Find first occurrence of two characters

So I have dealt with this problem before and thought there would be an accepted pattern to solve the problem, but I have yet to find anything. I tried searching around and I have tried tinkering around myself and neither resulted in any satisfactory answers so I am turning to SO

String str = "blah1blah2"

I want to know whether the char '1' or '2' occurs first (this is just a made up example obviously). I know I could use str.indexOf() for 1 and 2 to compare, but this presents the problem of it possibly returning -1.

Let me know what would be a good way to tackle this.

FYI: I am working in Java but I think this sort of indexOf function is pretty common in other languages.


I don't know what degree of flexibility you require, but I would just do this the good-old-fashioned way of looping through the String, something like this:

public static char findFirstChar(String str, char c1, char c2) {
    for (char c : str.toCharArray())
        if (c == c1 || c == c2)
            return c;
    return 0;

Of course, this will return the char it encounters first or 0 if neither neither chars are found in the string.

If you want to search for an arbitrary number of character:

public static char findFirstChar(String str, char ... chars) {
    for (char c1 : str.toCharArray())
        for (char c2 : chars)
            if (c1 == c2)
                return c1;
    return 0;

I would say you should start by defining exactly what behavior you want. Assume your search terms are "1" and "2", what should be returned for each of the following strings?

  • "blah1blah2"
  • "blah2blah1"
  • "blahblah1"
  • "blahblah2"
  • "blahblah"

Write test cases for each of these, with your answer. Now make the tests pass. Simple!

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