0.3.0 • Public • Published


Betwixt implements three operations on (a subset of) JavaScript strings:

  • Betwixt.before(s) returns a string less than s
  • Betwixt.after(s) returns a string greater than s
  • Betwixt.between(s,t) returns
    • a string greater than s and less than t if s < t,
    • a string greater than t and less than s if t < s, and
    • s if s and t are equal.

(We say a subset of JavaScript strings because Betwixt strings are nonempty and have no trailing null (\u0000) characters.)

The use case is this: suppose we have a reorderable list — an ordered list where the order can be manually changed by the user. Furthermore, each list item is an independent database record. We want to be able to change the position of an item by changing its order field, without changing any other records in the database (as well as to add an item to the beginning or end of the list, or between any two items in the list).

If we could order the list using real numbers we could do this easily. For instance, suppose the list is sorted by a field called order, and there are two records a and z with a.order < z.order. If we have a fresh record call new, we can put it at the start of the list by setting new.order = a.order-1. We can put it at the end of the list by setting new.order = z.order+1. And we can put it between a and z by setting new.order = (a.order+z.order)/2. If we have a list with elements a, b, and c in that order, we can move c between a and b by changing c.order to (a.order+b.order)/2.

Unfortunately, we can't get our hands on actual real numbers, and JavaScript's Number type (IEEE 64-bit floating point) can run out of precision relatively quickly: Suppose a.order is 1 and b.order is 2, and we insert new1 between a and z, new2 between a and new1, new3 between a and new2, and so forth, using the method of averaging given above. By the time we get to new53, floating point precision limitations will cause new53.order to be 1 — the same as a.order. We'll no longer be able to guarantee that our list is ordered as the user wishes.

But we don't need actual real numbers -- we need what mathematicians call a dense linear order (without endpoints). Betwixt implements that — see the annotated CoffeeScript source for information about how it's done. The specs may also be informative.

Other Methods

  • Betwixt.trim(s) returns s with trailing null characters removed
  • Betwixt.validated(s) is like Betwixt.trim(s), but throws an error if the result would be the empty string
  • Betwixt.toHex(s) returns a hexadecimal representation of s.
  • Betwixt.midpoint() returns a string that's a good initial value for the rank of the item in a one-item list — representations of the values above and below the midpoint are equally space-efficient.


One caveat: using Betwixt strings, we can do almost unlimited numbers of the insertions described above; but if we do, say a million of them, then the new1000000.order string will be something like 125,000 bytes long. Things will probably not be that bad in practice, since changes and insertions are likely to be more random in real-world applications. And Betwixt tries to minimize string explosion where it can. In particular, the before and after methods optimize the common cases where an item is inserted at the beginning or end of a list.

See also

Dominic Tarr's between npm module is very similar to Betwixt, though less space-efficient.


npm i betwixt

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