As well as allowing direct access to individual array elements, Perl also provides various other interesting ways to deal with arrays. In particular, there are functions that make it very easy and efficient to use a Perl array as a stack or as a queue.

pop

The pop function will remove and return the last element of an array.

In this first example you can see how, given an array of 3 elements, the pop function removes the last element (the one with the highest index) and returns it.

my @names = ('Foo', 'Bar', 'Baz');
my $last_one = pop @names;

print "$last_one\n";  # Baz
print "@names\n";     # Foo Bar

In the special case of the original array being empty, the pop function will return undef.

push

The push function can add one or more values to the end of an array. (Well, it can also add 0 values, but that's not very useful, is it?)

my @names = ('Foo', 'Bar');
push @names, 'Moo';
print "@names\n";     # Foo Bar Moo

my @others = ('Darth', 'Vader');
push @names, @others;
print "@names\n";     # Foo Bar Moo Darth Vader

In this example we originally had an array with two elements. Then we pushed a single scalar value to the end and our array got extended to a 3-element array.

In the second call to push, we pushed the content of the @others array to the end of the @names array, extending it to a 5-element array.

shift

The shift function will move the whole array to the left. Assuming you imagine the array to start on the left hand side. The element that was the first element of the array will "fall off" the array and become the return value of the function. (If the array was empty, shift will return undef.)

After the operation, the array will be one element shorter.

my @names = ('Foo', 'Bar', 'Moo');
my $first = shift @names;
print "$first\n";     # Foo
print "@names\n";     # Bar Moo

This is quite similar to pop, but it works on the lower end of the array.

unshift

This is the opposite operation of shift. unshift will take one or more values (or even 0 if that's what you like) and place it at the beginning of the array moving all the other elements to the right.

You can pass to it a single scalar value, and then that value will become the first element of the array. Or, as in the second example, you can pass a second array and then the elements of this second array (@others in our case) will be copied to the beginning of the main array (@names in our case) moving the other elements to higher indexes.

my @names = ('Foo', 'Bar');
unshift @names, 'Moo';
print "@names\n";     # Moo Foo Bar 

my @others = ('Darth', 'Vader');
unshift @names, @others;
print "@names\n";     # Darth Vader Moo Foo Bar