bash read array from file Easy Tutorial

bash read array from file – Easy Tutorial

Bash read array from file is an important concept in Shell scripting. It allows you to store data in the form of an array, making it easier to manipulate and use in your scripts. The concept is simple yet powerful, as it allows you to populate an array with the output of a command or the contents of a file. By using index numbers, you can access the array elements effectively. In this article, we will explore the significance of bash read array from file and its implementation.

What is Bash Read Array from File?

Bash read array from file is a simple command used in Shell scripting to store data in the form of arrays. This utility allows for the output of any command to be fed as an input to the array, which populates it. Additionally, the contents of a file can also be stored in an array directly. By using index numbers, the elements of the array can be accessed effectively.

How to Read Array from File in Bash?

Reading array from a file is a common task in programming. The Bash readarray utility is an efficient and simple way to store data in an array. Here’s a step-by-step guide to reading an array from a file:

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Setting Internal Field Separator(IFS)

Before reading the file, you need to set the Internal Field Separator (IFS) to the delimiter you want to use to separate the elements in the file. By default, IFS is set to whitespace, but you can change it to a different character.

In this example, we’ll use a comma as the delimiter. Here’s the code to set IFS:


Step 2: Reading and Storing File Contents into Array

To read the contents of the file, we use the readarray command, specifying the array variable name and using the < operator to redirect file contents to the standard input.

readarray -t my_array < file.txt

This command will read the contents of file.txt and store each line in the my_array array, removing the trailing newlines with the -t option.

Step 3: Looping Through the Array Elements

Finally, we can loop through each element in the array using a for loop. Here’s an example code to print each element in the array:

for element in "${my_array[@]}"
   echo "$element"

This code will print each element in the array in a separate line.

And that’s it — you now know how to read an array from a file in Bash using the readarray utility. Remember to set the IFS and specify your file name correctly for efficient and accurate results.

Example Usages of Bash Read Array from File

Bash read array from file is a useful tool in Shell scripting that allows storing data from a file in an array. Here are some examples and scenarios where it can be used:

1. Reading a Configuration File

Configuration files usually contain key-value pairs that are needed by the script. One way to store these key-value pairs is by using readarray. The keys can be saved in one array and the values in another, enabling easy access and modification.

2. Parsing Log Files

Log files provide valuable information about the status and performance of applications. Bash read array from file can be used to parse log files and store the relevant information in an array. This information can then be used to generate reports or alerts.

3. Processing CSV Files

Comma-separated values (CSV) files are commonly used to store data in a tabular format. Using readarray, a CSV file can be easily parsed and converted into an array of arrays, where each sub-array corresponds to a row in the CSV file. This makes it easy to perform calculations or apply transformations to the data.

4. Working with Large Data Sets

When working with large data sets, it can be impractical to load all the data into memory at once. Bash read array from file can be used to read data from disk in chunks and process each chunk separately. This can significantly reduce memory usage and improve the overall performance of the script.

In conclusion, bash read array from file is a versatile tool that can be used in many different situations. It provides an efficient way to store and access data in Shell scripting, and can help make complex tasks more manageable.

Common Issues and Solutions

If you’re having issues with Bash read array from file, here are some common problems and solutions you may encounter:

  • Array Output is in Single Line: If the output of your array is in a single line, you can try using the ‘-t’ option to remove the trailing newlines from each line. This can give you a more readable output.
  • File Content cannot be Read: If you’re having trouble reading the contents of a file, make sure that you have proper read permissions for that file. You can also try to use the ‘<‘ command to redirect the contents of the file to the standard input.

These are just a few of the common issues that you may encounter when working with the Bash read array from file utility. By following these solutions, you can save time and avoid frustrations in your Bash scripting journey.

Bash Read Array from File vs. Other Methods

Bash read array from file is a simple, single line command that stores data in the form of an array. Compared to other methods like using a for loop, while loop, or xargs, readarray can efficiently process large amounts of data. The contents of a file can be directly stored in an array variable with readarray, whereas with other methods, additional commands are needed. For example, with a for loop, the array needs to be broken down by substrings separated by spaces, which complicates the process. In terms of performance, bash read array from file is faster than while loops and xargs, especially when dealing with a large number of elements.

Tips and Tricks

Sorting and Filtering Array

Once you have populated your array with data, you may want to sort or filter the array to make it more manageable. To sort the array, you can use the sort command. For example, to sort the array in ascending order based on the third column, use the following command:

sort -k 3 arrayname

To filter the array, you can use the grep command. For example, to print all elements in the array containing the word “hello”, use the following command:

grep "hello" arrayname

Performance Optimization

When working with large arrays, performance may become an issue. Here are a few tips to optimize the performance of your arrays:

  • Minimize the number of array elements
  • Avoid using complex data structures within array elements such as nested arrays or hashes
  • Avoid using loops to iterate through the entire array when possible


In conclusion, understanding how to read array from file in Bash is crucial in Shell scripting. The readarray utility is a simple, single line command that populates an array with data, whether it’s from the output of any command or by directly storing the contents of a file in an array. Using the Ultimate Bash Array Tutorial with 15 Examples provides an efficient way to manipulate and access elements in an array. By optimizing array analytics in JavaScript, users can quickly iterate through large amounts of data. Overall, knowing how to work with arrays in Bash and JavaScript can save time and streamline processes in data-rich environments.


For more information about Bash readarray, check out the Bash Arrays Documentation on the GNU website. To learn more about shell scripting and process automation in Linux, visit the Shell Scripting Tutorial website.

Being a web developer, writer, and blogger for five years, Jade has a keen interest in writing about programming, coding, and web development.
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