# Alternative to Subsets to generate k-combinations

I need to generare a huge number of k-combinations for a quite big set of numbers (more than 100), so I would avoid Subsets because it requires too much memory (it generates all subsets at once). I would create combinations one after another, so to keep only those valid for my purpose. It might be very stupid, but I cannot find any alternative to a nested sequence of Do, that obviously I consider not very efficient. Is there any alternative? Here the example of nested Do:

n=5;
Do[Do[Do[Print@{i,j,k}, {k, j+1, n}], {j, i+1, n-1}], {i, n-2}]


(* {1,2,3}

{1,2,4}

{1,2,5}

{1,3,4}

{1,3,5}

{1,4,5}

{2,3,4}

{2,3,5}

{2,4,5}

{3,4,5}*)

• You will want to look up (the implementation of) NextKSubset[] in the old Combinatorica  package. For background on the algorithm used, see Nijenhuis and Wilf (which is the reference Skiena based his implementation on). – J. M.'s discontentment Jun 17 '15 at 13:13
• Related: Lazy lists of Tuples and Subsets – jkuczm Jun 17 '15 at 14:22
• @J. M., I had a look at the file still available in Mathematica10 and the most important think is that the function there used is compiled and it is very useful for me. Thanks for the valuable suggestion. – bobknight Jun 17 '15 at 19:29

Subsets function takes optional third argument with standard sequence specification. Using this third argument you can take subsets "in chunks".

For example, following code gives three 5-combinations from positions 90000 to 90002, from all 8 trillions 5-combinations of set of 1000 elements:

Subsets[Range, {5}, {90000, 90002}]
(* {{1, 2, 3, 98, 845}, {1, 2, 3, 98, 846}, {1, 2, 3, 98, 847}} *)


# Lazy subsets

Using undocumented Streaming module introduced in v10.1 you can implement lazy list of subsets i.e. an object that generally behaves like ordinary list, but it's not a whole list that needs to be stored in memory. Instead, when needed, it generates subsets in "chunks" of desired length.

Here is a very simple version, based on LazyTuples.

Needs["Streaming"]

ClearAll[lazySubsets]
lazySubsets[list_, nspec_:All, chunkSize:_Integer?Positive:100000] :=
Module[{ctr = 0, active = False},
(* Test whether given arguments are valid for Subsets. *)
Check[
Quiet[Subsets[list, nspec, {1}], Subsets::take],
Return[$Failed, Module] ]; LazyListCreate[ IteratorCreate[ ListIterator, (active = True) &, With[ {taken = Quiet[ Subsets[list, nspec, {ctr + 1, ctr + chunkSize}], Subsets::take ] } , ctr += Length[taken]; taken ] &, TrueQ[active] &, Remove[active, ctr] & ] , chunkSize ] ]  Example of usage: subs = lazySubsets[Range, {3}] (* « LazyList[{1, 2, 3}, {1, 2, 4}, {1, 2, 5}, {1, 3, 4}, {1, 3, 5}, ...] » *)  You can iterate over subs as if it was an ordinary list: Scan[Print, subs] (* {1,2,3} {1,2,4} {1,2,5} {1,3,4} {1,3,5} {1,4,5} {2,3,4} {2,3,5} {2,4,5} {3,4,5} *)  You can Map a function and get another lazy list: f /@ subs (* « LazyList[f[{1, 2, 3}], f[{1, 2, 4}], f[{1, 2, 5}], f[{1, 3, 4}], f[{1, 3, 5}], ...] » *)  Get it's Length or certain Part: subs // Length (* 10 *) subs[] (* {1, 3, 5} *)  Memory required to use this lazy list depends on given chunkSize. Applying function to ordinary list of all 8 388 608 subsets of set of 23 elements requires over gigabyte of memory to store whole list: Scan[Identity, Subsets[Range]] // MaxMemoryUsed (* 1 194 005 632 *)  Applying function to lazy list, that takes 10^5 subsets in chunk, takes much more time, but uses only fifty megabytes: Scan[Identity, lazySubsets[Range, All, 10^5]] // MaxMemoryUsed (* 55 351 288 *)  Taking 10^4 subsets per chunk uses only seven megabytes of memory: Scan[Identity, lazySubsets[Range, All, 10^4]] // MaxMemoryUsed (* 7 154 944 *)  Clean up cache after playing with Streaming: Scan[LazyListDestroy, LazyLists[]]  # Scanning subsets chunks using only documented functions If you want to apply some function to all k-combinations, but taken in chunks, something like following function can be useful (version with some inspirations from belisarius's comment, a bit more robust than my previous version): ClearAll[scanSubsetsChunks] scanSubsetsChunks[f_, data_, nspec_:All, chunkLength_Integer?Positive] := Module[ { i = chunkLength + 1, getChunk = Quiet[ Subsets[data, nspec, {#, # + chunkLength - 1}], Subsets::take ]&, chunk }, chunk = Check[getChunk, Return[$Failed, Module]];
While[chunk =!= {},
f[chunk];
chunk = getChunk[i];
i += chunkLength;
]
]

scanSubsetsChunks[Print, Range, {3}, 3]
(* {{1,2,3},{1,2,4},{1,2,5}}
{{1,3,4},{1,3,5},{1,4,5}}
{{2,3,4},{2,3,5},{2,4,5}}
{{3,4,5}} *)

• The same shorter and without needing error control:sSC[f_, data_, nspec_, cl_] := Module[{p, i = 1, last, k = Subsets[data, nspec, #] &}, last = Last@k@-1; While[Last[p = Quiet@k@{i, i + cl - 1}] != last, f@p; i += cl;]; f@p] – Dr. belisarius Jun 17 '15 at 15:46
• @belisarius Shorter indeed, exactly tweet-length. – jkuczm Jun 17 '15 at 16:51
• Not by chance :) – Dr. belisarius Jun 17 '15 at 16:53
• @jkuczm thanks for the nice solution and additional function, this is exactly what I was looking for. – bobknight Jun 17 '15 at 19:28