Julia, like most technical computing languages, provides a first-class array implementation. Most technical computing languages pay a lot of attention to their array implementation at the expense of other containers. Julia does not treat arrays in any special way. The array library is implemented almost completely in Julia itself, and derives its performance from the compiler, just like any other code written in Julia.

An array is a collection of objects stored in a multi-dimensional grid. In the most general case, an array may contain objects of type Any. For most computational purposes, arrays should contain objects of a more specific type, such as Float64 or Int32.

In general, unlike many other technical computing languages, Julia does not expect programs to be written in a vectorized style for performance. Julia’s compiler uses type inference and generates optimized code for scalar array indexing, allowing programs to be written in a style that is convenient and readable, without sacrificing performance, and using less memory at times.

In Julia, all arguments to functions are passed by reference. Some technical computing languages pass arrays by value, and this is convenient in many cases. In Julia, modifications made to input arrays within a function will be visible in the parent function. The entire Julia array library ensures that inputs are not modified by library functions. User code, if it needs to exhibit similar behaviour, should take care to create a copy of inputs that it may modify.

Basic Functions

  1. ndims(A) — the number of dimensions of A
  2. size(A,n) — the size of A in a particular dimension
  3. size(A) — a tuple containing the dimensions of A
  4. eltype(A) — the type of the elements contained in A
  5. length(A) — the number of elements in A
  6. nnz(A) — the number of nonzero values in A
  7. stride(A,k) — the size of the stride along dimension k
  8. strides(A) — a tuple of the linear index distances between adjacent elements in each dimension

Construction and Initialization

Many functions for constructing and initializing arrays are provided. In the following list of such functions, calls with a dims... argument can either take a single tuple of dimension sizes or a series of dimension sizes passed as a variable number of arguments.

  1. Array(type, dims...) — an uninitialized dense array
  2. cell(dims...) — an uninitialized cell array (heterogeneous array)
  3. zeros(type, dims...) — an array of all zeros of specified type
  4. ones(type, dims...) — an array of all ones of specified type
  5. trues(dims...) — a Bool array with all values true
  6. falses(dims...) — a Bool array with all values false
  7. reshape(A, dims...) — an array with the same data as the given array, but with different dimensions.
  8. copy(A) — copy A
  9. deepcopy(A) — copy A, recursively copying its elements
  10. similar(A, element_type, dims...) — an uninitialized array of the same type as the given array (dense, sparse, etc.), but with the specified element type and dimensions. The second and third arguments are both optional, defaulting to the element type and dimensions of A if omitted.
  11. reinterpret(type, A) — an array with the same binary data as the given array, but with the specified element type.
  12. rand(dims) — random array with Float64 uniformly distributed values in [0,1)
  13. randf(dims) — random array with Float32 uniformly distributed values in [0,1)
  14. randn(dims) — random array with Float64 normally distributed random values with a mean of 0 and standard deviation of 1
  15. eye(n) — n-by-n identity matrix
  16. eye(m, n) — m-by-n identity matrix
  17. linspace(start, stop, n) — a vector of n linearly-spaced elements from start to stop.
  18. fill!(A, x) — fill the array A with value x

The last function, fill!, is different in that it modifies an existing array instead of constructing a new one. As a convention, functions with this property have names ending with an exclamation point. These functions are sometimes called “mutating” functions, or “in-place” functions.


Comprehensions provide a general and powerful way to construct arrays. Comprehension syntax is similar to set construction notation in mathematics:

A = [ F(x,y,...) for x=rx, y=ry, ... ]

The meaning of this form is that F(x,y,...) is evaluated with the variables x, y, etc. taking on each value in their given list of values. Values can be specified as any iterable object, but will commonly be ranges like 1:n or 2:(n-1), or explicit arrays of values like [1.2, 3.4, 5.7]. The result is an N-d dense array with dimensions that are the concatenation of the dimensions of the variable ranges rx, ry, etc. and each F(x,y,...) evaluation returns a scalar.

