How do I create a random alpha-numeric string in C++?


Question

I'd like to create a random string, consisting of alpha-numeric characters. I want to be able to be specify the length of the string.

How do I do this in C++?

1
159
1/13/2009 6:16:30 PM

Accepted Answer

Mehrdad Afshari's answer would do the trick, but I found it a bit too verbose for this simple task. Look-up tables can sometimes do wonders:

void gen_random(char *s, const int len) {
    static const char alphanum[] =
        "0123456789"
        "ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ"
        "abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz";

    for (int i = 0; i < len; ++i) {
        s[i] = alphanum[rand() % (sizeof(alphanum) - 1)];
    }

    s[len] = 0;
}
263
5/23/2017 12:18:30 PM

Here's my adaptation of Ates Goral's answer using C++11. I've added the lambda in here, but the principle is that you could pass it in and thereby control what characters your string contains:

std::string random_string( size_t length )
{
    auto randchar = []() -> char
    {
        const char charset[] =
        "0123456789"
        "ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ"
        "abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz";
        const size_t max_index = (sizeof(charset) - 1);
        return charset[ rand() % max_index ];
    };
    std::string str(length,0);
    std::generate_n( str.begin(), length, randchar );
    return str;
}

Here is an example of passing in a lambda to the random string function: http://ideone.com/Ya8EKf

Why would you use C++11?

  1. Because you can produce strings that follow a certain probability distribution (or distribution combination) for the character set you're interested in.
  2. Because it has built-in support for non-deterministic random numbers
  3. Because it supports unicode, so you could change this to an internationalized version.

For example:

#include <iostream>
#include <vector>
#include <random>
#include <functional> //for std::function
#include <algorithm>  //for std::generate_n

typedef std::vector<char> char_array;

char_array charset()
{
    //Change this to suit
    return char_array( 
    {'0','1','2','3','4',
    '5','6','7','8','9',
    'A','B','C','D','E','F',
    'G','H','I','J','K',
    'L','M','N','O','P',
    'Q','R','S','T','U',
    'V','W','X','Y','Z',
    'a','b','c','d','e','f',
    'g','h','i','j','k',
    'l','m','n','o','p',
    'q','r','s','t','u',
    'v','w','x','y','z'
    });
};    

// given a function that generates a random character,
// return a string of the requested length
std::string random_string( size_t length, std::function<char(void)> rand_char )
{
    std::string str(length,0);
    std::generate_n( str.begin(), length, rand_char );
    return str;
}

int main()
{
    //0) create the character set.
    //   yes, you can use an array here, 
    //   but a function is cleaner and more flexible
    const auto ch_set = charset();

    //1) create a non-deterministic random number generator      
    std::default_random_engine rng(std::random_device{}());

    //2) create a random number "shaper" that will give
    //   us uniformly distributed indices into the character set
    std::uniform_int_distribution<> dist(0, ch_set.size()-1);

    //3) create a function that ties them together, to get:
    //   a non-deterministic uniform distribution from the 
    //   character set of your choice.
    auto randchar = [ ch_set,&dist,&rng ](){return ch_set[ dist(rng) ];};

    //4) set the length of the string you want and profit!        
    auto length = 5;
    std::cout<<random_string(length,randchar)<<std::endl;
    return 0;
}

Sample output.


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