sort_by() public

Sorts enum using a set of keys generated by mapping the values in enum through the given block.

%w{ apple pear fig }.sort_by {|word| word.length}
             #=> ["fig", "pear", "apple"]

The current implementation of sort_by generates an array of tuples containing the original collection element and the mapped value. This makes sort_by fairly expensive when the keysets are simple

require 'benchmark'
include Benchmark

a = (1..100000).map {rand(100000)}

bm(10) do |b|
  b.report("Sort")    { a.sort }
  b.report("Sort by") { a.sort_by {|a| a} }


user     system      total        real
Sort        0.180000   0.000000   0.180000 (  0.175469)
Sort by     1.980000   0.040000   2.020000 (  2.013586)

However, consider the case where comparing the keys is a non-trivial operation. The following code sorts some files on modification time using the basic sort method.

files = Dir["*"]
sorted = files.sort {|a,b| File.new(a).mtime <=> File.new(b).mtime}
sorted   #=> ["mon", "tues", "wed", "thurs"]

This sort is inefficient: it generates two new File objects during every comparison. A slightly better technique is to use the Kernel#test method to generate the modification times directly.

files = Dir["*"]
sorted = files.sort { |a,b|
  test(?M, a) <=> test(?M, b)
sorted   #=> ["mon", "tues", "wed", "thurs"]

This still generates many unnecessary Time objects. A more efficient technique is to cache the sort keys (modification times in this case) before the sort. Perl users often call this approach a Schwartzian Transform, after Randal Schwartz. We construct a temporary array, where each element is an array containing our sort key along with the filename. We sort this array, and then extract the filename from the result.

sorted = Dir["*"].collect { |f|
   [test(?M, f), f]
}.sort.collect { |f| f[1] }
sorted   #=> ["mon", "tues", "wed", "thurs"]

This is exactly what sort_by does internally.

sorted = Dir["*"].sort_by {|f| test(?M, f)}
sorted   #=> ["mon", "tues", "wed", "thurs"]
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