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This chapter is from the book

2.2 array—Sequence of Fixed-Type Data

  • Purpose Manage sequences of fixed-type numerical data efficiently.
  • Python Version 1.4 and later

The array module defines a sequence data structure that looks very much like a list, except that all members have to be of the same primitive type. Refer to the standard library documentation for array for a complete list of the types supported.

2.2.1 Initialization

An array is instantiated with an argument describing the type of data to be allowed, and possibly an initial sequence of data to store in the array.

import array
import binascii

s = 'This is the array.'
a = array.array('c', s)

print 'As string:', s
print 'As array :', a
print 'As hex   :', binascii.hexlify(a)

In this example, the array is configured to hold a sequence of bytes and is initialized with a simple string.

$ python array_string.py

As string: This is the array.
As array : array('c', 'This is the array.')
As hex   : 54686973206973207468652061727261792e

2.2.2 Manipulating Arrays

An array can be extended and otherwise manipulated in the same ways as other Python sequences.

import array
import pprint

a = array.array('i', xrange(3))
print 'Initial :', a

print 'Extended:', a

print 'Slice   :', a[2:5]

print 'Iterator:'

print list(enumerate(a))

The supported operations include slicing, iterating, and adding elements to the end.

$ python array_sequence.py

Initial : array('i', [0, 1, 2])
Extended: array('i', [0, 1, 2, 0, 1, 2])
Slice   : array('i', [2, 0, 1])
[(0, 0), (1, 1), (2, 2), (3, 0), (4, 1), (5, 2)]

2.2.3 Arrays and Files

The contents of an array can be written to and read from files using built-in methods coded efficiently for that purpose.

import array
import binascii
import tempfile

a = array.array('i', xrange(5))
print 'A1:', a

# Write the array of numbers to a temporary file
output = tempfile.NamedTemporaryFile()
a.tofile(output.file) # must pass an *actual* file

# Read the raw data
with open(output.name, 'rb') as input:
    raw_data = input.read()
    print 'Raw Contents:', binascii.hexlify(raw_data)

    # Read the data into an array
    a2 = array.array('i')
    a2.fromfile(input, len(a))
    print 'A2:', a2

This example illustrates reading the data raw, directly from the binary file, versus reading it into a new array and converting the bytes to the appropriate types.

$ python array_file.py

A1: array('i', [0, 1, 2, 3, 4])
Raw Contents: 0000000001000000020000000300000004000000
A2: array('i', [0, 1, 2, 3, 4])

2.2.4 Alternate Byte Ordering

If the data in the array is not in the native byte order, or needs to be swapped before being sent to a system with a different byte order (or over the network), it is possible to convert the entire array without iterating over the elements from Python.

import array
import binascii

    def to_hex(a):
    chars_per_item = a.itemsize * 2 # 2 hex digits
    hex_version = binascii.hexlify(a)
    num_chunks = len(hex_version) / chars_per_item
    for i in xrange(num_chunks):
        start = i*chars_per_item
        end = start + chars_per_item
        yield hex_version[start:end]

a1 = array.array('i', xrange(5))
a2 = array.array('i', xrange(5))

fmt = '%10s %10s %10s %10s'
print fmt % ('A1 hex', 'A1', 'A2 hex', 'A2')
print fmt % (('-' * 10,) * 4)
for values in zip(to_hex(a1), a1, to_hex(a2), a2):
    print fmt % values

The byteswap() method switches the byte order of the items in the array from within C, so it is much more efficient than looping over the data in Python.

$ python array_byteswap.py

    A1 hex         A1     A2 hex         A2
---------- ---------- ---------- ----------
  00000000          0   00000000          0
  01000000          1   00000001   16777216
  02000000          2   00000002   33554432
  03000000          3   00000003   50331648
  04000000          4   00000004   67108864

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