5 Best Ways to Check if a Binary String Can Be Rearranged With Alternate 0s and 1s in Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: This article addresses the challenge of determining if a given binary string can be rearranged to form a pattern of alternating 0s and 1s. A binary string consists solely of the digits ‘0’ and ‘1.’ For instance, given the input ‘01010101’, the desired output is ‘True’, as the string already presents an alternating pattern. On the contrary, ‘000111’ should be rearranged to ‘010101’ or a similar pattern, if possible.

Method 1: Count and Compare

This method involves counting the number of 0s and 1s in the binary string and if the absolute difference is not more than 1, it can be rearranged to an alternating pattern. This relies on the principle that for a binary string to be rearrangeable into alternate 0s and 1s, the counts of both digits must be almost equal.

Here’s an example:

def can_rearrange_binary_string(bin_str):
    zeros = bin_str.count('0')
    ones = bin_str.count('1')
    return abs(zeros - ones) <= 1

# Example usage
binary_string = '010101'

Output: True

This Python function can_rearrange_binary_string() checks if the provided binary string bin_str can be rearranged to form an alternating pattern of 0s and 1s. It does this by counting zero and one digits separately and then compares their counts. If their difference is less than or equal to one, the function returns True, indicating it’s possible to rearrange the string.

Method 2: Greedy Rearrangement

The greedy rearrangement approach creates two possible alternating string patterns based on the input string’s length, and then checks if the characters from the input string can be rearranged to match either pattern.

Here’s an example:

def greedy_rearrange(bin_str):
    alt_str_1 = ''.join(['01' if i % 2 == 0 else '10' for i in range(len(bin_str))])
    alt_str_2 = alt_str_1[::-1]  # Reverse of alt_str_1
    return any((sorted(bin_str) == sorted(alt_str)) for alt_str in (alt_str_1, alt_str_2))

# Example usage
binary_string = '1100'

Output: True

The greedy_rearrange() function constructs two strings alt_str_1 and alt_str_2 that represent the two possible alternating patterns using list comprehension and string join operations. It then checks if the sorted version of the input string matches either of the sorted alternating strings. This method only checks for the possibility of rearrangement, not the rearrangement itself.

Method 3: Sequential Check

This method involves checking each character in the sequence to ensure that no two adjacent characters are the same. If at any point two adjacent characters are found to be the same, it’s determined that the string cannot be rearranged to the desired alternating pattern.

Here’s an example:

def sequential_check(bin_str):
    for i in range(len(bin_str) - 1):
        if bin_str[i] == bin_str[i + 1]:
            return False
    return True

# Example usage
binary_string = '10101010'

Output: True

The function sequential_check() iterates over the binary string and compares each character with its successor. If it finds any equal adjacent characters, it returns False, meaning that it’s not possible to rearrange the string into the alternating pattern. If the loop completes without finding any such pair, it returns True.

Method 4: Regular Expression Matching

Regular expressions can be used to detect patterns within strings. In this case, a pattern that contains consecutively repeating characters would suggest that the string cannot be rearranged into an alternating sequence of 0s and 1s.

Here’s an example:

import re

def regex_check(bin_str):
    return re.search(r'00|11', bin_str) is None

# Example usage
binary_string = '10101010'

Output: True

The regex_check() function applies a regular expression search to find any occurrences of consecutive ‘0’s or ‘1’s. If such a pattern is found, the function returns False; otherwise, it returns True. This method presupposes that if the pattern is not present, the string must be either already alternating or rearrangeable to become alternating.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Functional Programming

A functional programming one-liner can utilize built-in Python functions to achieve the same goal, combining all() and zip() functions with a generator expression to perform the check efficiently.

Here’s an example:

binary_string = '1010101'
can_rearrange = all(a != b for a, b in zip(binary_string, binary_string[1:]))

Output: True

The one-liner leverages the power of Python’s zip function to pair each character in the string with its subsequent character and the all() function to ensure each pair consists of different characters. If all pairs satisfy this condition, the entire binary string can be said to potentially follow an alternating pattern.


  • Method 1: Count and Compare. Simple and efficient. It doesn’t actually rearrange the string but checks the count of 0s and 1s which is sufficient for determining the possibility of rearrangement. It might not handle specific edge cases where an exact rearrangement is sought.
  • Method 2: Greedy Rearrangement. More thorough than the first as it imagines the rearranged state. However, it is not as efficient due to the need to create and sort patterns for comparison.
  • Method 3: Sequential Check. Direct method suitable for strings that are already alternating. However, it fails when the string needs to be rearranged as it only checks the existing order.
  • Method 4: Regular Expression Matching. Fast and handy for pattern detection in strings, it works well for confirmation but doesn’t guide the rearrangement process.
  • Method 5: One-Liner Functional Programming. Elegant and concise, this method is Pythonic but less readable for beginners. It performs the same check as the sequential method with less explicit iteration.