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Utilizing the Dictionary Object

Developer: RhinoScript
Summary: This article discusses using VBScript's Dictionary object in your RhinoScript tools.

One of the nice features of other scripting languages, such as Perl and LISP, is what is called an associative array. An associative array differs from a “normal” array in one major way: rather than being indexed numerically (i.e. 0, 1, 2, 3, …), it is indexed by a key, or an English-like word. VBScript has something very similar to an associative array. This object is called the Dictionary object. Dictionaries are part of Microsoft's Script Runtime Library.

To construct an instance of a dictionary object, just use the following lines of code:

Dim objDictionary
Set objDictionary = CreateObject("Scripting.Dictionary")

It's that simple. To add items to your dictionary object, all you need to do is use the Add method. The Add method takes two parameters, the key and the item. The key is similar to the index in a numerically-based, indexed array, and the item is the value at that index. Here is an example of using the add method:

 objDictionary.Add "Name", "Scott"
 objDictionary.Add "Age", "20"

Note that “Name” and “Age” are the keys and “Scott” and “20” are the items corresponding to those keys. To see if a key exists, just use the Exists method:

If objDictionary.Exists("Name") Then
' Do something
' Do something else 
End If

You can retrieve all of the items and keys using one of two methods. The Items method returns an array of all the items in the Dictionary object, and the Keys method returns an array of all the Keys in the Dictionary object.

Dim ItemsArray, KeysArray
ItemsArray = objDictionary.Items
KeysArray = objDictionary.Keys
' The # of Items = UBound(ItemsArray)
' You can traverse through the array to print out all the values

To get a specific item, use the Item property.

Dim MyName
MyName = objDictionary.Item("Name")
' MyName = "Scott"

You can use the Count property to get the number of keys / items in a Dictionary object.

intCount = objDictionary.Count

The last important methods are the Remove and RemoveAll methods. RemoveAll removes all of the key / index pairs, while the Remove takes a Key as a parameter and removes the key/item pair.

' Now the "Name" / "Scott" are no more
' Now the entire Dictionary object is empty

On occasion, it may be important to sort your dictionary. You can sort a dictionary by using the following function

 ' Description:
 '   Sorts a dictionary by either key or item
 ' Parameters:
 '   objDict - the dictionary to sort
 '   intSort - the field to sort (1=key, 2=item)
 ' Returns:
 '   A dictionary sorted by intSort
 Function SortDictionary(objDict, intSort)
   ' declare constants
   Const dictKey  = 1
   Const dictItem = 2
   ' declare our variables
   Dim strDict()
   Dim objKey
   Dim strKey,strItem
   Dim X,Y,Z
   ' get the dictionary count
   Z = objDict.Count
   ' we need more than one item to warrant sorting
   If Z > 1 Then
     ' create an array to store dictionary information
     ReDim strDict(Z,2)
     X = 0
     ' populate the string array
     For Each objKey In objDict
         strDict(X,dictKey)  = CStr(objKey)
         strDict(X,dictItem) = CStr(objDict(objKey))
         X = X + 1
     ' perform a a shell sort of the string array
     For X = 0 To (Z - 2)
       For Y = X To (Z - 1)
         If StrComp(strDict(X,intSort),strDict(Y,intSort),vbTextCompare) > 0 Then
             strKey  = strDict(X,dictKey)
             strItem = strDict(X,dictItem)
             strDict(X,dictKey)  = strDict(Y,dictKey)
             strDict(X,dictItem) = strDict(Y,dictItem)
             strDict(Y,dictKey)  = strKey
             strDict(Y,dictItem) = strItem
         End If
     ' erase the contents of the dictionary object
     ' repopulate the dictionary with the sorted information
     For X = 0 To (Z - 1)
       objDict.Add strDict(X,dictKey), strDict(X,dictItem)
   End If
 End Function

The Dictionary object is not there to replace the array, but there are certainly times when it makes more sense to index your array using English-like terms as opposed to numerical values.

For more information on dictionaries, see Microsoft's Script Runtime reference.

developer/scriptsamples/dictionary.txt · Last modified: 2015/09/14 (external edit)