[string] What is the best way to test for an empty string in Go?

Which method is best (more idomatic) for testing non-empty strings (in Go)?

if len(mystring) > 0 { }

Or:

if mystring != "" { }

Or something else?

This question is related to string go is-empty

The answer is


Both styles are used within the Go's standard libraries.

if len(s) > 0 { ... }

can be found in the strconv package: http://golang.org/src/pkg/strconv/atoi.go

if s != "" { ... }

can be found in the encoding/json package: http://golang.org/src/pkg/encoding/json/encode.go

Both are idiomatic and are clear enough. It is more a matter of personal taste and about clarity.

Russ Cox writes in a golang-nuts thread:

The one that makes the code clear.
If I'm about to look at element x I typically write
len(s) > x, even for x == 0, but if I care about
"is it this specific string" I tend to write s == "".

It's reasonable to assume that a mature compiler will compile
len(s) == 0 and s == "" into the same, efficient code.
...

Make the code clear.

As pointed out in Timmmm's answer, the Go compiler does generate identical code in both cases.


As per official guidelines and from performance point of view they appear equivalent (ANisus answer), the s != "" would be better due to a syntactical advantage. s != "" will fail at compile time if the variable is not a string, while len(s) == 0 will pass for several other data types.


This seems to be premature microoptimization. The compiler is free to produce the same code for both cases or at least for these two

if len(s) != 0 { ... }

and

if s != "" { ... }

because the semantics is clearly equal.


It would be cleaner and less error-prone to use a function like the one below:

func empty(s string) bool {
    return len(strings.TrimSpace(s)) == 0
}

I think the best way is to compare with blank string

BenchmarkStringCheck1 is checking with blank string

BenchmarkStringCheck2 is checking with len zero

I check with the empty and non-empty string checking. You can see that checking with a blank string is faster.

BenchmarkStringCheck1-4     2000000000           0.29 ns/op        0 B/op          0 allocs/op
BenchmarkStringCheck1-4     2000000000           0.30 ns/op        0 B/op          0 allocs/op


BenchmarkStringCheck2-4     2000000000           0.30 ns/op        0 B/op          0 allocs/op
BenchmarkStringCheck2-4     2000000000           0.31 ns/op        0 B/op          0 allocs/op

Code

func BenchmarkStringCheck1(b *testing.B) {
    s := "Hello"
    b.ResetTimer()
    for n := 0; n < b.N; n++ {
        if s == "" {

        }
    }
}

func BenchmarkStringCheck2(b *testing.B) {
    s := "Hello"
    b.ResetTimer()
    for n := 0; n < b.N; n++ {
        if len(s) == 0 {

        }
    }
}

This would be more performant than trimming the whole string, since you only need to check for at least a single non-space character existing

// Strempty checks whether string contains only whitespace or not
func Strempty(s string) bool {
    if len(s) == 0 {
        return true
    }

    r := []rune(s)
    l := len(r)

    for l > 0 {
        l--
        if !unicode.IsSpace(r[l]) {
            return false
        }
    }

    return true
}

Checking for length is a good answer, but you could also account for an "empty" string that is also only whitespace. Not "technically" empty, but if you care to check:

package main

import (
  "fmt"
  "strings"
)

func main() {
  stringOne := "merpflakes"
  stringTwo := "   "
  stringThree := ""

  if len(strings.TrimSpace(stringOne)) == 0 {
    fmt.Println("String is empty!")
  }

  if len(strings.TrimSpace(stringTwo)) == 0 {
    fmt.Println("String two is empty!")
  }

  if len(stringTwo) == 0 {
    fmt.Println("String two is still empty!")
  }

  if len(strings.TrimSpace(stringThree)) == 0 {
    fmt.Println("String three is empty!")
  }
}

Just to add more to comment

Mainly about how to do performance testing.

I did testing with following code:

import (
    "testing"
)

var ss = []string{"Hello", "", "bar", " ", "baz", "ewrqlosakdjhf12934c r39yfashk fjkashkfashds fsdakjh-", "", "123"}

func BenchmarkStringCheckEq(b *testing.B) {
    c := 0
    b.ResetTimer()
    for n := 0; n < b.N; n++ {
            for _, s := range ss {
                    if s == "" {
                            c++
                    }
            }
    } 
    t := 2 * b.N
    if c != t {
            b.Fatalf("did not catch empty strings: %d != %d", c, t)
    }
}
func BenchmarkStringCheckLen(b *testing.B) {
    c := 0
    b.ResetTimer()
    for n := 0; n < b.N; n++ {
            for _, s := range ss { 
                    if len(s) == 0 {
                            c++
                    }
            }
    } 
    t := 2 * b.N
    if c != t {
            b.Fatalf("did not catch empty strings: %d != %d", c, t)
    }
}
func BenchmarkStringCheckLenGt(b *testing.B) {
    c := 0
    b.ResetTimer()
    for n := 0; n < b.N; n++ {
            for _, s := range ss {
                    if len(s) > 0 {
                            c++
                    }
            }
    } 
    t := 6 * b.N
    if c != t {
            b.Fatalf("did not catch empty strings: %d != %d", c, t)
    }
}
func BenchmarkStringCheckNe(b *testing.B) {
    c := 0
    b.ResetTimer()
    for n := 0; n < b.N; n++ {
            for _, s := range ss {
                    if s != "" {
                            c++
                    }
            }
    } 
    t := 6 * b.N
    if c != t {
            b.Fatalf("did not catch empty strings: %d != %d", c, t)
    }
}

And results were:

% for a in $(seq 50);do go test -run=^$ -bench=. --benchtime=1s ./...|grep Bench;done | tee -a log
% sort -k 3n log | head -10

BenchmarkStringCheckEq-4        150149937            8.06 ns/op
BenchmarkStringCheckLenGt-4     147926752            8.06 ns/op
BenchmarkStringCheckLenGt-4     148045771            8.06 ns/op
BenchmarkStringCheckNe-4        145506912            8.06 ns/op
BenchmarkStringCheckLen-4       145942450            8.07 ns/op
BenchmarkStringCheckEq-4        146990384            8.08 ns/op
BenchmarkStringCheckLenGt-4     149351529            8.08 ns/op
BenchmarkStringCheckNe-4        148212032            8.08 ns/op
BenchmarkStringCheckEq-4        145122193            8.09 ns/op
BenchmarkStringCheckEq-4        146277885            8.09 ns/op

Effectively variants usually do not reach fastest time and there is only minimal difference (about 0.01ns/op) between variant top speed.

And if I look full log, difference between tries is greater than difference between benchmark functions.

Also there does not seem to be any measurable difference between BenchmarkStringCheckEq and BenchmarkStringCheckNe or BenchmarkStringCheckLen and BenchmarkStringCheckLenGt even if latter variants should inc c 6 times instead of 2 times.

You can try to get some confidence about equal performance by adding tests with modified test or inner loop. This is faster:

func BenchmarkStringCheckNone4(b *testing.B) {
    c := 0
    b.ResetTimer()
    for n := 0; n < b.N; n++ {
            for _, _ = range ss {
                    c++
            }
    }
    t := len(ss) * b.N
    if c != t {
            b.Fatalf("did not catch empty strings: %d != %d", c, t)
    }
}

This is not faster:

func BenchmarkStringCheckEq3(b *testing.B) {
    ss2 := make([]string, len(ss))
    prefix := "a"
    for i, _ := range ss {
            ss2[i] = prefix + ss[i]
    }
    c := 0
    b.ResetTimer()
    for n := 0; n < b.N; n++ {
            for _, s := range ss2 {
                    if s == prefix {
                            c++
                    }
            }
    }
    t := 2 * b.N
    if c != t {
            b.Fatalf("did not catch empty strings: %d != %d", c, t)
    }
}

Both variants are usually faster or slower than difference between main tests.

It would also good to generate test strings (ss) using string generator with relevant distribution. And have variable lengths too.

So I don't have any confidence of performance difference between main methods to test empty string in go.

And I can state with some confidence, it is faster not to test empty string at all than test empty string. And also it is faster to test empty string than to test 1 char string (prefix variant).


Assuming that empty spaces and all leading and trailing white spaces should be removed:

import "strings"
if len(strings.TrimSpace(s)) == 0 { ... }

Because :
len("") // is 0
len(" ") // one empty space is 1
len(" ") // two empty spaces is 2


As of now, the Go compiler generates identical code in both cases, so it is a matter of taste. GCCGo does generate different code, but barely anyone uses it so I wouldn't worry about that.

https://godbolt.org/z/fib1x1


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