MrExcel Consulting
Your One Stop for Excel Tips & Solutions

Fuzzy Match Challenge


Back in 1999, I used to publish a monthly challenge. It would be an insane problem and I would offer a MrExcel.com Coffee Mug to whoever came up with the best answer. We brought the challenge back in 2001 to solve this fuzzy match problem. Read about it below.


So - as a great big experiment, I am proud to announce the return of the Challenge. I'll explain the problem below. This is a tough challenge, so I will upgrade the prize offerings. Everyone who contributes and makes a significant contribution towards moving this challenge along to a solution will win an official MrExcel.com Olympic Winter Games Salt Lake 2002 Calendar. The calendar is packed with Winter Olympic history, schedules, and cool stickers for the kids. Whoever makes the most significant contribution to the answer with receive one of the super-deluxe embroidered MrExcel.com long sleeve denim shirts.

Here is the problem: Build in VBA a routine that will calculate a "fuzzy match" between two text strings. This routine will allow us to say that one string is a 75% match to the other string. Here are some examples:

"Ask MrExcel.com"
"Mr. Excel.com Consulting"

There are 11 characters which match and are in order between these two strings. We'll divide the 11 by the length of string1, 11/15 = 73% match.

"I B M"
"IBM Corporation"

This has 3 characters that match, divided by 5 in the top string, for a 60% match.

"A. Schulman"
"A Shulman"

The characters that match are A-space-S-h-u-l-m-a-n. That is 9 characters out of 11, for a 82% match. Note that the characters have to be in order.

"Elvis"
"Lives"

These two words have all the same characters, but the longest section in order is l-v-s for a 60% match.

I'll post any significant advances here in the Web log. Remember it shows posts in reverse chronological order, so the original post is at the bottom. The Blogger Comment feature is just so-so, so feel free to send advances to Chal @ MrExcel . com and I will periodically update the progress.


Results

Sunday, February 03, 2002

Ed Acosta sent this note and a nice little bit of code. It is not a UDF, but if you need to perform a fuzzy match on two columns of numbers it will work well.

I guess this is kind of late for the contest, but my code lines are less then the ones you posted and it works from what I tested. I basically determined that once a match is made on the first string from the second string the next comparison starts from that point of the first string.

Sub FuzzyMatch()
Dim L, L1, L2, M, SC, T, R As Integer
Dim Fstr, Sstr As String

	For R = 1 To Range("A65536").End(xlUp).Row
		L = 0: M = 0: SC = 1
		Fstr = UCase(Cells(R, 1).Value)
		Sstr = UCase(Cells(R, 2).Value)
		L1 = Len(Fstr)
		L2 = Len(Sstr)
		Do While L < L1
			L = L + 1
				For T = SC To L1
					If Mid$(Sstr, L, 1) <> Mid$(Fstr, T, 1) Then GoTo RS
					M = M + 1
					SC = T
					T = L1 + 1
RS:
			Next T
		Loop
		Cells(R, 3).Value = M / L1
	Next R

End Sub

Wednesday, November 07, 2001

Damon Ostrander followed up with this code. It is nice and compact. Excellent entry from Damon. I'll queue him up for one of the MrExcel.com T-Shirts. First his comments, then the code:

I took a different approach to the problem, writing a function using only built-in VBA resources. The function can be called either from VBA or directly from a worksheet using for example the syntax:

=Fuzzy("I B M","The IBM Corporation")

to return the percentage match.

I limited the first string to 24 characters max since the algorithm used is not the fastest--it does an exhaustive compare against every ordered combination of characters in the first string. I believe it could be made much more efficient via the use of Grey Code rather than straight binary so that each time a match is found all lesser matches would automatically be eliminated.

This method yields the correct percentages for each of the examples given in the challenge including the IBM case above, which yields 60%.