The following example computes a weighted average of the current element and its left and right neighbour along a 1-d grid.

julia> const x = rand(8)
8-element Float64 Array:

julia> [ 0.25*x[i-1] + 0.5*x[i] + 0.25*x[i+1] for i=2:length(x)-1 ]
6-element Float64 Array:

NOTE: In the above example, x is declared as constant because type inference in Julia does not work as well on non-constant global variables.

The resulting array type is inferred from the expression; in order to control the type explicitly, the type can be prepended to the comprehension. For example, in the above example we could have avoided declaring x as constant, and ensured that the result is of type Float64 by writing:

Float64[ 0.25*x[i-1] + 0.5*x[i] + 0.25*x[i+1] for i=2:length(x)-1 ]

Using curly brackets instead of square brackets is a shortand notation for an array of type Any:

julia> { i/2 for i = 1:3 }
3-element Any Array:


The general syntax for indexing into an n-dimensional array A is:

X = A[I_1, I_2, ..., I_n]

where each I_k may be:

  1. A scalar value
  2. A Range of the form :, a:b, or a:b:c
  3. An arbitrary integer vector, including the empty vector []
  4. A boolean vector

The result X generally has dimensions (length(I_1), length(I_2), ..., length(I_n)), with location (i_1, i_2, ..., i_n) of X containing the value A[I_1[i_1], I_2[i_2], ..., I_n[i_n]]. Trailing dimensions indexed with scalars are dropped. For example, the dimensions of A[I, 1] will be (length(I),). The size of a dimension indexed by a boolean vector will be the number of true values in the vector (they behave as if they were transformed with find).

Indexing syntax is equivalent to a call to getindex:

X = getindex(A, I_1, I_2, ..., I_n)


julia> x = reshape(1:16, 4, 4)
4x4 Int64 Array
1 5 9 13
2 6 10 14
3 7 11 15
4 8 12 16

julia> x[2:3, 2:end-1]
2x2 Int64 Array
6 10
7 11


The general syntax for assigning values in an n-dimensional array A is:

A[I_1, I_2, ..., I_n] = X

where each I_k may be:

  1. A scalar value
  2. A Range of the form :, a:b, or a:b:c
  3. An arbitrary integer vector, including the empty vector []
  4. A boolean vector

The size of X should be (length(I_1), length(I_2), ..., length(I_n)), and the value in location (i_1, i_2, ..., i_n) of A is overwritten with the value X[I_1[i_1], I_2[i_2], ..., I_n[i_n]].

Index assignment syntax is equivalent to a call to setindex!:

A = setindex!(A, X, I_1, I_2, ..., I_n)


julia> x = reshape(1:9, 3, 3)
3x3 Int64 Array
1 4 7
2 5 8
3 6 9

julia> x[1:2, 2:3] = -1
3x3 Int64 Array
1 -1 -1
2 -1 -1
3 6 9


Arrays can be concatenated along any dimension using the following syntax:

  1. cat(dim, A...) — concatenate input n-d arrays along the dimension dim
  2. vcat(A...) — Shorthand for cat(1, A...)
  3. hcat(A...) — Shorthand for cat(2, A...)
  4. hvcat(A...)

Concatenation operators may also be used for concatenating arrays:

  1. [A B C ...] — calls hcat
  2. [A, B, C, ...] — calls vcat
  3. [A B; C D; ...] — calls hvcat

Vectorized Operators and Functions

The following operators are supported for arrays. In case of binary operators, the dot version of the operator should be used when both inputs are non-scalar, and any version of the operator may be used if one of the inputs is a scalar.

