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Effective awk Programming, 4th Edition by Arnold Robbins

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Chapter 8. Arrays in awk

An array is a table of values called elements. The elements of an array are distinguished by their indices. Indices may be either numbers or strings.

This chapter describes how arrays work in awk, how to use array elements, how to scan through every element in an array, and how to remove array elements. It also describes how awk simulates multidimensional arrays, as well as some of the less obvious points about array usage. The chapter moves on to discuss gawk’s facility for sorting arrays, and ends with a brief description of gawk’s ability to support true arrays of arrays.

The Basics of Arrays

This section presents the basics: working with elements in arrays one at a time, and traversing all of the elements in an array.

Introduction to Arrays

Doing linear scans over an associative array is like trying to club someone to death with a loaded Uzi.

Larry Wall

The awk language provides one-dimensional arrays for storing groups of related strings or numbers. Every awk array must have a name. Array names have the same syntax as variable names; any valid variable name would also be a valid array name. But one name cannot be used in both ways (as an array and as a variable) in the same awk program.

Arrays in awk superficially resemble arrays in other programming languages, but there are fundamental differences. In awk, it isn’t necessary to specify the size of an array before starting to use it. Additionally, any number or string, not just consecutive integers, may be ...

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