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10.2.6 Merging an Array into a String

When doing string processing, it is often useful to be able to join all the strings in an array into one long string. The following function, join(), accomplishes this task. It is used later in several of the application programs (see Practical awk Programs).

Good function design is important; this function needs to be general, but it should also have a reasonable default behavior. It is called with an array as well as the beginning and ending indices of the elements in the array to be merged. This assumes that the array indices are numeric—a reasonable assumption, as the array was likely created with split() (see String-Manipulation Functions):

# join.awk --- join an array into a string

function join(array, start, end, sep,    result, i)
    if (sep == "")
       sep = " "
    else if (sep == SUBSEP) # magic value
       sep = ""
    result = array[start]
    for (i = start + 1; i <= end; i++)
        result = result sep array[i]
    return result

An optional additional argument is the separator to use when joining the strings back together. If the caller supplies a nonempty value, join() uses it; if it is not supplied, it has a null value. In this case, join() uses a single space as a default separator for the strings. If the value is equal to SUBSEP, then join() joins the strings with no separator between them. SUBSEP serves as a “magic” value to indicate that there should be no separation between the component strings.70



It would be nice if awk had an assignment operator for concatenation. The lack of an explicit operator for concatenation makes string operations more difficult than they really need to be.

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