5 Effective Ways to Use TensorFlow for Character Substring Operations in Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: In data processing and machine learning tasks, it is often required to manipulate strings and extract substrings from them. For example, given a string "TensorFlow is powerful", one might want to extract a substring like "Tensor". TensorFlow, being a powerful tool, can assist with such operations beyond its common use cases in machine learning. Here, we discuss how TensorFlow can be employed to work with character substrings in Python.

Method 1: Using TensorFlow String Split

TensorFlow provides a function tf.strings.split() that can split strings into substrings around a specified separator. This function can be beneficial when you need to break down a sentence into individual words or characters and it returns a RaggedTensor that can further be manipulated.

Here’s an example:

import tensorflow as tf

# Define the string and the separator
text = tf.constant('TensorFlow is great')
separator = tf.constant(' ')

# Split the string into substrings
substrings = tf.strings.split(text, sep=separator)


The output of this code snippet:

[b'TensorFlow', b'is', b'great']

The tf.strings.split() function takes in a tensor containing the string and a delimiter, returning a RaggedTensor where each element is a byte string corresponding to a split substring.

Method 2: Extracting Substrings with a Fixed Size

TensorFlow’s tf.strings.substr() function allows extraction of substrings from a tensor containing strings based on specific starting positions and lengths. This is particularly useful when you have a fixed-format string and you want to extract certain parts of it consistently.

Here’s an example:

import tensorflow as tf

# Define the string
text = tf.constant('Extracting substrings made easy')

# Extract a fixed-size substring
substring = tf.strings.substr(text, pos=0, len=10)


The output of this code snippet:


This code snippet uses tf.strings.substr() to extract the first 10 characters from the string. By changing the pos and len parameters, you can adjust which part of the string to extract.

Method 3: Using Regex to Find Substrings

TensorFlow supports regular expressions (regex) using the tf.strings.regex_full_match() function, which enables the searching of strings that fully match the regex pattern. This can be used for extracting substrings that follow a specific pattern.

Here’s an example:

import tensorflow as tf

# Define the string and the regex pattern
text = tf.constant('TensorFlow1001 is fun')
pattern = tf.constant(r'TensorFlow\d+')

# Find the substring matching the regex pattern
matching_substring = tf.strings.regex_full_match(text, pattern)


The output of this code snippet:


This code uses regex to determine if the given string contains a pattern starting with ‘TensorFlow’ followed by one or more digits. The function returns a Boolean indicating the presence of the pattern.

Method 4: Converting Between Characters and Their Indices

TensorFlow offers functions like tf.strings.unicode_decode() and tf.strings.unicode_encode() to convert between strings and their corresponding Unicode code points. This becomes useful for tasks like substring manipulation based on character encoding.

Here’s an example:

import tensorflow as tf

# Define a Unicode string
text_unicode = tf.constant('TensorFlow✨')

# Decode into Unicode code points
code_points = tf.strings.unicode_decode(text_unicode, 'UTF-8')


The output of this code snippet:

[ 84 101 110 115 111 114  70 108 111 119 10024]

Using tf.strings.unicode_decode(), the example converts a Unicode string into a sequence of code points. These code points could then be manipulated and later re-encoded into strings if necessary.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Quick Substring Search

The tf.strings.regex_full_match() can be used with the tf.map_fn() function for a quick one-liner to find all instances of a substring pattern within a batch of strings.

Here’s an example:

import tensorflow as tf

# A batch of strings
batch_texts = tf.constant(['learning TensorFlow', 'Tensor is fun', 'Flowing tensors'])

# Pattern to search for
pattern = "Tensor"

# Map the regex match function across the batch of strings
matches = tf.map_fn(lambda x: tf.strings.regex_full_match(x, pattern), batch_texts)


The output of this code snippet:

[False  True False]

This one-liner performs a substring search across multiple strings in a batch by applying a regex match to each string individually, returning a Boolean array where True indicates a match.


  • Method 1: String Split. Ideal for tokenizing strings. Can handle complex split patterns through regex. Might be overkill for simple substring extraction.
  • Method 2: Fixed-Size Substring Extraction. Best for situations with fixed-format strings. Simple and straightforward. Less flexible when dealing with variable string formats.
  • Method 3: Regex Full Match. Powerful for pattern matching. Can be used to validate patterns within strings. May require understanding of regex for complex patterns.
  • Method 4: Unicode Points Conversion. Allows low-level manipulation of strings. Can handle international scripts. More complex than necessary for common substring tasks.
  • Bonus Method 5: Quick Search. A one-liner solution for finding substring patterns in a batch of strings. Efficient but limited to pattern presence rather than extraction.