5 Best Ways to Find the Second Largest Digit in a String Using Python

Rate this post

πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: Given a string containing alphanumeric characters, the challenge is to extract the digits and find the second largest digit in that sequence. For instance, if the input is "abc12343bsj12", among the extracted digits 1, 2, 3, 4, and 3, the second largest digit would be 3. It’s essential for the program to handle various types of input and to efficiently determine the desired output.

Method 1: Using List Sorting

This method involves extracting the digits from the string, converting them into a numerical list, and then sorting the list in ascending order. One can then easily fetch the second largest digit from the second last position of the sorted list.

Here’s an example:

def find_second_largest_digit(input_string):
    digits = [int(char) for char in input_string if char.isdigit()]
    return digits[-2] if len(digits) > 1 else None


Output: 3

This code snippet works by first filtering out all digits from the input string and sorting them. The if condition ensures that there’s at least two digits to compare, otherwise it returns None.

Method 2: Using Set and List Comprehension

This method focuses on creating a unique set of digits to remove duplicates, followed by converting the set to a list, sorting it, and then obtaining the second largest value.

Here’s an example:

def find_second_largest_digit(input_string):
    digits = sorted({int(char) for char in input_string if char.isdigit()}, reverse=True)
    return digits[1] if len(digits) > 1 else None

Output: 4

This snippet creates a set of digits to ensure they are unique, sorts them in descending order, and picks the second value. Its efficiency lies in handling duplicates and it fails gracefully when there aren’t enough digits.

Method 3: Using Max Function Twice

Here we use the max() function to find the largest digit first, remove it, and then apply max() again to find the second largest digit from the reduced list.

Here’s an example:

def find_second_largest_digit(input_string):
    digits = [int(char) for char in input_string if char.isdigit()]
    first_max = max(digits)
    return max(digits) if digits else None

Output: 8

The code snippet identifies the maximum digit, removes it, and then determines the maximum again amongst the remaining digits. This approach is straightforward, but it can be inefficient because it iterates through the list multiple times.

Method 4: Using a Priority Queue (Heapq)

By using Python’s heapq module, we can efficiently handle large sets of numerical data to find the second largest number. The module converts the list into a heap in-place, from which finding the largest and second largest elements is quite convenient.

Here’s an example:

import heapq

def find_second_largest_digit(input_string):
    digits = [int(char) for char in input_string if char.isdigit()]
    if len(digits) <= 1:
        return None
    largest = heapq._heappop_max(digits)
    return heapq._heappop_max(digits)

Output: 7

This code snippet turns the list into a max heap, performs the operations to find the maximum, pops it, and then retrieves the second maximum. It’s extremely efficient for larger lists but can be overkill for small amounts of data.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Using Sorted with Slicing

This method uses the power of Python’s inline capabilities by combining sorting and slicing in a one-liner. It provides a concise but readable solution.

Here’s an example:

find_second_largest_digit = lambda s: sorted(set(filter(str.isdigit, s)))[-2] if len(set(s)) > 1 else None


Output: 1

Here, we make a one-liner function that sorts digits after converting the string to a set (to handle duplicates), slices to get the second largest, and handles cases with less than two digits gracefully.


  • Method 1: List Sorting. Simple and easy to understand. Inefficient for large strings due to the sorting requirement.
  • Method 2: Set and List Comprehension. Handles duplicates well and is quite concise. Still needs sorting, which can be costly.
  • Method 3: Max Function Twice. Direct approach. Less efficient because of multiple iterations through the list.
  • Method 4: Priority Queue (Heapq). Great for large datasets. Potentially complex for beginners and overkill for small datasets.
  • Method 5: One-Liner with Sorted and Slicing. Extremely concise. Depends on Python’s set for uniqueness which might introduce an overhead.