Python – Binary search (bisection) in Python


Is there a library function that performs binary search on a list/tuple and return the position of the item if found and 'False' (-1, None, etc.) if not?

I found the functions bisect_left/right in the bisect module, but they still return a position even if the item is not in the list. That's perfectly fine for their intended usage, but I just want to know if an item is in the list or not (don't want to insert anything).

I thought of using bisect_left and then checking if the item at that position is equal to what I'm searching, but that seems cumbersome (and I also need to do bounds checking if the number can be larger than the largest number in my list). If there is a nicer method I'd like to know about it.

Edit To clarify what I need this for: I'm aware that a dictionary would be very well suited for this, but I'm trying to keep the memory consumption as low as possible. My intended usage would be a sort of double-way look-up table. I have in the table a list of values and I need to be able to access the values based on their index. And also I want to be able to find the index of a particular value or None if the value is not in the list.

Using a dictionary for this would be the fastest way, but would (approximately) double the memory requirements.

I was asking this question thinking that I may have overlooked something in the Python libraries. It seems I'll have to write my own code, as Moe suggested.

Best Solution

bisect_left finds the first position p at which an element could be inserted in a given sorted range while maintaining the sorted order. That will be the position of x if x exists in the range. If p is the past-the-end position, x wasn't found. Otherwise, we can test to see if x is there to see if x was found.

from bisect import bisect_left

def binary_search(a, x, lo=0, hi=None):
    if hi is None: hi = len(a)
    pos = bisect_left(a, x, lo, hi)                  # find insertion position
    return pos if pos != hi and a[pos] == x else -1  # don't walk off the end