How to sort a list of strings?


What is the best way of creating an alphabetically sorted list in Python?

4/25/2017 7:27:47 PM

Accepted Answer

Basic answer:

mylist = ["b", "C", "A"]

This modifies your original list (i.e. sorts in-place). To get a sorted copy of the list, without changing the original, use the sorted() function:

for x in sorted(mylist):
    print x

However, the examples above are a bit naive, because they don't take locale into account, and perform a case-sensitive sorting. You can take advantage of the optional parameter key to specify custom sorting order (the alternative, using cmp, is a deprecated solution, as it has to be evaluated multiple times - key is only computed once per element).

So, to sort according to the current locale, taking language-specific rules into account (cmp_to_key is a helper function from functools):

sorted(mylist, key=cmp_to_key(locale.strcoll))

And finally, if you need, you can specify a custom locale for sorting:

import locale
locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, 'en_US.UTF-8') # vary depending on your lang/locale
assert sorted((u'Ab', u'ad', u'aa'),
  key=cmp_to_key(locale.strcoll)) == [u'aa', u'Ab', u'ad']

Last note: you will see examples of case-insensitive sorting which use the lower() method - those are incorrect, because they work only for the ASCII subset of characters. Those two are wrong for any non-English data:

# this is incorrect!
mylist.sort(key=lambda x: x.lower())
# alternative notation, a bit faster, but still wrong
10/21/2011 1:24:56 PM

It is also worth noting the sorted() function:

for x in sorted(list):
    print x

This returns a new, sorted version of a list without changing the original list.



It really is that simple :)


The proper way to sort strings is:

import locale
locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, 'en_US.UTF-8') # vary depending on your lang/locale
assert sorted((u'Ab', u'ad', u'aa'), cmp=locale.strcoll) == [u'aa', u'Ab', u'ad']

# Without using locale.strcoll you get:
assert sorted((u'Ab', u'ad', u'aa')) == [u'Ab', u'aa', u'ad']

The previous example of mylist.sort(key=lambda x: x.lower()) will work fine for ASCII-only contexts.


Please use sorted() function in Python3

items = ["love", "like", "play", "cool", "my"]

But how does this handle language specific sorting rules? Does it take locale into account?

No, list.sort() is a generic sorting function. If you want to sort according to the Unicode rules, you'll have to define a custom sort key function. You can try using the pyuca module, but I don't know how complete it is.


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