Java Language Iterating over arrays


Example

You can iterate over arrays either by using enhanced for loop (aka foreach) or by using array indices:

int[] array = new int[10];

// using indices: read and write
for (int i = 0; i < array.length; i++) {
    array[i] = i;
}
Java SE 5
// extended for: read only
for (int e : array) {
    System.out.println(e);
}

It is worth noting here that there is no direct way to use an Iterator on an Array, but through the Arrays library it can be easily converted to a list to obtain an Iterable object.

For boxed arrays use Arrays.asList:

Integer[] boxed = {1, 2, 3};
Iterable<Integer> boxedIt = Arrays.asList(boxed); // list-backed iterable
Iterator<Integer> fromBoxed1 = boxedIt.iterator();

For primitive arrays (using java 8) use streams (specifically in this example - Arrays.stream -> IntStream):

int[] primitives = {1, 2, 3};
IntStream primitiveStream = Arrays.stream(primitives); // list-backed iterable
PrimitiveIterator.OfInt fromPrimitive1 = primitiveStream.iterator();

If you can't use streams (no java 8), you can choose to use google's guava library:

Iterable<Integer> fromPrimitive2 = Ints.asList(primitives);

In two-dimensional arrays or more, both techniques can be used in a slightly more complex fashion.

Example:

int[][] array = new int[10][10];

for (int indexOuter = 0; indexOuter < array.length; indexOuter++) {
    for (int indexInner = 0; indexInner < array[indexOuter].length; indexInner++) {
        array[indexOuter][indexInner] = indexOuter + indexInner;
    }
}
Java SE 5
for (int[] numbers : array) {
    for (int value : numbers) {
        System.out.println(value);
    }
}

It is impossible to set an Array to any non-uniform value without using an index based loop.

Of course you can also use while or do-while loops when iterating using indices.

One note of caution: when using array indices, make sure the index is between 0 and array.length - 1 (both inclusive). Don't make hard coded assumptions on the array length otherwise you might break your code if the array length changes but your hard coded values don't.

Example:

int[] numbers = {1, 2, 3, 4};

public void incrementNumbers() {
    // DO THIS :
    for (int i = 0; i < numbers.length; i++) {
        numbers[i] += 1; //or this: numbers[i] = numbers[i] + 1; or numbers[i]++;      
    }
 
    // DON'T DO THIS :
    for (int i = 0; i < 4; i++) {
        numbers[i] += 1;
    }
}

It's also best if you don't use fancy calculations to get the index but use the index to iterate and if you need different values calculate those.

Example:

public void fillArrayWithDoubleIndex(int[] array) {
    // DO THIS :
    for (int i = 0; i < array.length; i++) {
        array[i] = i * 2;
    }
 
    // DON'T DO THIS :
    int doubleLength = array.length * 2;
    for (int i = 0; i < doubleLength; i += 2) {
        array[i / 2] = i;
    }
}

Accessing Arrays in reverse order

int[] array = {0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13};
for (int i = array.length - 1; i >= 0; i--) {
   System.out.println(array[i]);
}

Using temporary Arrays to reduce code repetition

Iterating over a temporary array instead of repeating code can make your code cleaner. It can be used where the same operation is performed on multiple variables.

// we want to print out all of these
String name = "Margaret";
int eyeCount = 16;
double height = 50.2;
int legs = 9;
int arms = 5;


// copy-paste approach:
System.out.println(name);
System.out.println(eyeCount);
System.out.println(height);
System.out.println(legs);
System.out.println(arms);


// temporary array approach:
for(Object attribute : new Object[]{name, eyeCount, height, legs, arms})
    System.out.println(attribute);

// using only numbers
for(double number : new double[]{eyeCount, legs, arms, height})
    System.out.println(Math.sqrt(number));

Keep in mind that this code should not be used in performance-critical sections, as an array is created every time the loop is entered, and that primitive variables will be copied into the array and thus cannot be modified.