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Determining if a String has Certain Substrings

There are numerous times when a developer would like to be able to quickly determine if a string contains a particular substring. Fortunately, there is the InStr function in VBScript that can be used to quickly determine whether or not a certain substring is within another string. The InStr function, whose technical documentation can be found here, has the following form:

InStr(start, SearchString, SubStringToFind[, compare])

The InStr function returns the starting position of SubStringToFind in SearchString if it is found, else InStr returns a value of zero (0). Therefore, a quick way to check if a string contains a particular substring is to use the following line of code:

Dim strSearchString, strSearchFor
strSearchString = "Now is the time for all good men to..."
strSearchFor = "men"
If InStr(1, strSearchString, strSearchFor) > 0 then
  'We found strSearchFor in strSearchString
  'We didn't find strSearchFor in strSearchString
End If

Fairly simple and straightforward... chances are you've used a similar chunk of code an uncountable number of times yourself in your own ASP pages. However, imagine that we have some string that we want to ensure does not have a large number of substrings? Perhaps we are letting a user enter a value into some textarea form field and we want to make sure that they do not have substrings like <html>, </html>, <body>, and </body>.

Well, we could simply have multiple InStr lines, but that would get annoying fast. Why not create a couple custom functions that will handle this for us in one or two lines of code? Before I delve into the code, let me explain what I am going to attempt to do here:

  • First, I will create a Dictionary object that will contain, as a key, each substring that we do not want to appear in some string. (For more information on the Dictionary object (Scripting.Dictionary), check out Using the Dictionary Object!) Each value of each Dictionary entry will initially be set to False.
  • When I want to determine if a string contains any offending substrings, I will loop through each element of my Dictionary object using InStr to check if the current Dictionary element's key (the offending substring) is found in the string. If it is, I'll adjust that entry's value from False to True.

To assist with this, I've created a number of helper functions. The first one is used to add an offending word to the Dictionary object of substrings that are not allowed:

Sub AddViolation(objDict, strWord)
  'Adds a violation (a substring that is not allowed)
  objDict.Add strWord, False
End Sub

Fairly straightforward, no? The function AddViolation expects two parameters: the Dictionary object of offending substrings and an illegal substring. The function simply adds a new element to the Dictionary object with the key as the offending word and a value of False.

The next helper function, CheckStringForViolations, expects two parameters: the string to check for any offending substrings, and the Dictionary object of illegal substrings. The function returns

Function CheckStringForViolations(strString, objDict)
  'Determines if the string strString has any violations
  Dim bolViolations
  bolViolations = False
  Dim strKey
  For Each strKey in objDict
    If InStr(1, strString, strKey, vbTextCompare) > 0 then
      bolViolations = True
      objDict(strKey) = True
    End If
  CheckStringForViolations = bolViolations  
End Function

The function starts off by assigning False to bolViolations; next, a For Each ... Next loop iterates through the Dictionary object. At each iteration, the current Dictionary object key is checked to see if it is a substring of the passed-in string strString. If it is, bolViolations is set to True and the current Dictionary element's value is set to True. The function concludes by returning the value of bolViolations.

A third and final helper function, ListViolations, returns a string that contains a list of those offending substrings found in the string:

Function ListViolations(objDict)
  'Returns a string of the violations found
  Dim strKey, strViolations
  For Each strKey in objDict
    If objDict(strKey) then
      strViolations = strViolations & strKey & ","
    End If

  ListViolations = Left(strViolations, Len(strViolations) - 1)
End Function

Now that we've examined these helper functions, it's time to look at them in use! We'll look at this, plus at some major enhancements, in Part 2!

  • Read Part 2

  • Article Information
    Article Title: Determining if a String has Certain Substrings
    Article Author: Scott Mitchell
    Published Date: Thursday, December 07, 2000
    Article URL:

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