcdabcabcd"
search = "abcd"
kmp_algo(search, target)

You can also try this code with Online Python Compiler

Check out this video for better conceptual knowledge and implementation of the code.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Where is the KMP algorithm used?

The algorithm is used in Gmail, Microsoft word, google docs, Google sheets and browsers for string search, in various text editors and databases for string searching and matching. KMP is also inbuilt in python3.

2. What are the other similar algorithms?

KMP is a prefix search algorithm. Another algorithm, z-function, also searches text in a target string. Both of them have the same time and space complexity. But when we want to find the first occurrence of the search string in the target string, KMP uses less space than the z-algorithm. There are also algorithms like Boyer Moore and Rabin Karp. The space complexity for Rabin Karp is O(1).

Key Takeaways

The article helps us understand the KMP string matching algorithm in python3. You can also copy the code and run it on your system on multiple inputs to understand the approach better.

We precompute the LPS array. Then using that array, we search the search string in the target string.