My O(n) solution

Hi all,

I’m sure it’s come up before but I wanted to share my O(n) solution before I replace it with the TMap solution from the lectures. I think this is technically implementing a hashmap, it just uses a really simple hashing function: I just subtract ‘a’ from the current letter to get the index into the 26 element array. So ‘a’ - ‘a’ would be 0, ‘b’ - ‘a’ would be 1, etc. That works because the chars are implemented as ASCII encoded integers.

bool FBullCowGame::IsIsogram(const FString& Word) const {
    constexpr int ALPHABET_LENGTH = 26;
    bool LettersSeen[ALPHABET_LENGTH];
    // Set all letters to 0;
    for (int i = 0; i < ALPHABET_LENGTH; i++) {
        LettersSeen[i] = false;
    // Loop over the word
    for (int i = 0; i < Word.length(); i++) {
        int LetterIndex = static_cast<int>(Word[i] - 'a');
        if (LettersSeen[LetterIndex]) {
            return false;
        } else {
            LettersSeen[LetterIndex] = true;
    return true;
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Hello dear @sillypog,

basically this is a O(n+26) order. Each time the function is executed the first loop iterate 26 times over the alphabet-array and for each character within the word the second loop iterate one more time.

A 5 word isogram means O(5+26) loop-cycles. Imagine a coordinate-system where the x-axis is the count of the characters of the isogram and the y-axis is the value of O.


I thought this was an interesting way to go about it.

Also; since we know that the bool array initializes to true; you wont need to do the for loop to set things to false.

Instead use (!) to get your false reading - here is a quick example with the printed result

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Hi @OtenMoten and @McZawa, I really appreciate the feedback.

I didn’t realise that the bool array would initialize to true. I did try a modified version of the function where I use bool LettersSeen[ALPHABET_LENGTH] = {0}; // Set all letters to 0; to avoid the loop, but I don’t know how that will be implemented when it is compiled so it might not actually be more efficient.

Normally I wouldn’t worry about the lower order terms when analyzing the algorithm’s performance: usually O(n+26) can be considered O(n) since the length of the string will have a much bigger effect for large values of n. But since most of the guesses we’re dealing with will be relatively short because there aren’t many long isograms it probably does make sense to try to eliminate the loop here.

So now I have another solution that involves using bitmasks. Since an integer contains 32 bits, all of the 26 letters of the alphabet can be stored as bits in a single integer rather than having 26 separate 1 byte (8 bit) bools. So these would be represented as:

0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0001 : A
0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0010 : B
0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0100 : C
0000 0001 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 : Y
0000 0010 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 : Z

Then, if we get C as a character in our word, that will be int(C-A) = 2. We can create the representation of C by shifting the integer 1 (which is A in this encoding) by 2, ie: BitMask = 1 << 2.

Then we can check if it is in our LettersSeen integer by bit masking this with bitwise AND, ie LettersSeen & BitMask. For any letter, if it has not yet been seen the result will be 0.

Then we can add it to the LettersSeen integer using the same bitmask and bitwise OR, ie LettersSeen = LettersSeen | BitMask.

0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0001 0001 : Value is 17: already seen A and D
0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0100 : Add C to it 
0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0001 0101 : Value is now 21

This is more efficient in terms of space, since we’re using a single integer instead of an array. It should also be faster because, in addition to removing the array setup, these bitwise operations tend to be really fast.

Here’s the code:

bool isIsogramBitshift(const string& Word) {
  int LettersSeen = 0;

  // Loop over the word
  for (size_t i = 0; i < Word.length(); i++) {
    int LetterIndex = static_cast<int>(Word[i] - 'a');
    int BitMask = 1 << LetterIndex;

    if ((LettersSeen & BitMask) > 0) {
      return false;
    } else {
      LettersSeen = LettersSeen | BitMask;

  return true;


Thanks for sharing this solution.

Storing your alphabet into a single integer and checking with Bitmask is brilliant.

I can imagine quite a few useful ways of using this method of checking to be useful. Maybe inventory space in an RPG (Item add <<; taken out >>, or the [32] 1s means its completely full.)

Bookmarking this for later reference.

Thanks again!.

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