strawberry ted summer

jq: looping

jq, bash, JSON
16 September 2019

Here's a quick example of using jq in a for loop. jq has some nice functional stuff built in such as map(), but sometimes you need to do some fancy stuff with the data. This might be useful when you've filtered a jq array, and then need to iterate over the objects to do some work that you can't do in jq alone.

For this example, the goal is to iterate through an array of user objects, downloading their pictures. We'll use some fake user data from, you can download it with:

curl > user_loop.json
  "page": 1,
  "per_page": 6,
  "total": 12,
  "total_pages": 2,
  "data": [
      "id": 1,
      "email": "",
      "first_name": "George",
      "last_name": "Bluth",
      "avatar": ""
      "id": 2,
      "email": "",
      "first_name": "Janet",
      "last_name": "Weaver",
      "avatar": ""

Here's the finished result:

mkdir -p $imagesDir

while read -r user; do
  avatarURL=$(echo $user | jq -r '.avatar')
  imagePath="${imagesDir}/$(echo $user | jq -r '.first_name + .last_name').jpg"
  echo "Downloading ${avatarURL} to ${imagePath}"
  curl -s -o ${imagePath} ${avatarURL}
done <<< "$(cat user_loop.json | jq -c '.data[]')"

The part of interest (the looping), is written like this:

while read -r user; do
  # do work on user object
done <<< "$(cat user_loop.json | jq -c '.data[]')"


Get the objects

First, we care only about the data array which stores our user objects containing the URLs, so we use that object id to access it:

cat user_loop.json | jq -c '.data[]'

Notice -c flag, it's important for looping over the objects. This tells jq to put each object onto a single line, which we'll use in the loop.

Loop over lines

In bash, we can loop over lines by using the while read -r varName; do ...; done <<< "$lineSeparatedVar" pattern. read -r <name> will read in a line from STDIN, then assign the value to <name>; the -r flag tells read "do not allow backslashes to escape any characters".
Now we can loop over objects from our array like so

while read -r user; do
  # do work on user object
done <<< "$(cat user_loop.json | jq -c '.data[]')"


  • I've not fully tested this code. You may want to base64 encode the objects, then decode them if you wanna be really safe.

  • curl concurrently, toss a & on the end of the curl to run it as a background process