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PHP: Move Array Elements Up or Down (Reordering)

How to reorder array elements in PHP, moving elements up or down one step at a time.


Edited: 2019-11-03 05:09

PHP Tutorial

Moving a single array element up or down one step at a time is actually not that easy. I wonder why there is no build-in function for this in PHP, as it is a very common thing to want to do.

I came up with a function for reordering arrays that can both move elements up and down. It works for both associative- and indexed arrays, with strings, integers, and boolean values – and it preserves the keys as well.

This function can be used for reordering of photos and links on a website.

The easiest way to remember the ordered array is to convert the array to JSON and store it on the file system or in a database.

To use the function, simply do like this:

$contact_array = array(
    'admin' => '',
    'webmaster' => '',
    'support' => '',
    'reception' => '',

// last parameter can either be "up" or "down"
$reordered = array_shove($contact_array, 'webmaster', 'down');

// Show the re-ordered array

If you want to store the array as JSON:

echo json_encode($reordered);

Note. It is recommended to use a file handler class in concurrency situations.

The function itself:

function array_shove(array $array, $selected_key, $direction)
    $new_array = array();

    foreach ($array as $key => $value) {
        if ($key !== $selected_key) {
            $new_array["$key"] = $value;
            $last = array('key' => $key, 'value' => $value);
        } else {
            if ($direction !== 'up') {
                // Value of next, moves pointer
                $next_value = next($array);

                // Key of next
                $next_key = key($array);

                // Check if $next_key is null,
                // indicating there is no more elements in the array
                if ($next_key !== null) {
                    // Add -next- to $new_array, keeping -current- in $array
                    $new_array["$next_key"] = $next_value;
            } else {
                if (isset($last['key'])) {
                // Add current $array element to $new_array
                $new_array["$key"] = $value;
                // Re-add $last to $new_array
                $new_array["{$last['key']}"] = $last['value'];
            // Merge new and old array
            return $new_array + $array;

Reordering arrays

To reorder the array, I came up with a function that iterates over (loops through) the array.

While the loop is running, I check if the $selected_key has been reached on each run. When the $selected_key is reached, I add the $new_array with the $array and return the result.

$new_array is a temporary variable containing the elements we have gone through so far, while the $array variable contains what is left.

The rest of the code deals with taking the $selected_key element and adding it either before the last element if we are going up or after the next element if we are going down.