I stuck with an strange behaviour of readarray command.

The man bash states:

     Read lines from the standard input into the indexed array variable array

but these scripts don't work (array is empty):

unset arr; (echo a; echo b; echo c) | readarray arr; echo ${#arr[@]}
unset arr; cat /etc/passwd | readarray arr;  echo ${#arr[@]}

And these work:

unset arr; readarray arr < /etc/passwd ;  echo ${#arr[@]}
unset arr; mkfifo /tmp/fifo; (echo a; echo b; echo c) > /tmp/fifo & mapfile arr < /tmp/fifo ; echo ${#arr[@]}

What wrong with pipe?

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Maybe try:

unset arr
printf %s\\n a b c | {
    readarray arr
    echo ${#arr[@]}

I expect it will work, but the moment you step out of that last { shell ; } context at the end of the |pipeline there you'll lose your variable value. This is because each of the |separate | processes within a |pipeline is executed in a (subshell). So your thing doesn't work for the same reason:

( arr=( a b c ) ) ; echo ${arr[@]}

...doesn't - the variable value was set in a different shell process than the one in which you call on it.

  • 1
    Yes. You are right. I forgot about subshells. Thank you. – dchirikov Jun 9 '14 at 11:58

To ensure the readarray command executes in the current shell, either use process substitution in place of the pipeline:

readarray arr < <( echo a; echo b; echo c )

or (if bash 4.2 or later) use the lastpipe shell option:

shopt -s lastpipe
( echo a; echo b; echo c ) | readarray arr
  • 1
    Cool. This works, but what exactly is process substitution? And what does it mean to have < < 2 arrows? – CMCDragonkai Jul 1 '14 at 2:15
  • 1
    See the bash man page. In short, it's syntax for treating a pipeline as a file descriptor. < <(...) means to redirect input (the first <) from the output of the command inside <(...). Similary, > >(...) would pass standard output to the standard input of the pipeline inside >(...). You don't necessarily need to use redirection with process substitution. cat <( echo a b c ) works as well. – chepner Jul 1 '14 at 14:40

readarray can also read from stdin, so:

readarray arr <<< "$(echo a; echo b; echo c)"; echo ${#arr[@]}

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