Using SETS in Python

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Using SETS in Python

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2 min read

Using the right tool for the job is central to programming. This holds when considering what data structure to use for a particular problem.

Python offers a variety of built-in data structures, and one of the most versatile among them is the set. Let's explore its strengths, weaknesses, and ideal use cases.

โœ… Strengths:
- Uniqueness: Sets automatically remove duplicates, ensuring each element is unique. You can convert a list into a set and back to a list to obtain a list of unique values in the original list.
- Fast Membership Testing: Checking if an item is in a set is much faster, typically constant time O(1), than in a list O(n).
- Set Operations: Supports union, intersection, difference, and more, making it powerful for mathematical operations.

โŒ Weaknesses:
- Unordered: Sets do not maintain the order of elements.
- Immutable Elements: Only hashable (immutable) elements can be added to a set. So, lists can't be set elements, but tuples can.
- No Indexing: You can't access or modify an element of a set using an index or key.

๐Ÿค” When to Use:
- When you need to ensure elements are unique.
- When you want to perform set operations like union, intersection, etc.
- When you require fast membership testing.


# Creating a set
vegetables = {"eggplant", "cucumber", "squash"}

# Adding an element
vegetables.add("potato")

# Test membership
print("potato" in vegetables) #True

# Removing duplicates from a list
unique_nums = set([1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5])
print(unique_nums) # {1, 2, 3, 4, 5}

# Set operations
a = {1, 2, 3}
b = {3, 4, 5}
print(a.union(b))  # {1, 2, 3, 4, 5}

In conclusion, the set container is a powerful tool in Python's arsenal. While it has its limitations, understanding when and how to use it can greatly enhance your coding efficiency!

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