Dim TopMatch         As Integer
Dim strCompare       As String
Function Fuzzy(strIn1 As String, strIn2 As String) As Single
Dim L1 As Integer
Dim In1Mask(1 To 24) As Long 'strIn1 is 24 characters max
Dim iCh As Integer
Dim N As Long
Dim strTry As String
Dim strTest As String

	TopMatch = 0
	L1 = Len(strIn1)
	strTest = UCase(strIn1)
	strCompare = UCase(strIn2)

	For iCh = 1 To L1
		In1Mask(iCh) = 2 ^ iCh
		Next iCh

	'Loop thru all ordered combinations of characters in strIn1
	For N = 2 ^ (L1 + 1) - 1 To 1 Step -1
		strTry = ""
		For iCh = 1 To L1
			If In1Mask(iCh) And N Then
				strTry = strTry & Mid(strTest, iCh, 1)
			End If
		Next iCh
		If Len(strTry) > TopMatch Then TestString strTry
	Next N

	Fuzzy = TopMatch / CSng(L1)
End Function

Sub TestString(strIn As String)
Dim L As Integer
Dim strTry As String
Dim iCh As Integer

	L = Len(strIn)
	If L <= TopMatch Then Exit Sub

	strTry = "*"

	For iCh = 1 To L
		strTry = strTry & Mid(strIn, iCh, 1) & "*"
	Next iCh

	If strCompare Like strTry Then
		If L > TopMatch Then TopMatch = L
		End If

End Sub

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Damon Ostrander checked in with this note:

The problem definition is not entirely clear. For example, in the comparison of the two strings:

"Ask MrExcel.com"
"Mr. Excel.com Consulting"

There are supposed to be 11 characters that match. But what about the s in Ask matching with the s in Consulting? And if this is not a legitimate match, then what about matching the two strings:

"Ask MrExcel.com"
"Mr. Excel.com Consulting, Ask"

Would the two "Ask" strings not count as matching?

Great questions. As I posted on October 17th, the characters must be in order to match. This would preclude the "s" in Ask to match the "s" in Consulting. If the letters could match in any order, then these two strings would be a 100% match:

"Damon Ostrander"
"Mastadon Errand"

I like Damon's second question, which makes me want to change the original question. It would be tempting to include a "significant" number of sequential letters matching as in:

"LastName, FirstName"
"FirstName, LastName"


Sunday, October 28, 2001

Andrew from Australia wrote with comments. Juan Pablo's code looks OK. The solution to handle the IBM pair is to swap str1 & str2 and re-run the i1 loop. Thanks to Andrew for his contribution. A MrExcel.com 2002 Olympic Calendar is on its way to Australia for his suggestion shown below.

Sub FuzzyMatch()
Dim i1 As Integer
Dim i As Integer
Dim TopString As String
Dim TopMatch As String
Dim Str1 As String
Dim Str2 As String
Dim Ar1() As Integer
Dim Fn As WorksheetFunction
	Set Fn = WorksheetFunction
	Str1 = Application.InputBox("Cell Address First String", , , , , , , 8)
	Str2 = Application.InputBox("Cell Address Second String", , , , , , , 8)
	ReDim Ar1(Len(Str1)) As Integer
	On Error Resume Next

	FirstRun = True
ReRun:
	For i1 = 1 To Len(Str1)
		For i = 1 To Len(Str1)
			Ar1(i) = 0
		Next i
		TopString = ""
		i = 1
		F = Fn.Search(Mid(Str1, i1, 1), Str2)
		If Not IsEmpty(F) Then
			TopString = IIf(1 >= Len(TopString), Mid(Str1, i1, 1), TopString)
			Ar1(i) = F
			i = i + 1
			F = Empty
			For j1 = i1 + 1 To Len(Str1)
				F = Fn.Search(Mid(Str1, j1, 1), Str2, Ar1(i - 1))
					If Not IsEmpty(F) Then
						If F > Ar1(i - 1) Then
							TopString = IIf(Len(TopString & Mid(Str1, j1, 1)) >= Len(TopString),_
								TopString & Mid(Str1, j1, 1), TopString)
							Ar1(i) = F
							i = i + 1
						End If
					F = Empty
				End If
			Next j1
		End If
		TopMatch = IIf(Len(TopMatch) < Len(TopString), TopString, TopMatch)
	Next i1
	
