FAQ 4.42: How can I tell whether a certain element is contained in a list or array?

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4.42: How can I tell whether a certain element is contained in a list or array?

    Hearing the word "in" is an *in*dication that you probably should have
    used a hash, not a list or array, to store your data. Hashes are
    designed to answer this question quickly and efficiently. Arrays aren't.

    That being said, there are several ways to approach this. If you are
    going to make this query many times over arbitrary string values, the
    fastest way is probably to invert the original array and maintain a hash
    whose keys are the first array's values.

        @blues = qw/azure cerulean teal turquoise lapis-lazuli/;
        %is_blue = ();
        for (@blues) { $is_blue = 1 }

    Now you can check whether $is_blue. It might have been a
    good idea to keep the blues all in a hash in the first place.

    If the values are all small integers, you could use a simple indexed
    array. This kind of an array will take up less space:

        @primes = (2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31);
        @is_tiny_prime = ();
        for (@primes) { $is_tiny_prime[$_] = 1 }
        # or simply  @istiny_prime[@primes] = (1) x @primes;

    Now you check whether $is_tiny_prime[$some_number].

    If the values in question are integers instead of strings, you can save
    quite a lot of space by using bit strings instead:

        @articles = ( 1..10, 150..2000, 2017 );
        undef $read;
        for (@articles) { vec($read,$_,1) = 1 }

    Now check whether "vec($read,$n,1)" is true for some $n.

    Please do not use

        ($is_there) = grep $_ eq $whatever, @array;

    or worse yet

        ($is_there) = grep /$whatever/, @array;

    These are slow (checks every element even if the first matches),
    inefficient (same reason), and potentially buggy (what if there are
    regex characters in $whatever?). If you're only testing once, then use:

        $is_there = 0;
        foreach $elt (@array) {
            if ($elt eq $elt_to_find) {
                $is_there = 1;
        if ($is_there) { ... }


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