Mark Needham

Thoughts on Software Development

Shell: Create a comma separated string

without comments

I recently needed to generate a string with comma separated values, based on iterating a range of numbers.

e.g. we should get the following output where n = 3

foo-0,foo-1,foo-2

I only had the shell available to me so I couldn’t shell out into Python or Ruby for example. That means it’s bash scripting time!

If we want to iterate a range of numbers and print them out on the screen we can write the following code:

n=3
for i in $(seq 0 $(($n > 0? $n-1: 0))); do 
  echo "foo-$i"
done
 
foo-0
foo-1
foo-2

Combining them into a string is a bit more tricky, but luckily I found a great blog post by Andreas Haupt which shows what to do. Andreas is solving a more complicated problem than me but these are the bits of code that we need from the post.

n=3
combined=""
 
for i in $(seq 0 $(($n > 0? $n-1: 0))); do 
  token="foo-$i"
  combined="${combined}${combined:+,}$token"
done
echo $combined
 
foo-0,foo-1,foo-2

This won’t work if you set n<0 but that’s ok for me! I’ll let Andreas explain how it works:

  • ${combined:+,} will return either a comma (if combined exists and is set) or nothing at all.
  • In the first invocation of the loop combined is not yet set and nothing is put out.
  • In the next rounds combined is set and a comma will be put out.

We can see how it in action by printing out the value of $combined after each iteration of the loop:

n=3
combined=""
 
for i in $(seq 0 $(($n > 0 ? $n-1: 0))); do 
  token="foo-$i"
  combined="${combined}${combined:+,}$token"
  echo $combined
done
 
foo-0
foo-0,foo-1
foo-0,foo-1,foo-2

Looks good to me!

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Written by Mark Needham

June 23rd, 2017 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Shell Scripting

Tagged with , ,