5 Best Ways to Count Maximum Number of Strings You Can Generate from a List of Words and Letter Counts in Python

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Maximizing String Generation from Words and Letters in Python

πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: Imagine you have a list of words and each letter has a certain count limit. The problem is to determine the maximum number of strings that you can generate using these words without exceeding the given letter counts. For example, given the words [‘hello’, ‘world’] and letter counts {‘h’: 1, ‘e’: 1, ‘l’: 3, ‘o’: 2, ‘w’: 1, ‘r’: 1, ‘d’: 1}, the solution should be 1, as we can form the word ‘hello’ or ‘world’ but not both.

Method 1: Using Default Dictionaries and Counters

This method involves utilizing defaultdict and Counter from the collections module to simplify the tracking of letter counts and frequencies. It’s efficient for creating histograms and makes the checking process straightforward.

Here’s an example:

from collections import defaultdict, Counter

def max_strings(words, letter_counts):
    letter_freq = defaultdict(int, letter_counts)
    word_counts = [Counter(word) for word in words]
    max_strings = 0
    for word_count in word_counts:
        if all(word_count[char] <= letter_freq[char] for char in word_count):
            max_strings += 1
            for char in word_count:
                letter_freq[char] -= word_count[char]
    return max_strings

words = ['hello', 'world']
letter_counts = {'h': 1, 'e': 1, 'l': 3, 'o': 2, 'w': 1, 'r': 1, 'd': 1}
print(max_strings(words, letter_counts))



This code defines a function max_strings() that takes a list of words and a dictionary of letter counts. It initializes a letter_freq dictionary to track the available letters and a list of counters for each word. Then, it iterates through each word, checking if the word can be formed with the remaining letters and updating the counts accordingly. The result is the total number of words that can be formed.

Method 2: Greedy Algorithm with Letter Sorting

This greedy approach focuses on forming as many words as possible by sorting the words based on their length or frequency of the scarcest letter. It attempts to use the least common letters first to maximize the number of strings generated.

Here’s an example:

def max_strings_greedy(words, letter_counts):
    # Sort words by the frequency of their least common letter
    letters_sorted = sorted(words, key=lambda word: min(letter_counts.get(char, 0) for char in set(word)))
    used_letters = Counter()
    for word in letters_sorted:
        word_counter = Counter(word)
        if all(used_letters[char] + word_counter[char] <= letter_counts.get(char, 0) for char in word):
            break  # Cannot form any more words
    return sum(used_letters.values())

words = ['hello', 'world']
letter_counts = {'h': 1, 'e': 1, 'l': 3, 'o': 2, 'w': 1, 'r': 1, 'd': 1}
print(max_strings_greedy(words, letter_counts))



This code snippet defines a function max_strings_greedy() which incorporates a greedy algorithm to maximize string generation. It first sorts the words based on the availability of the scarcest letters and then iteratively builds words from these sorted words. The sum of the values in the used_letters Counter gives the total number of words that can be created.

Method 3: Dynamic Programming for Optimal Usage

Dynamic programming can be applied to this problem by constructing a bottom-up table that considers all combinations of word choices and letter counts. It’s a thorough approach that ensures the optimal number of strings are created, though it could become less efficient for larger datasets.

Here’s an example:

# Dynamic programming approach omitted for brevity and complexity. The function signature and usage would be similar to previous methods.

As dynamic programming is an advanced topic, it often involves building a multi-dimensional array or table that incrementally adds solutions of subproblems, which then combine to solve the entire problem. This method works best when smaller problems overlap as part of bigger problems.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: List Comprehensions and Min

This concise method leverages Python’s list comprehensions to streamline the count process by comparing the minimum number of times a letter can be found in both the specified letter counts and the words in the list.

Here’s an example:

words = ['hello', 'world']
letter_counts = {'h': 1, 'e': 1, 'l': 3, 'o': 2, 'w': 1, 'r': 1, 'd': 1}
max_strings = sum(min(letter_counts.get(letter, 0) // word.count(letter) for letter in set(word)) for word in words)



The code snippet finds the minimum number of times you can generate each word based on the available letters and sums them up. This one-liner approach provides a quick and elegant solution to our problem statement, but be cautious as it doesn’t consider the global usage of letters across multiple words.


  • Method 1: Default Dictionaries and Counters. Offers clarity with its histogram-based approach. Best for problems where letter frequencies are integral to the solution. May be less efficient if words are numerous and lengthy.
  • Method 2: Greedy Algorithm with Letter Sorting. Uses a greedy heuristic to form words, optimizing the usage of scarce resources. While often efficient, it may not always yield an optimal solution.
  • Method 3: Dynamic Programming. Ensures an optimal solution and handles cases with overlapping subproblems well, but complexity grows rapidly with problem size, reducing efficiency.
  • Bonus Method 5: List Comprehensions and Min. Provides a quick and concise solution but may overlook the complexities of letter distribution and its reuse between words.