	If FirstRun then
		FirstRun = False
		StrTemp = Str1
		Str1 = Str2
		Str2 = StrTemp
		GoTo ReRun
	End if
	
	MsgBox "Top Match is: '" & TopMatch & "', with a fuzzy match of " & _
	Fn.Text(Len(TopMatch) / Len(Str1), "0.00%") & "."
End Sub

Thursday, October 18, 2001

After Qroozn got us off to a stellar start ;-), Juan Pablo sent in the first serious stab at a solution. The thing works for every case except "I B M" and "IBM Corporation". Take a look at it, build on it.

Sub FuzzyMatch()
Dim i1 As Integer
Dim i As Integer
Dim TopString As String
Dim TopMatch As String
Dim Str1 As String
Dim Str2 As String
Dim Ar1() As Integer
Dim Fn As WorksheetFunction
	Set Fn = WorksheetFunction
	Str1 = Application.InputBox("Cell Address 
	First String", , , , , , , 8)
	Str2 = Application.InputBox("Cell Address 
	Second String", , , , , , , 8)
	ReDim Ar1(Len(Str1)) As Integer
	On Error Resume Next

	For i1 = 1 To Len(Str1)
		For i = 1 To Len(Str1)
			Ar1(i) = 0
		Next i
		TopString = ""
		i = 1
		F = Fn.Search(Mid(Str1, i1, 1), Str2)
		If Not IsEmpty(F) Then
			TopString = IIf(1 >= Len(TopString), Mid(Str1, i1, 1), TopString)
			Ar1(i) = F
			i = i + 1
			F = Empty
			For j1 = i1 + 1 To Len(Str1)
				F = Fn.Search(Mid(Str1, j1, 1), Str2, Ar1(i - 1))
				If Not IsEmpty(F) Then
					If F > Ar1(i - 1) Then
						TopString = IIf(Len(TopString & Mid(Str1, j1, 1)) >= Len(TopString), _
							TopString & Mid(Str1, j1, 1), TopString)
						Ar1(i) = F
						i = i + 1
					End If
					F = Empty
				End If
			Next j1
		End If
		TopMatch = IIf(Len(TopMatch) < Len(TopString), TopString, TopMatch)
	Next i1

	MsgBox "Top Match is: '" & TopMatch & "', with a fuzzy match of " & _
	Fn.Text(Len(TopMatch) / Len(Str1), "0.00%") & "."
End Sub

Juan Pablo definitely has an official MrExcel.com 2002 Salt Lake City Official Olympic Calendar coming his way. Thanks for the entry.


November 19, 2003

Joe Stanton checked in to thank us for the routine posted by Ed Acosta. Joe offered his wrapper application that allows the search to operate on a word by word basis with garbage-characters removed and with extra words discarded (optional).

Function FuzzyMatchByWord(ByVal lsPhrase1 As String, ByVal lsPhrase2 As String, Optional lbStripVowels As Boolean = False, Optional lbDiscardExtra As Boolean = False) As Double

'
' Compare two phrases and return a similarity value (between 0 and 100).
'
' Arguments:
'
' 1. Phrase1        String; any text string
' 2. Phrase2        String; any text string
' 3. StripVowels    Optional to strip all vowels from the phrases
' 4. DiscardExtra   Optional to discard any unmatched words
'
   
    'local variables
    Dim lsWord1() As String
    Dim lsWord2() As String
    Dim ldMatch() As Double
    Dim ldCur As Double
    Dim ldMax As Double
    Dim liCnt1 As Integer
    Dim liCnt2 As Integer
    Dim liCnt3 As Integer
    Dim lbMatched() As Boolean
    Dim lsNew As String
    Dim lsChr As String
    Dim lsKeep As String
   
