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Convert string to array in PHP

Tutorial on how to convert a string to an array with PHP.

Edited: 2014-12-28 04:06

This Tutorial will focus on methods to convert a string to an array. For the conversion to be possible, the string will either have to contain a matchable pattern that it can be split by – often this will just be a comma – but sometimes you would need to use regular expressions to match more complex patterns; or each part needs to be a fixed width, so that the split can be split with the str_split function.

If the string contains a list of keywords, its a good idea to separate each keyword by a single comma or space, as this will make it much easier to split the string using explode, or similar functions. To convert a string to an array using a regular expression, you can use the preg_split function.

This tutorial might not be very detailed, but it does show how you can use the different methods that we mentioned. You may want to take a look on other tutorials dedicated to a specific function to learn more, these, when available, will be listed in the See also section of this tutorial.

Using the Str_split Function

The Str_split function will split a string into an array, by either letting each character become an element in the array, or by a fixed width provided in the second parameter.

$str = "Just a test";
$arr1 = str_split($str); // Splits by 1 character.
$arr2 = str_split($str, 3); // splits the string by 3 characters.


    [0] => J
    [1] => u
    [2] => s
    [3] => t
    [4] => 
    [5] => a
    [6] => 
    [7] => t
    [8] => e
    [9] => s
    [10] => t

    [0] => Jus
    [1] => t 
    [2] => a t
    [3] => est

You can change the second parameter to match the number of characters that you want to be contained in each chunk. Using str_split will simply break down the string into smaller chunks, generally not very useful. So lets instead go through some of the other methods mentioned earlier.

Using Explode to split a string

This function is more useful, as it will allow you to split a string by another string. Typically you would use this function to convert a string of keywords into an array of keywords; which would allow your to more easily work with each keyword.

  $keywords = 'Blogging SEO Linkbuilding';
  $pieces = explode(' ', $keywords);
  echo $pieces[0]; // Blogging
  echo $pieces[1]; // SEO

This will also allow you to easily iterate over your array with normal loops, or foreach.

Using preg_split to convert strings to arrays

Finally, preg_split, the king of all the splitting functions. It stands completely overpowered when compared with Explode and Str_split, since it allows you to use regular expressions to divide your strings into array elements. The below example can split a string, where the word separator is either a comma or space:

$MyString = 'development,programming design';
$keywords = preg_split("/[\s,]+/", $MyString);

  echo $keywords[0]; // development
  echo $keywords[1]; // programming
  echo $keywords[2]; // design

See also

  1. How to Loop Through an Array
  2. Find Elements or Keys in Array
  3. Determine the Length of an Array
  4. Create an Array From a List of Keywords with Explode