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NAME    [Toc]    [Back]

       perllol - Manipulating Arrays of Arrays in Perl

DESCRIPTION    [Toc]    [Back]

       Declaration and Access of Arrays of Arrays

       The simplest thing to build is an array of arrays (sometimes
 imprecisely called a list of lists).  It's reasonably
 easy to understand, and almost everything that
       applies here will also be applicable later on with the
       fancier data structures.

       An array of an array is just a regular old array @AoA that
       you can get at with two subscripts, like $AoA[3][2].
       Here's a declaration of the array:

           # assign to our array, an array of array references
           @AoA = (
                  [ "fred", "barney" ],
                  [ "george", "jane", "elroy" ],
                  [ "homer", "marge", "bart" ],

           print $AoA[2][2];

       Now you should be very careful that the outer bracket type
       is a round one, that is, a parenthesis.  That's because
       you're assigning to an @array, so you need parentheses.
       If you wanted there not to be an @AoA, but rather just a
       reference to it, you could do something more like this:

           # assign a reference to array of array references
           $ref_to_AoA = [
               [ "fred", "barney", "pebbles",  "bambam",  "dino",
               [ "homer", "bart", "marge", "maggie", ],
               [ "george", "jane", "elroy", "judy", ],

           print $ref_to_AoA->[2][2];

       Notice that the outer bracket type has changed, and so our
       access syntax has also changed.  That's because unlike C,
       in perl you can't freely interchange arrays and references
       thereto.  $ref_to_AoA is a reference to an array, whereas
       @AoA is an array proper.  Likewise, $AoA[2] is not an
       array, but an array ref.  So how come you can write these:


       instead of having to write these:

       Well, that's because the rule is that on adjacent brackets
       only (whether square or curly), you are free to omit the
       pointer dereferencing arrow.  But you cannot do so for the
       very first one if it's a scalar containing a reference,
       which means that $ref_to_AoA always needs it.

       Growing Your Own    [Toc]    [Back]

       That's all well and good for declaration of a fixed data
       structure, but what if you wanted to add new elements on
       the fly, or build it up entirely from scratch?

       First, let's look at reading it in from a file.  This is
       something like adding a row at a time.  We'll assume that
       there's a flat file in which each line is a row and each
       word an element.  If you're trying to develop an @AoA
       array containing all these, here's the right way to do

           while (<>) {
               @tmp = split;
               push @AoA, [ @tmp ];

       You might also have loaded that from a function:

           for $i ( 1 .. 10 ) {
               $AoA[$i] = [ somefunc($i) ];

       Or you might have had a temporary variable sitting around
       with the array in it.

           for $i ( 1 .. 10 ) {
               @tmp = somefunc($i);
               $AoA[$i] = [ @tmp ];

       It's very important that you make sure to use the "[]"
       array reference constructor.  That's because this will be
       very wrong:

           $AoA[$i] = @tmp;

       You see, assigning a named array like that to a scalar
       just counts the number of elements in @tmp, which probably
       isn't what you want.

       If you are running under "use strict", you'll have to add
       some declarations to make it happy:
           use strict;
           my(@AoA, @tmp);
           while (<>) {
               @tmp = split;
               push @AoA, [ @tmp ];

       Of course, you don't need the temporary array to have a
       name at all:

           while (<>) {
               push @AoA, [ split ];

       You also don't have to use push().  You could just make a
       direct assignment if you knew where you wanted to put it:

           my (@AoA, $i, $line);
           for $i ( 0 .. 10 ) {
               $line = <>;
               $AoA[$i] = [ split ' ', $line ];

       or even just

           my (@AoA, $i);
           for $i ( 0 .. 10 ) {
               $AoA[$i] = [ split ' ', <> ];

       You should in general be leery of using functions that
       could potentially return lists in scalar context without
       explicitly stating such.  This would be clearer to the
       casual reader:

           my (@AoA, $i);
           for $i ( 0 .. 10 ) {
               $AoA[$i] = [ split ' ', scalar(<>) ];

       If you wanted to have a $ref_to_AoA variable as a reference
 to an array, you'd have to do something like this:

           while (<>) {
               push @$ref_to_AoA, [ split ];

       Now  you can add new rows.  What about adding new columns?
       If you're dealing with just matrices, it's often easiest
       to use simple assignment:
           for $x (1 .. 10) {
               for $y (1 .. 10) {
                   $AoA[$x][$y] = func($x, $y);

           for $x ( 3, 7, 9 ) {
               $AoA[$x][20] += func2($x);

       It doesn't matter whether those elements are already there
       or not: it'll gladly create them for you, setting intervening
 elements to "undef" as need be.