    'set default value as failure
    FuzzyMatchByWord = 0
   
    'create list of characters to keep
    lsKeep = "BCDFGHJKLMNPQRSTVWXYZ0123456789 "
    If Not lbStripVowels Then
        lsKeep = lsKeep & "AEIOU"
    End If
   
    'clean up phrases by stripping undesired characters
    'phrase1
    lsPhrase1 = Trim$(UCase$(lsPhrase1))
    lsNew = ""
    For liCnt1 = 1 To Len(lsPhrase1)
        lsChr = Mid$(lsPhrase1, liCnt1, 1)
        If InStr(lsKeep, lsChr) <> 0 Then
            lsNew = lsNew & lsChr
        End If
    Next
    lsPhrase1 = lsNew
    lsPhrase1 = Replace(lsPhrase1, "  ", " ")
    lsWord1 = Split(lsPhrase1, " ")
    If UBound(lsWord1) = -1 Then
        Exit Function
    End If
    ReDim ldMatch(UBound(lsWord1))
    'phrase2
    lsPhrase2 = Trim$(UCase$(lsPhrase2))
    lsNew = ""
    For liCnt1 = 1 To Len(lsPhrase2)
        lsChr = Mid$(lsPhrase2, liCnt1, 1)
        If InStr(lsKeep, lsChr) <> 0 Then
            lsNew = lsNew & lsChr
        End If
    Next
    lsPhrase2 = lsNew
    lsPhrase2 = Replace(lsPhrase2, "  ", " ")
    lsWord2 = Split(lsPhrase2, " ")
    If UBound(lsWord2) = -1 Then
        Exit Function
    End If
    ReDim lbMatched(UBound(lsWord2))
   
    'exit if empty
    If Trim$(lsPhrase1) = "" Or Trim$(lsPhrase2) = "" Then
        Exit Function
    End If
   
    'compare words in each phrase
    For liCnt1 = 0 To UBound(lsWord1)
        ldMax = 0
        For liCnt2 = 0 To UBound(lsWord2)
            If Not lbMatched(liCnt2) Then
                ldCur = FuzzyMatch(lsWord1(liCnt1), lsWord2(liCnt2))
                If ldCur > ldMax Then
                    liCnt3 = liCnt2
                    ldMax = ldCur
                End If
            End If
        Next
        lbMatched(liCnt3) = True
        ldMatch(liCnt1) = ldMax
    Next
   
    'discard extra words
    ldMax = 0
    For liCnt1 = 0 To UBound(ldMatch)
        ldMax = ldMax + ldMatch(liCnt1)
    Next
    If lbDiscardExtra Then
        liCnt2 = 0
        For liCnt1 = 0 To UBound(lbMatched)
            If lbMatched(liCnt1) Then
                liCnt2 = liCnt2 + 1
            End If
        Next
    Else
        liCnt2 = UBound(lsWord2) + 1
    End If
   
    'return overall similarity
    FuzzyMatchByWord = 100 * (ldMax / liCnt2)
   
End Function

Function FuzzyMatch(Fstr As String, Sstr As String) As Double

'
' Code sourced from: http://www.mrexcel.com/pc07.shtml
' Credited to: Ed Acosta
' Modified: Joe Stanton
'

    Dim L, L1, L2, M, SC, T, R As Integer
   
    L = 0
    M = 0
    SC = 1
   
    L1 = Len(Fstr)
    L2 = Len(Sstr)
   
    Do While L < L1
        L = L + 1
        For T = SC To L1
            If Mid$(Sstr, L, 1) = Mid$(Fstr, T, 1) Then
                M = M + 1
                SC = T
                T = L1 + 1
            End If
        Next T
    Loop
   
    If L1 = 0 Then
        FuzzyMatch = 0
    Else
        FuzzyMatch = M / L1
    End If

End Function