Humaid Alqasimi

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Detecting the Empty Character in Go

Jul 29, 2020 · 2 min read

I have recently been working on an online ticketing system. I have been using strings.TrimSpace for a while, and it works well. I tested it with the “empty character” from, and it failed to detect whatever whitespace characters it was using.

I thought it was just strings.TrimSpace not detecting different types of Unicode’s empty characters. So I replaced it with strings.TrimFunc(s, unicode.IsSpace), and it still didn’t clear the spaces1.

Disecting that empty character, we find it actually made up of five different characters:

  • U+200F: Right-To-Left Mark
  • U+200F: Right-To-Left Mark
  • U+200E: Left-To-Right Mark
  • U+0020: Regular Space
  • U+200E: Left-To-Right Mark

We can see that it is using a control character to prevent the regular space from being trimmed.

However, Go doesn’t list these characters as control characters2, so we cannot use unicode.IsControl. But it is included in the unicode.Bidi_Control subset. Here’s my first solution:

func isImproperChar(r rune) bool {
	return unicode.IsSpace(r) || unicode.In(r, unicode.Bidi_Control)

strings.TrimFunc(s, IsImproperChar)

This would trim away at bi-directional control characters, which is probably a really bad idea especially in systems supporting Arabic, Hebrew, or other right-to-left languages.

So we can just trim it to measure the length, then discarding the trimmed result.

func IsEmpty(s string) bool {
	return len(strings.TrimFunc(s, func(r rune) bool {
		return unicode.IsSpace(r) || unicode.In(r, unicode.Bidi_Control)
	})) == 0

Try it out on the Go playground!

Have a better solution? Please let me know!

This is my eighth post in the #100DaysToOffload challenge.

  1. I thought unicode.IsSpace wasn’t detecting detecting some types of spaces. But after some testing, that doesn’t seem to be the case. ↩︎

  2. Not listed on unicode/tables.go:7108 as pC (control character), but rather it’s included in the Bidi_Control subset. ↩︎

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