Friday, March 15, 2013

Python Random String Generation

Answer in one line:
''.join(random.choice(string.ascii_uppercase + string.digits) for x in range(N))
In details, with a clean function for further reuse:
>>> import string
>>> import random
>>> def id_generator(size=6, chars=string.ascii_uppercase + string.digits):
...    return ''.join(random.choice(chars) for x in range(size))
>>> id_generator()
>>> id_generator(3, "6793YUIO")
How does it work ?
We import string, a module that contains sequences of common ASCII characters, and random, a module that deals with random generation.
string.ascii_uppercase + string.digits just concatenates the list of characters representing uppercase ASCII chars and digits:
>>> string.ascii_uppercase
>>> string.digits
>>> string.ascii_uppercase + string.digits
Then we use a generator expression to create a list of 'n' elements:
>>> range(4) # range create a list of 'n' numbers
[0, 1, 2, 3]
>>> ['elem' for x in range(4)] # we use range to create 4 times 'elem'
['elem', 'elem', 'elem', 'elem']
In the example above, we use [ to create the list, but we don't in the id_generator function so Python doesn't create the list in memory, but generates the elements on the fly, one by one (more about this here).
Instead of asking to create 'n' times the string elem, we will ask Python to create 'n' times a random character, picked from a sequence of characters:
>>> random.choice("abcde")
>>> random.choice("abcde")
>>> random.choice("abcde")
Therefore random.choice(chars) for x in range(size) really is creating a sequence of size characters. Characters that are randomly picked from chars:
>>> [random.choice('abcde') for x in range(3)]
['a', 'b', 'b']
>>> [random.choice('abcde') for x in range(3)]
['e', 'b', 'e']
>>> [random.choice('abcde') for x in range(3)]
['d', 'a', 'c']
Then we just join them with an empty string so the sequence becomes a string:
>>> ''.join(['a', 'b', 'b'])
>>> [random.choice('abcde') for x in range(3)]
['d', 'c', 'b']
>>> ''.join(random.choice('abcde') for x in range(3))

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