Arrays, both indexed and associative are a powerful and versatile data type,
regardless of the language you’re utilizing them in.
At one point in Bash’s history, pre-version 4.0, Bash only had indexed arrays.
These indexed arrays were defined as such:
# Initialize an array with values arr=("first" "second" "third") # Initalize an empty array and add values arr=() arr+=("first") arr+=("second") arr+=("third")
Great for maintaining simple lists of items! You can access the elements by
array index, or loop through them with a
Fast forward to the release of Bash 4.0 (I’m currently running 5.1.2 as of the
time of this writing), arrays were expanded to include the associative variety.
Before attempting to use associative arrays, be sure to check your bash version
% bash --version GNU bash, version 5.1.12(1)-release (x86_64-pc-linux-gnu) Copyright (C) 2020 Free Software Foundation, Inc. License GPLv3+: GNU GPL version 3 or later <http://gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html> This is free software you are free to change and redistribute it. There is NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law.
Assuming you have the right version, you can start by initializing an empty
associative array using the
declare statement, and populate the array with the
familiar bracket syntax:
# Initalize an associative array with values declare -A assocArr assocArr=(["first"]=123 ["second"]=456 ["third"]=789) # Initalize an empty associative array and add values declare -A assocArr assocArr["first"]=123 assocArr["second"]=456 assocArr["third"]=789
Then instead of using an index, you can reference the values by their key:
Definitely a step up when working with more complex data. Sadly though, Bash
doesn’t currently support nested arrays, but there are some tricks on how to
simulate this… which I’ll be saving for a future blog post 😉