# Introduction

Two weeks ago I have written a blog post about comparison of byte and character indexing of strings in Julia Base.

In the mean time I have answered several questions when users had to subset a String in Julia using character indices. In this post I show a macro that allows to do this.

This code is tested to work under Julia 1.5.

# The implementation of @char macro

The @char macro is shown below (I hope I got all hygene right — if not please let me know)

What this macro does is turning str[idx] expression from using byte indexing to use character indexing by writing @char str[idx]. I think it is simplest to explain it using an example:

julia> "∀∃12😄🍕"[2:5]
ERROR: StringIndexError("∀∃12😄🍕", 2)
Stacktrace:
[1] string_index_err(::String, ::Int64) at ./strings/string.jl:12
[2] getindex(::String, ::UnitRange{Int64}) at ./strings/string.jl:249
[3] top-level scope at REPL[5]:1

julia> @char "∀∃12😄🍕"[2:5]
"∃12😄"

julia> str = "∀∃12😄🍕"
"∀∃12😄🍕"

julia> str[2:5]
ERROR: StringIndexError("∀∃12😄🍕", 2)
Stacktrace:
[1] string_index_err(::String, ::Int64) at ./strings/string.jl:12
[2] getindex(::String, ::UnitRange{Int64}) at ./strings/string.jl:249
[3] top-level scope at REPL[17]:1

julia> @char str[2:5]
"∃12😄"


Let us also check that we correctly handle begin and end when indexing:

julia> idx = [2, 4]
2-element Array{Int64,1}:
2
4

julia> @char str[[begin, idx[begin], idx[end], end]]
"∀∃2🍕"

julia> @macroexpand @char str[[begin, idx[begin], idx[end], end]]
:(str[(nextind).(str, 0, [(Base).firstindex(str), idx[(firstindex)(idx)],
idx[(lastindex)(idx)], (Base).length(str)])])


and all seems to work correctly.

I have limited this macro to expect that in str[idx] expression str is a variable name or a string literal to simplify the logic of the code (allowing str to be a general expression would lead to a much more complex code). I assume that in practice this should not be a severe limitation.
In terms of performance this macro does not do any optimizations of the lookup of character index as nextind is called for each byte index separately, so in some special cases this could be optimized.
Finally it is worth to remember that for most common cases of string subsetting the first, last and chop functions defined in Julia Base are available and they use character indexing.