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List slices in Python - 2 and 3 values forms, with an uplifting example

Celebrety Eclipse - LiftsPython's lists are indexed collection objects. That means that they're rather like arrays in that you look up elements by their position numbers, and the number start at a fixed point (0 in the case of Python); they're not totally like arrays in that they are not stored at unchanging sequential memory locations throughout the time they exist, so that you have additional flexibility in being able to extend them, insert elements into the middle, etc, at the expense of a slight loss of efficiency. The Python language and structure used also prevents you going out of bounds as you can (with disasterous consequences if you don't check) in languages such as C and C++.

Python also allows you to select slices from a list to create another list. This is a great way to get the "top ten" when you have sorted objects, or the last few, or something like that. Let's look at a list and some slices:
  elevator = [2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,14,15]
  print("The whole list")
  print(elevator)

Where I am this week, there's a lift that runs from 2nd floor up to the 15th floor ... except that there is no 13th floor. So there are 13 floors in total, in list postion numbers 0 to 12. Printing out the whole list, as shown in the code above, gave:
  [2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15]

With list slices, I can sepcify a start point and a point before which I end - so:
  print(elevator[4:8])
will give me four positions - position numbers 4, 5, 6 and 7 which are floor numbers 6 to 8:
  [6, 7, 8, 9]

I can also specify start and end points that count down from the end (-1 being the last position, and so on), and I can leave out a position number entirely if I want to mean the very end of the list. Thus:
  print(elevator[:8])
  print(elevator[4:])
  print(elevator[4:-1])

Will give me:
  [2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]
  [6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15]
  [6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14]


A further (two colons, up to 3 values) format of list slices alloes me to specify a step as well. Let's make one of our lift journeys into an express one, starting at the the floor in position number 3 in the list, stopping at every fourth floor thereafter, and nor reaching (stopping short of) the floor in position number 12 in the list. The code is:
  print(elevator[3:12:4])
and the result of running that code give the following journey:
  [5, 9, 14]

Again, I can leave out start and end points in the three value form; if I leave out the step it defaults to 1, which is the same as the two value format. Here are two final examples:
  print(elevator[3::3])
  print(elevator[::2])

and here are the journeys that they cover:
  [5, 8, 11, 15]
  [2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15]


The complete example's source code is [here], and this is covered on our Learning to program in Python and Python Programming course.

(written 2011-07-06)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Y104 - Python - Lists and Tuples
  [4027] Collections in Python - list tuple dict and string. - (2013-03-04)
  [3763] Spike solutions and refactoring - a Python example - (2012-06-13)
  [3669] Stepping through a list (or an array) in reverse order - (2012-03-23)
  [3257] All possible combinations from a list (Python) or array (Ruby) - (2011-04-23)
  [3181] Beware - a=a+b and a+=b are different - Python - (2011-02-23)
  [3118] Arrays of arrays - or 2D arrays. How to program tables. - (2011-01-02)
  [2996] Copying - duplicating data, or just adding a name? Perl and Python compared - (2010-10-12)
  [2719] Traffic lights in Python - (2010-04-13)
  [2368] Python - fresh examples of all the fundamentals - (2009-08-20)
  [2284] Strings as collections in Python - (2009-07-12)
  [2280] Creating and iterating through Python lists - (2009-07-12)
  [1789] Looking for a value in a list - Python - (2008-09-08)
  [1641] Tektronix 4010 series / Python Tuples - (2008-05-13)
  [1220] for loop - how it works (Perl, PHP, Java, C, etc) - (2007-06-06)
  [955] Python collections - mutable and imutable - (2006-11-29)
  [899] Python - extend v append on a list - (2006-10-20)
  [657] The ternary operator in Python - (2006-03-25)
  [383] Overloading of operators on standard objects in Python - (2005-07-19)

Y111 - Python - More on Collections and Sequences
  [3797] zip in Python - (2012-07-05)
  [3439] Python for loops - applying a temporary second name to the same object - (2011-09-14)
  [3150] Python dictionaries - mutable and immutable keys and values - (2011-01-29)
  [2920] Sorting - naturally, or into a different order - (2010-08-14)
  [2894] Sorting people by their names - (2010-07-29)
  [2718] Python - access to variables in the outer scope - (2010-04-12)
  [1873] List Comprehensions in Python - (2008-11-06)
  [1869] Anonymous functions (lambdas) and map in Python - (2008-11-04)
  [1310] Callbacks - a more complex code sandwich - (2007-08-19)
  [1304] Last elements in a Perl or Python list - (2007-08-16)
  [633] Copying a reference, or cloning - (2006-03-05)
  [386] What is a callback? - (2005-07-22)
  [61] Python is a fabulous language - (2004-09-24)


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