  1. Unary Arithmetic — -
  2. Binary Arithmetic — +, -, *, .*, /, ./, \, .\, ^, .^, div, mod
  3. Comparison — ==, !=, <, <=, >, >=
  4. Unary Boolean or Bitwise — ~
  5. Binary Boolean or Bitwise — &, |, $
  6. Trigonometrical functions — sin, cos, tan, sinh, cosh, tanh, asin, acos, atan, atan2, sec, csc, cot, asec, acsc, acot, sech, csch, coth, asech, acsch, acoth, sinc, cosc, hypot
  7. Logarithmic functions — log, log2, log10, log1p
  8. Exponential functions — exp, expm1, exp2, ldexp
  9. Rounding functions — ceil, floor, trunc, round, ipart, fpart
  10. Other mathematical functions — min, max, abs, pow, sqrt, cbrt, erf, erfc, gamma, lgamma, real, conj, clamp


It is sometimes useful to perform element-by-element binary operations on arrays of different sizes, such as adding a vector to each column of a matrix. An inefficient way to do this would be to replicate the vector to the size of the matrix:

julia> a = rand(2,1); A = rand(2,3);

julia> repmat(a,1,3)+A
2x3 Float64 Array:
 0.848333  1.66714  1.3262
 1.26743   1.77988  1.13859

This is wasteful when dimensions get large, so Julia offers the MATLAB-inspired bsxfun, which expands singleton dimensions in array arguments to match the corresponding dimension in the other array without using extra memory, and applies the given binary function:

julia> bsxfun(+, a, A)
2x3 Float64 Array:
 0.848333  1.66714  1.3262
 1.26743   1.77988  1.13859

julia> b = rand(1,2)
1x2 Float64 Array:
 0.629799  0.754948

julia> bsxfun(+, a, b)
2x2 Float64 Array:
 1.31849  1.44364
 1.56107  1.68622


The base array type in Julia is the abstract type AbstractArray{T,n}. It is parametrized by the number of dimensions n and the element type T. AbstractVector and AbstractMatrix are aliases for the 1-d and 2-d cases. Operations on AbstractArray objects are defined using higher level operators and functions, in a way that is independent of the underlying storage class. These operations are guaranteed to work correctly as a fallback for any specific array implementation.

The Array{T,n} type is a specific instance of AbstractArray where elements are stored in column-major order. Vector and Matrix are aliases for the 1-d and 2-d cases. Specific operations such as scalar indexing, assignment, and a few other basic storage-specific operations are all that have to be implemented for Array, so that the rest of the array library can be implemented in a generic manner for AbstractArray.

SubArray is a specialization of AbstractArray that performs indexing by reference rather than by copying. A SubArray is created with the sub function, which is called the same way as getindex (with an array and a series of index arguments). The result of sub looks the same as the result of getindex, except the data is left in place. sub stores the input index vectors in a SubArray object, which can later be used to index the original array indirectly.

StridedVector and StridedMatrix are convenient aliases defined to make it possible for Julia to call a wider range of BLAS and LAPACK functions by passing them either Array or SubArray objects, and thus saving inefficiencies from indexing and memory allocation.

The following example computes the QR decomposition of a small section of a larger array, without creating any temporaries, and by calling the appropriate LAPACK function with the right leading dimension size and stride parameters.

julia> a = rand(10,10)
10x10 Float64 Array:
 0.763921  0.884854   0.818783   0.519682   …  0.860332  0.882295   0.420202
 0.190079  0.235315   0.0669517  0.020172      0.902405  0.0024219  0.24984
 0.823817  0.0285394  0.390379   0.202234      0.516727  0.247442   0.308572
 0.566851  0.622764   0.0683611  0.372167      0.280587  0.227102   0.145647
 0.151173  0.179177   0.0510514  0.615746      0.322073  0.245435   0.976068
 0.534307  0.493124   0.796481   0.0314695  …  0.843201  0.53461    0.910584
 0.885078  0.891022   0.691548   0.547         0.727538  0.0218296  0.174351
 0.123628  0.833214   0.0224507  0.806369      0.80163   0.457005   0.226993
 0.362621  0.389317   0.702764   0.385856      0.155392  0.497805   0.430512
 0.504046  0.532631   0.477461   0.225632      0.919701  0.0453513  0.505329

julia> b = sub(a, 2:2:8,2:2:4)
4x2 SubArray of 10x10 Float64 Array:
 0.235315  0.020172
 0.622764  0.372167
 0.493124  0.0314695
 0.833214  0.806369

julia> (q,r) = qr(b);

julia> q
4x2 Float64 Array:
 -0.200268   0.331205
 -0.530012   0.107555
 -0.41968    0.720129
 -0.709119  -0.600124

julia> r
2x2 Float64 Array:
 -1.175  -0.786311
  0.0    -0.414549

Sparse Matrices

Sparse matrices are matrices that contain enough zeros that storing them in a special data structure leads to savings in space and execution time. Sparse matrices may be used when operations on the sparse representation of a matrix lead to considerable gains in either time or space when compared to performing the same operations on a dense matrix.

