Imagined-Trailing-Whitespace-Agnostic Levenshtein Distance For Plaintext Table Detection

Kartik Vempala

The standard algorithm for Levenshtein distance, treats trailing whitespace the same as any other letter or symbol. However, when humans compare 2 strings, we implicitly assume that both strings are padded by infinite trailing whitespace. This informs our expectations for what the costs for insertion, deletion and replacement, should be. This violation of our expectations results in non-intuitive edit distance values. To account for this specific human intuition, a naive approach which considers "all possible" substrings of trailing whitespace would yield an $O(n^3)$ algorithm. In this work, we provide an efficient $O(n^2)$ algorithm to compute the same. Keywords: Imagined Infinite Trailing Whitespace, Human Friendly, Intuitive Edit Distance, Table Detection, Table Alignment

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