Posts Tagged ‘lists’

Introduction to Erlang : List Comprehension

This entry is part 13 of 16 in the series Introduction to Erlang

List Comprehension

Do you remember the lists:map/2 and lists:filter/2 functions from the previous post? If not, consult the Lists & lists Module post. lists:map(Function, List) returns a new list that results from List after applying the Function to each element. lists:filter(Predicate, List) returns a list that contains only the elements of List for which the call to Predicate returns true.

Both the aforementioned operations are commonly used, as well as their combination; map & filter (does it remind you map & reduce?). Erlang provides this combined functionality using the list comprehension construct.


A list comprehension look like the following:

[Expression || Generators1, Guards1, Generators2, ...]

As their name suggests, generators create the data used in the filter-map operations. A generator has the Pattern < - Data format, where Data is a list or an expression that results to a list and Pattern is a pattern used to match with the elements of the list. This pattern can be used to disassembly elements. For example, two valid generators are I < - lists:seq(1, 10) and {X, Y} < - [{'A', 'Excellent'}, {'B', 'Good'}, {'C', 'Fair'}].


The expression specifies the elements of the result. For example, [I || I < - [1, 2, 3]] returns the input list element as is.


Guards are expressions that return either true or false, the same as the guards we have seen in the previous posts. They apply to the variables that are on the left of the guard and the ones that are accessible due to the scope where the comprehension runs. For example, I < - [1, 2, 3, 4], I rem 2 == 0 is a valid generator - guard combination (the result should be obvious; only the even numbers "pass" the guard's test).
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Introduction to Erlang : List & lists Module

This entry is part 12 of 16 in the series Introduction to Erlang


List is the the most important data type in Erlang, as in every (?) functional programming language. We have seen and used lists in almost every previous post. In this post, I will briefly present the “theory” of lists and then present the Erlang’s lists module and its most important functions.


A list can be recursively defined as the construct that

  • either is the empty list (denoted as [] in Erlang),
  • or is a cosntruct that its first element is a term (called head) and what remains if the head is removed is a list (called tail)

In Erlang a list of N elements has the [Element1, Element2, ..., ElementN] format (N is called the length of the list). So, [] is the empty list, [1], [{a}] are 1-element lists, [1, 2], [a, {b, c}] are 2-elements lists, etc. As we will see in a while, the format [Element1, Element2, ..., ElementN] is a shorthand for the [Element1 | [Element2 | ... | [ElementN | []] ... ] representation.
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