Syntax DIM array (index1 *[indexi]* ) *[,arrayj (index *[indexj]* )]*
Location QL ROM

The command DIM allows you to set up one or more SuperBASIC arrays which may be of string, integer or floating point type. Each index must be an integer in the range 0…32767.

Numeric Arrays

Each index defines the maximum number of elements (less one) in any one direction, which provides the following examples:

DIM a(10)

sets up a floating-point array a containing 11 elements, a(0) to a(10);

DIM z%(10,10)

sets up a two dimensional integer array z% containing 121 elements, z%(0,0) to z%(10,10) Each element can hold a different number which can later be accessed by specific reference to each index. When the array is set up, each element is set to zero.

String Arrays

String arrays are peculiar and have various differences to both un-dimensioned strings and number arrays.

In a string array, the final index contains the maximum length of a string, rounded up to the next even number (an attempt to assign a longer string to one of the array elements will result in a truncated string). For example:

DIM a$(10)

sets up a one-dimensional string array a$ with a maximum of 10 characters. This is similar to a$=FILL$(” “,10), except that a$ now has a maximum length;

DIM z$(10,9)

sets up a two-dimensional string array, which can hold 11 strings (z$(0) to z$(10)), each up to 9 characters long.

When a string array is set up with DIM, each entry is set to a nul string (“”). The zero’th element of each string array contains the actual length of that string, for example:

DIM a$(10,10): a$(1)='Hello': PRINT a$(1,0)

will return the value 5, as will PRINT LEN(a$(1)).

If a$ is undimensioned and a$=’Hello World’, PRINT a$(0) does not generally work and will result in an ‘Out of Range’ error, except under SMS v2.60+ and Minerva where PRINT a$(0) is the same as PRINT LEN(a$).

Sub-Sets of Arrays

Sub-sets of arrays can also be accessed, for example:

PRINT z$(0 TO 2)

will print the first three strings stored in the array z$.

Omitting Indices

This can be one of the most difficult parts of SuperBasic from the point of view of making programs compatible on all implementations of SuperBASIC and also making programs work the same under the interpreter and when compiled.

The ST/QL Emulators (with E-Init v1.27 or later) follow the same rules as SMS. If an index is omitted, SuperBASIC inserts a default index of:

0 TO DIMN (array,index_no)

For example, if array is a two-dimensional array, array(1) is the same as using the form array (1,0 TO DIMN(array,2)). Unfortunately, string arrays are slightly different when using the last index.

If the last index is omitted, this defaults to an index of:

1 TO LEN(array$(x))

However, except on SMS, if a start descriptor is specified, but not an end one, the last index defaults once again to: start_descriptor TO DIMN(array$,index_no). On SMS this defaults to start_descriptor TO LEN(array$(x).

Even more oddly, except on SMS and Minerva, if a start descriptor is omitted, but an end descriptor specified, the index defaults to: 0 TO end_descriptor normally resulting in an error. (On SMS and Minerva this defaults to 1 TO end_descriptor).

However, except on SMS and Minerva, if neither a start nor end descriptor are specified, but the TO itself is specified, this defaults to 0 TO DIMN (array$,index_no), again normally causing an error.

On SMS this defaults to 1 TO LEN (Array$ (x)

On Minerva this defaults to 1 TO DIMN (array$,index_no)

This creates the following result:

DIM a$(10):a$='Hello' INK 7:PAPER 0

Prints ‘Hello’ => a$ (1 TO LEN(a$) (On all implementations)

PRINT a$(1 TO)

Prints ‘Hello ‘ => a$(1 TO DIMN(a$,1)) (except on SMS, where it prints ‘Hello’, unless the program is compiled with Qliberator in which case the original system is adopted).


Results in ‘Out of Range’ => a$(0 TO DIMN(a$,1)) (except on SMS, where it prints ‘Hello’, and on Minerva where it prints ‘Hello ‘ In both cases, if the program is compiled with Qliberator it still reports an error).

PRINT a$( TO 5)

Results in ‘Out of Range’ => a$(0 TO 5) (again on SMS and Minerva it still prints ‘Hello’, unless the program is compiled with Qliberator, which reports an error).

Un-Dimensioned Strings

You can use sub-sets of un-dimensioned strings, for example:

a$='Hello World':PRINT a$(1 TO 5)

However, such subsets are always treated as expressions, which means that if such a subset was passed as a parameter to a FuNction or PROCedure (see DEFine FuNction), it cannot be passed by reference and the string will remain unaltered by the FuNction/PROCedure.

Compare this with a sub-set of a string array, which will be altered (this sub-set exists as a sub-array). Please see Example 3 below.

The handling of descriptors is also different with un-dimensioned strings. If neither a start nor an end descriptor are specified, this, like string arrays, defaults to:

1 TO LEN(string$)

However, if the start descriptor is specified, but not the end descriptor, this defaults to:

start_descriptor TO LEN(string$)

However, if the start descriptor is omitted (whether the end descriptor is specified or just TO is used), unless you have Minerva or SMS, this defaults to:

0 TO end_descriptor


0 TO LEN(string$)

respectively, both of which cause an ‘out of range’ error.

On Minerva and SMS however, this defaults to:

1 TO end_descriptor


1 TO LEN(string$)

respectively, thus avoiding this error.

This leads to the following result:


This Prints ‘Hello’.

PRINT x$(1 TO)

This prints ‘Hello’


This results in ‘Out of Range’ or ‘Hello’ on Minerva and SMS.

PRINT x$( TO 10)

This results in ‘Out of Range’ or ‘Hello’ on Minerva and SMS.


Due to the complexity of DIM, we felt that it would be useful to explain some of the various errors which may be reported. SMS has an improved Interpreter which reports more intelligible error codes, therefore those have been used:

Only arrays may be dimensioned

This occurs when you try to DIM the name of a procedure or function. It also occurs if you try to use DIM on one of the parameters of a procedure or function and that parameter is not itself a dimensioned variable:

   100 DIM x(10)
   110 c=1:test x,1
   130 DEFine PROCedure test (a,b)
   140   DIM b(10)
   150 END DEFine

On other implementations, 'Bad Name' is reported in both instances.

Procedure and function parameters may not be dimensioned

This only happens as in the example above where you try to DIMension a variable which is in fact one of the parameters from the DEFine PROCedure or DEFine FuNction line (eg. line 140). Here, if you pass a dimensioned variable, eg: TEST 1,x, you get this error under SMS. Also see note 7. On other implementations no error is reported and the problems listed in Note 7 occur.

SBASIC cannot put up with negative dimensions

This occurs if you try to use a negative index, for example: DIM x(-10) On other implementations ‘Out of Range’ is reported.

Dimensional overflow - you cannot be serious!

Too many indices have been specified in the DIM statement - refer to Appendix 8.

Error in Expression

SMS has either been unable to make any sense of the index, or else it exceeds 32767. On other ROMs you will get the error ‘Overflow’ if index exceeds 32767.

Unknown function or array

This is generally reported of you try to use a Procedure name as the index. Other implementations report ‘Error in Expression’


Example 1

A program which acts as a simple quiz program, but shows off some of the best features of using arrays - it is simplicity itself to add new questions and answers to this quiz (just amend quest and target and add the new questions and answers as DATA at the end of the program):

100 MODE 8:WINDOW 512,256,0,0:PAPER 0:CLS
110 WINDOW 448,200,32,16
120 quest=5:target=5
130 DIM question$(quest,50),option$(quest,3,25),answer(quest)
150 FOR i=0 TO quest-1
160   READ question$(i)
170   FOR j=1 TO 3:READ option$(i,j)
180   READ answer(i)
190 END FOR i
200 REPeat main_loop
210   score=0
220   FOR i=1 TO 7,1:BORDER 10,i:PAUSE 2
230   PAPER 6:CLS:INK 2:AT 3,10:UNDER 1:CSIZE 2,1
250   INK 0:AT 0,20:PRINT 'SCORE = ';score
260   DIM asked(quest)
270   REPeat loop
280     opt=RND(1 TO quest)
290     IF asked(opt)=1 THEN
300       FOR j=1 TO quest
310         IF asked(j)=0:opt=j:EXIT j
320         NEXT j
330         DIM asked(quest):NEXT loop
340       END FOR j
350     END IF
360     asked(opt)=1
370     AT 4,0:CLS 2
380     ask_question(opt)
390     reply=get_answer
400     AT 16,0:PAPER 2:INK 7
410     IF reply=answer(opt-1)
420       PRINT 'Correct':score=score+1
430     ELSE
440       PRINT 'Wrong!':score=score-1
450     END IF
460     PAPER 6:INK 0
470     AT 0,20:PRINT 'SCORE = ';score
480     PAUSE
490     IF score=target OR score<0:EXIT loop
500   END REPeat loop
510   PAPER 0:CLS
520   INK 2+2*(score=target):CSIZE 3,1
530   IF score=target
540     PRINT 'Congratulations'
550   ELSE
560     PRINT 'Oh Dear'
570   END IF
580   CSIZE 2,0:INK 7
590   PRINT \\'Try again?? -----> y/n'
600   REPeat keys
610     key$=INKEY$(-1):IF key$ INSTR 'yn':EXIT keys
620   END REPeat keys
630   IF key$=='n':STOP
640 END REPeat main_loop
645 :
650 DEFine PROCedure ask_question(no)
660   LOCal i
670   AT 6,0:start_word=1:end_word=1
680   no=no-1
690   REPeat quest_loop
700     FOR char=start_word TO question$(no,0)
710       IF question$(no,char)=' ':EXIT char
720     END FOR char
730     end_word=char
740     PRINT !question$(no,start_word TO end_word)!
750     IF end_word=question$(no,0):EXIT quest_loop
760     start_word=end_word+1
770   END REPeat quest_loop
780   REPeat opt_loop
790     PRINT \
800     FOR i=1 TO 3
810       PRINT TO 5;i;' = ';option$(no,i)
820     END FOR i
830 END DEFine
835 :
840 DEFine FuNction get_answer
850   REPeat keys
860     key$=INKEY$(-1)
870     IF key$ INSTR '123':RETurn key$
880   END REPeat keys
890 END DEFine
895 :
900 DATA 'The standard Sinclair QL has how much memory?'
910 DATA '16K','128K','640K',2
920 DATA "What was the name of Sinclair's first computer?"
930 DATA 'Z80','ZX81','ZX80',3
940 DATA 'Who is the main person responsible for QDOS?'
950 DATA 'T.Tebby','J.Jones','C.Sinclair',1
960 DATA "Which company created the QL's Gold Card?"
970 DATA 'Miracle Ltd.','Digital Precision Ltd.','Mercury',1
980 DATA 'Who is the main person responsible for SuperBASIC?'
990 DATA 'T.Tebby','J.Jones','C.Sinclair',2

Some of you may have noticed that we have used DIM option$(quest,3,25) when we could have used DIM option$(quest,2,25). The reason for this is to make it easier to check the text - try PRINT option$ and you will see that each set of three options is separated by a blank string.

Example 2

Take the two arrays set up with:

DIM x(2,3,4),x$(2,4,6).

The following sub-arrays produce the following equivalents:

x(TO, TO 2, 1 TO) => x(0TO 2,0 TO 2,1 TO 4)
x$(1 TO 2, TO 2) => x$(1 TO 2,0 TO 2,1 TO LEN(x$(..)))
x$(TO 2, TO,1 TO) => x$(0 TO 2,0 TO 4,1 TO 6)

Example 3

A short example of the use of sub-arrays and subsets of undimensioned strings:

100 DIM a$(11)
110 a$='Hello World'
120 b$='Great World'
130 swap_array a$(1 TO 5),b$(1 TO 5)
140 PRINT a$,b$
150 :
1000 DEFine PROCedure swap_array (a,b)
1010   c$=b: b=a: a=c$
1020 END DEFine


The Turbo compiler alters DIM in compiled programs to enable you to re-dimension arrays without losing their original contents. You may therefore need to physically set the contents of arrays to zero (or nul strings) to ensure that a program works properly when compiled.


On AH ROMs, a floating point array is limited to 384K size.


A variable cannot be used as both a simple variable and an array variable. It is set to an array variable as soon as the line containing the relevant DIM statement is parsed. This means that if a line containing DIM var has been entered, the array var cannot be used until such time as the program has RUN this line, and in any case, an attempt to use var without array descriptors (eg. var=1) is likely to fail, either resulting in a ‘Bad Name’ error or ‘Error in Expression’.


You cannot assign one array to another. For example:

DIM a$ (3,10) , z$(3,10) :z$=a$

will report a ‘Not Implemented’ error.


z$ ( 1, 1 TO 10 )=a$ (1, 1 TO 10 ).


The Turbo and Supercharge compilers insist that strings are all dimensioned as string arrays. They do however also alter the way in which string arrays work so that they operate more like un-dimensioned strings. Un-dimensioned strings may also upset Qliberated tasks!


On pre JS ROMs you cannot use one array as the array sub-script of another in the DIM statement (other than as the first sub-script), for example:

DIM a(10):a(3)=10
DIM a$(10,a(3))

If you try this, you will find that previous array sub-scripts are set to the value 0, ie. using the above example, a$(0) would be acceptable, whereas a$(2) would cause an error. This will work okay provided that the array is used as the first sub-script, otherwise use a temporary variable. For example:

subs=a(3): DIM a$(10,subs)
DIM a$(a(3),10)

would both work okay on all ROM versions.


There is a bug in SMS (at least up to v2.88) if you try to DIMension a variable which has been used as a parameter for a PROCedure or FuNction call.

Take the example given above to demonstrate the error ‘procedure and function parameters may not be dimensioned’. Now use:


no error is reported (although line 140 has no effect).


is equivalent to PRINT a; and any attempt to use b (eg. x=b) reports error in expression, even after CLEAR.

On other ROMs no error is reported. However, the variable passed as a parameter is not re-dimensioned, but some of its elements will no longer be the original value, but very small numbers and any attempt to assign another value to those elements which have been changed may in fact fail!!


Current versions of Qliberator treat all strings in the same way as on the original QL, therefore although a program may RUN fine under the SMS or Minerva intepreter, it may cause problems when compiled. The TURBO and SuperCHARGE compilers treat strings the same as SMS, except see Note 1 and Note 5.


Minerva alters the way in which both dimensioned and undimensioned strings are handled so that:

PRINT a$( TO 10)

is now acceptable! See above.

Minerva also allows you to slice expressions and numbers. Lines such as:

PRINT 'abcd' (2 TO 3)


a$=101010 (3)

will now work. Minerva v1.96+ allows multiple index lists (see SMS Notes).


SMS alters the way in which both undimensioned and dimensioned strings are handled to make them more sensible (see above). We now await a compiler which handles strings in the same way! SMS says that it no longer handles multiple index lists on assignments (which apparently were allowed on earlier ROM versions - did anyone ever use these?). An example is the line:

100 DIM a$(3,4,5)
110 a$(3,4)='Hello'
120 a$(3,4)(2 TO 5)='ELLO'

SMS will not let you type in line 120 reporting invalid syntax. To overcome this you have to replace the line with:

120 a$(3,4,2 TO 5)='ELLO'

In common with Minerva, SMS will now also allow you to slice expressions and numbers. There is a bug in current versions of SMS (at least up to v2.90) when passing string array sub-sets by reference, for example the following program:

5 DIM x$(11)
10 x$='Hello World'
15 PRINT x$
20 change x$(1 TO 11)
30 PRINT x$
40 :
1000 DEFine PROCedure change (a$)
1010   a$(1 TO 3)='EXT'
1020 END DEFine

At line 30, x$ is shown to be ‘HeEXT World’?? It should be ‘EXTlo World’. Try making line 20 read:

20 change x$

Although v2.90 fixes this problem, if you pass a sub-set of an undimensioned string, a worse problem is created. Try deleting line 5 and adding line:

1015 PRINT a$: PAUSE

before RUNning the program (you may need to use CLEAR beforehand).


DIM and dimensioned variables can crash the system in certain instances - refer to A8.4 for details of the possible problems and more error messages which can be generated.


DIMN allows you to find out the maximum sizes of an array. Please see the Appendix on Compatability concerning String Lengths. LEN allows you to find the length of a string.