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Perl Cookbook by Nathan Torkington, Tom Christiansen

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Taking References to Arrays

Problem

You need to manipulate an array by reference.

Solution

To get a reference to an array:

$aref               = \@array;
$anon_array         = [1, 3, 5, 7, 9];
$anon_copy          = [ @array ];
@$implicit_creation = (2, 4, 6, 8, 10);

To deference an array reference, precede it with an at sign (@):

push(@$anon_array, 11);

Or use a pointer arrow plus a bracketed subscript for a particular element:

$two = $implicit_creation->[0];

To get the last index number by reference, or the number of items in that referenced array:

$last_idx  = $#$aref;
$num_items = @$aref;

Or defensively embracing and forcing context:

$last_idx  = $#{ $aref };
$num_items = scalar @{ $aref };

Discussion

Here are array references in action:

# check whether $someref contains a simple array reference
if (ref($someref) ne 'ARRAY') {
    die "Expected an array reference, not $someref\n";
}

print "@{$array_ref}\n";        # print original data

@order = sort @{ $array_ref };  # sort it

push @{ $array_ref }, $item;    # append new element to orig array

If you can’t decide whether to use a reference to a named array or to create a new one, here’s a simplistic guideline that will prove right more often than not. Only take a reference to an existing array either to return the reference out of scope, thereby creating an anonymous array, or to pass the array by reference to a function. For virtually all other cases, use [@array] to create a new array reference with a copy of the old values.

Automatic reference counting and the backslash operator make ...

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