About Me


Nested associative Arrays

This articel describes one of the lesser known features of the kornshell 93, nested associative Arrays.

Let's say, you want to represent the contents of an INI-style file as a shell variable. The first index should hold the section names and the second one the key names.

If you can define all the entries in one statement, you can write

    ['section 1']=(
        ['key 1']='entry 1/1'
        ['key 4']='entry 1/4'
        ['key 7']='entry 1/7'
    ['section 2']=(
        ['key 2']='entry 2/2'
        ['key 5']='entry 2/5'
        ['key 8']='entry 2/8'
    ['section 3']=(
        ['key 1']='entry 3/1'
        ['key 4']='entry 3/4'
        ['key 8']='entry 3/8'

But most of the time you will have to build the array step by step. In this case you can write

typeset -A ini=()
typeset -A ini['section 1']=()
ini['section 1']['key 1']='entry 1/1'
ini['section 1']['key 4']='entry 1/4'
ini['section 1']['key 7']='entry 1/7'
typeset -A ini['section 2']=()
ini['section 2']['key 2']='entry 2/2'
ini['section 2']['key 5']='entry 2/5'
ini['section 2']['key 8']='entry 2/8'
typeset -A ini['section 3']=()
ini['section 3']['key 1']='entry 3/1'
ini['section 3']['key 4']='entry 3/4'
ini['section 3']['key 8']='entry 3/8'

In both cases you get identical variables ini.

To access a specific value of the array you can write


To enumerate all values of the first index, use


To enumerate all values of the second index for a given first index $section, write


This is used in the following code to dump the entire array to stdout:

for section in "${!ini[@]}"
    for key in "${!ini[$section][@]}"
        print -r -- "ini[$section][$key] = ${ini[$section][$key]}"

which produces the following output

ini[section 1][key 1] = entry 1/1
ini[section 1][key 4] = entry 1/4
ini[section 1][key 7] = entry 1/7
ini[section 2][key 2] = entry 2/2
ini[section 2][key 5] = entry 2/5
ini[section 2][key 8] = entry 2/8
ini[section 3][key 1] = entry 3/1
ini[section 3][key 4] = entry 3/4
ini[section 3][key 8] = entry 3/8

To use this feature, you need at least ksh93t. The examples were tested with version 93t+ 2009-05-01 and 93u+ 2011-06-22.

Paul Herger

SCSA Zertifikat

knowhow/kornshell/nestedarrays.txt · Last modified: 2011/09/29 10:00 by Paul Herger
© Paul Herger