Compressed Sparse Column (CSC) Storage

In julia, sparse matrices are stored in the Compressed Sparse Column (CSC) format. Julia sparse matrices have the type SparseMatrixCSC{Tv,Ti}, where Tv is the type of the nonzero values, and Ti is the integer type for storing column pointers and row indices.

type SparseMatrixCSC{Tv,Ti<:Integer} <: AbstractSparseMatrix{Tv,Ti}
    m::Int                  # Number of rows
    n::Int                  # Number of columns
    colptr::Vector{Ti}      # Column i is in colptr[i]:(colptr[i+1]-1)
    rowval::Vector{Ti}      # Row values of nonzeros
    nzval::Vector{Tv}       # Nonzero values

The compressed sparse column storage makes it easy and quick to access the elements in the column of a sparse matrix, whereas accessing the sparse matrix by rows is considerably slower. Operations such as insertion of nonzero values one at a time in the CSC structure tend to be slow. This is because all elements of the sparse matrix that are beyond the point of insertion have to be moved one place over.

All operations on sparse matrices are carefully implemented to exploit the CSC data structure for performance, and to avoid expensive operations.

Sparse matrix constructors

The simplest way to create sparse matrices are using functions equivalent to the zeros and eye functions that Julia provides for working with dense matrices. To produce sparse matrices instead, you can use the same names with an sp prefix:

julia> spzeros(3,5)
3x5 sparse matrix with 0 nonzeros:

julia> speye(3,5)
3x5 sparse matrix with 3 nonzeros:
    [1, 1]  =  1.0
    [2, 2]  =  1.0
    [3, 3]  =  1.0

The sparse function is often a handy way to construct sparse matrices. It takes as its input a vector I of row indices, a vector J of column indices, and a vector V of nonzero values. sparse(I,J,V) constructs a sparse matrix such that S[I[k], J[k]] = V[k].

julia> I = [1, 4, 3, 5]; J = [4, 7, 18, 9]; V = [1, 2, -5, 3];

julia> sparse(I,J,V)
5x18 sparse matrix with 4 nonzeros:
     [1 ,  4]  =  1
     [4 ,  7]  =  2
     [5 ,  9]  =  3
     [3 , 18]  =  -5

The inverse of the sparse function is findn, which retrieves the inputs used to create the sparse matrix.

julia> findn(S)
([1, 4, 5, 3],[4, 7, 9, 18])

julia> findn_nzs(S)
([1, 4, 5, 3],[4, 7, 9, 18],[1, 2, 3, -5])

Another way to create sparse matrices is to convert a dense matrix into a sparse matrix using the sparse function:

julia> sparse(eye(5))
5x5 sparse matrix with 5 nonzeros:
    [1, 1]  =  1.0
    [2, 2]  =  1.0
    [3, 3]  =  1.0
    [4, 4]  =  1.0
    [5, 5]  =  1.0

You can go in the other direction using the dense or the full function. The issparse function can be used to query if a matrix is sparse.

julia> issparse(speye(5))

Sparse matrix operations

Arithmetic operations on sparse matrices also work as they do on dense matrices. Indexing of, assignment into, and concatenation of sparse matrices work in the same way as dense matrices. Indexing operations, especially assignment, are expensive, when carried out one element at a time. In many cases it may be better to convert the sparse matrix into (I,J,V) format using find_nzs, manipulate the nonzeros or the structure in the dense vectors (I,J,V), and then reconstruct the sparse matrix.