       If you wanted just to append to a row, you'd have to do
       something a bit funnier looking:

           # add new columns to an existing row
           push @{ $AoA[0] }, "wilma", "betty";

       Notice that I couldn't say just:

           push $AoA[0], "wilma", "betty";  # WRONG!

       In fact, that wouldn't even compile.  How come?  Because
       the argument to push() must be a real array, not just a
       reference to such.

       Access and Printing    [Toc]    [Back]

       Now it's time to print your data structure out.  How are
       you going to do that?  Well, if you want only one of the
       elements, it's trivial:

           print $AoA[0][0];

       If you want to print the whole thing, though, you can't

           print @AoA;         # WRONG

       because you'll get just references listed, and perl will
       never automatically dereference things for you.  Instead,
       you have to roll yourself a loop or two.  This prints the
       whole structure, using the shell-style for() construct to
       loop across the outer set of subscripts.

           for $aref ( @AoA ) {
               print " [ @$aref ],0;

       If you wanted to keep track of subscripts, you might do
           for $i ( 0 .. $#AoA ) {
               print " elt $i is [ @{$AoA[$i]} ],0;

       or maybe even this.  Notice the inner loop.

           for $i ( 0 .. $#AoA ) {
               for $j ( 0 .. $#{$AoA[$i]} ) {
                   print "elt $i $j is $AoA[$i][$j]0;

       As you can see, it's getting a bit complicated.  That's
       why sometimes is easier to take a temporary on your way

           for $i ( 0 .. $#AoA ) {
               $aref = $AoA[$i];
               for $j ( 0 .. $#{$aref} ) {
                   print "elt $i $j is $AoA[$i][$j]0;

       Hmm... that's still a bit ugly.  How about this:

           for $i ( 0 .. $#AoA ) {
               $aref = $AoA[$i];
               $n = @$aref - 1;
               for $j ( 0 .. $n ) {
                   print "elt $i $j is $AoA[$i][$j]0;

       Slices    [Toc]    [Back]

       If you want to get at a slice (part of a row) in a multidimensional
 array, you're going to have to do some fancy
       subscripting.  That's because while we have a nice synonym
       for single elements via the pointer arrow for dereferencing,
 no such convenience exists for slices.  (Remember, of
       course, that you can always write a loop to do a slice

       Here's how to do one operation using a loop.  We'll assume
       an @AoA variable as before.

           @part = ();
           $x = 4;
           for ($y = 7; $y < 13; $y++) {
               push @part, $AoA[$x][$y];

       That same loop could be replaced with a slice operation:
           @part = @{ $AoA[4] } [ 7..12 ];

       but as you might well imagine, this is pretty rough on the

       Ah, but what if you wanted a two-dimensional slice, such
       as having $x run from 4..8 and $y run from 7 to 12?
       Hmm... here's the simple way:

           @newAoA = ();
           for ($startx = $x = 4; $x <= 8; $x++) {
               for ($starty = $y = 7; $y <= 12; $y++) {
                   $newAoA[$x   -   $startx][$y   -   $starty]  =

       We can reduce some of the looping through slices

           for ($x = 4; $x <= 8; $x++) {
               push @newAoA, [ @{ $AoA[$x] } [ 7..12 ] ];

       If you were into Schwartzian Transforms, you would probably
 have selected map for that

           @newAoA = map { [ @{ $AoA[$_] } [ 7..12 ] ] } 4 .. 8;

       Although if your manager accused of seeking job security
       (or rapid insecurity) through inscrutable code, it would
       be hard to argue. :-) If I were you, I'd put that in a

           @newAoA = splice_2D( @AoA, 4 => 8, 7 => 12 );
           sub splice_2D {
               my $lrr = shift;        # ref to  array  of  array
               my ($x_lo, $x_hi,
                   $y_lo, $y_hi) = @_;

               return map {
                   [ @{ $lrr->[$_] } [ $y_lo .. $y_hi ] ]
               } $x_lo .. $x_hi;

SEE ALSO    [Toc]    [Back]

       perldata(1), perlref(1), perldsc(1)

AUTHOR    [Toc]    [Back]

       Tom Christiansen <tchrist@perl.com>

       Last update: Thu Jun  4 16:16:23 MDT 1998

perl v5.8.5                 2002-11-06                          6
[ Back ]
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