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I have an array which gets filled with different error messages as my script runs.

I need a way to check if it is empty of not at the end of the script and take a specific action if it is.

I have already tried treating it like a normal VAR and using -z to check it, but that does not seem to work. Is there a way to check if an array is empty or not in Bash?


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Supposing your array is $errors, just check to see if the count of elements is zero.

if [ ${#errors[@]} -eq 0 ]; then
    echo "No errors, hooray"
    echo "Oops, something went wrong..."
share|improve this answer
Perfect, thank you Michael. – Marcos Sander Feb 11 '13 at 4:19
Please note that = is a string operator. It happens to work fine in this case, but I'd use the proper arithmetic operator -eq instead (just in case I'd want to switch to -ge or -lt, etc.). – musiphil Nov 8 '13 at 19:27

You can also consider the array as a simple variable. In that way, just using

if [ -z "$array" ]; then
    echo "Array empty"
    echo "Array non empty"

or using the other side

if [ -n "$array" ]; then
    echo "Array non empty"
    echo "Array empty"

Note: in case you want to check that all array elements are null, you could modify the Test-Command to [ -z "$array[@]" ].

Using this method can be useful to recover values from a function. The latter writes several return statements with echo and you catch them with this method:

return=($(checkDeps "dig" "whois" "hfjhj" "aaa"))

In this example I return elements which does not exist in the PATH. I can display all elements that doesn't exist with

echo ${return[@]}

or accessing manually to them e.g.:

echo ${return[0]}

or if I don't care simply check if there are elements that do not exist and exit:

if [ -n "$return" ]; then echo "quitting"; exit; fi
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[ -z "$array" ] or [ -n "$array" ] doesn't work. Try array=('' foo); [ -z "$array" ] && echo empty, and it will print empty even though array is clearly not empty. – musiphil Aug 17 '15 at 23:25

In my case, the second Answer was not enough because there could be whitespaces. I came along with:

if [ "$(echo -ne ${opts} | wc -m)" -eq 0 ]; then
  echo "No options"
  echo "Options found"
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Hmm, strange. Just tested solution above, and it works in reverse order. Suppose I want to test that array not exists.

if [ ${#my_array[@]} -eq 0 ]; then
    echo "Array not exists"
    echo "Array exists"
share|improve this answer
Yes, that is exactly what is being tested for. – Michael Hampton Apr 2 at 8:35

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