Generic Perfect Hash Generator

Ilan Schnell, 2008 provides a perfect hash generator which is not language specific. That is, the generator can output a perfect hash function for a given set of keys in any programming language, this is achieved by filling a given code template.


This code is derived from A. M. Kuchling's Perfect Minimal Hash Generator.


A perfect hash function of a certain set S of keys is a hash function which maps all keys in S to different numbers. That means that for the set S, the hash function is collision-free, or perfect. Further, a perfect hash function is called minimal when it maps n keys to n consecutive integers, usually in the range from 0 to n-1.

After coming across A. M. Kuchling's Perfect Minimal Hash Generator, I decided to write a general tool for generating perfect hashes. It is general in the sense that it can produce perfect hash functions for almost any programming language. A given code template is filled with parameters, such that the output is code which implements the hash function.

The algorithm the program uses is described in the paper "Optimal algorithms for minimal perfect hashing", Z. J. Czech, G. Havas and B.S. Majewski.

I tried to illustrate the algorithm and explain how it works on this page.


Given a set of keys which are ordinary character string, the program returns a minimal perfect hash function. This hash function is returned in the form of Python code by default. Suppose we have a file with keys:

# 'animals.txt'

The exact way this file is parsed can be specified using command line options, for example it is possible to only read one column from a file which contains different items in each row. The program is invoked like this:

# =======================================================================
# ================= Python code for perfect hash function ===============
# =======================================================================

G = [0, 0, 4, 1, 0, 3, 8, 1, 6]

S1 = [5, 0, 0, 6, 1, 0, 4, 7]
S2 = [7, 3, 6, 7, 8, 5, 7, 6]

def hash_f(key, T):
    return sum(T[i % 8] * ord(c) for i, c in enumerate(str(key))) % 9

def perfect_hash(key):
    return (G[hash_f(key, S1)] + G[hash_f(key, S2)]) % 9

# ============================ Sanity check =============================

K = ["Elephant", "Horse", "Camel", "Python", "Dog", "Cat"]
H = [0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

assert len(K) == len(H) == 6

for k, h in zip(K, H):
    assert perfect_hash(k) == h

The way the program works is by filling a code template with the calculated parameters. The program can take such a template in form of a file and fill in the calculated parameters, this allows the generation of perfect hash function in any programming language. The hash function is kept quite simple and does not require machine or language specific byte level operations which might be hard to implement in the target language. The following parameters are available in the template, and will expand to:

stringexpands to
$NSthe length of S1 and S2
$S1array of integers S1
$S2array of integers S2
$NGlength of array G
$Garray of integers G
$NKthe number of keys, i.e. length of array K and H
$Karray with the quoted keys
$Harray of integer hash values
$$$ (a literal dollar sign)

A literal $ is escaped as $$. Since the syntax for arrays is not the same in all programming languages, some specifics can be adjusted using command line options. The section of the built-in template which creates the actual hash function is:

G = [$G]

S1 = [$S1]
S2 = [$S2]

def hash_f(key, T):
    return sum(T[i % $NS] * ord(c) for i, c in enumerate(str(key))) % $NG

def perfect_hash(key):
    return (G[hash_f(key, S1)] + G[hash_f(key, S2)]) % $NG

Using code templates, makes this program very flexible. The package comes with several complete examples for C and C++. There are many choices one faces when implementing a static hash table: do the parameter lists go into a separate header file, should the API for the table only contain the hash values, but not the objects being mapped, and so on. All these various choices are possible because of the template is simply filled with the parameters, no matter what else is inside the template.

Another possible use the program is as a python module. The functions and classes in are documented and have clean interfaces. The folder example-Python has examples which shows how the module can be used directly in this way.


Python 2.5


Source: perfect_hash-0.1.tar.gz (version 0.1, May 2008)

For later versions which also support Python 3, check: