We introduce a new algorithm for constructing the generalized suffix array of a collection of highly similar strings. As a first step, we construct a compressed representation of the matching statistics of the collection with respect to a reference string. We then use this data structure to distribute suffixes into a partial order, and subsequently to speed up suffix comparisons to complete the generalized suffix array. Our experimental evidence with a prototype implementation (a tool we call sacamats) shows that on string collections with highly similar strings we can construct the suffix array in time competitive with or faster than the fastest available methods. Along the way, we describe a heuristic for fast computation of the matching statistics of two strings, which may be of independent interest.
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