Chapter 5. Hashes

Hashes and arrays are the two basic “aggregate” data types supported by most modern programming lagnguages. The basic interface of a hash is similar to that of an array. The difference is that while an array stores items according to a numeric index, the index of a hash can be any object at all.

Arrays and strings have been built into programming languages for decades, but built-in hashes are a relatively recent development. Now that they’re around, it’s hard to live without them: they’re at least as useful as arrays.

You can create a Hash by calling or by using one of the special sytaxes Hash[] or {}. With the Hash[] syntax, you pass in the initial elements as comma-separated object references. With the {} syntax, you pass in the initial contents as comma-separated key-value pairs.

	empty =                            # => {}
	empty ={}                                   # => {}
	numbers = { 'two' => 2, 'eight' => 8} # => {"two"=>2, "eight"=>8}
	numbers = Hash['two', 2, 'eight', 8]        # => {"two"=>2, "eight"=>8}

Once the hash is created, you can do hash lookups and element assignments using the same syntax you would use to view and modify array elements:

	numbers["two"]                              # => 2
	numbers["ten"] = 10                         # => 10
	numbers                                     # => {"two"=>2, "eight"=>8, "ten"=>10}

You can get an array containing the keys or values of a hash with Hash#keys or Hash#values. You can get the entire hash as an array with Hash#to_a:

 numbers.keys # => ["two", "eight", "ten"] numbers.values # => [2, 8, 10] numbers.to_a # => [["two", 2], ["eight", 8], ["ten", ...

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