Preserve key order (stable sort) when sorting with PHP’s uasort

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This question is actually inspired from another one here on SO and I wanted to expand it a bit.

Having an associative array in PHP is it possible to sort its values, but where the values are equal to preserve the original key order, using one (or more) of PHP’s built in sort function?

Here is a script I used to test possible solutions (haven’t found any):

header('Content-type: text/plain');
    $arr['key-'.$i] = rand(1,5)*10;
uasort($arr, function($a, $b){
    // sort condition may go here //
    // Tried: return ($a == $b)?1:($a - $b); //
    // Tried: return $a >= $b; //

Pitfall: Because the keys are ordered in the original array, please don’t be tempted to suggest any sorting by key to restore to the original order. I made the example with them ordered to be easier to visually check their order in the output.


Since PHP does not support stable sort after PHP 4.1.0, you need to write your own function.

This seems to do what you’re asking:

As the manual says, “If two members compare as equal, their order in the sorted array is undefined.” This means that the sort used is not “stable” and may change the order of elements that compare equal.

Sometimes you really do need a stable sort. For example, if you sort a list by one field, then sort it again by another field, but don’t want to lose the ordering from the previous field. In that case it is better to use usort with a comparison function that takes both fields into account, but if you can’t do that then use the function below. It is a merge sort, which is guaranteed O(n*log(n)) complexity, which means it stays reasonably fast even when you use larger lists (unlike bubblesort and insertion sort, which are O(n^2)).

function mergesort(&$array, $cmp_function = 'strcmp') {
    // Arrays of size < 2 require no action.
    if (count($array) < 2) return;
    // Split the array in half
    $halfway = count($array) / 2;
    $array1 = array_slice($array, 0, $halfway);
    $array2 = array_slice($array, $halfway);
    // Recurse to sort the two halves
    mergesort($array1, $cmp_function);
    mergesort($array2, $cmp_function);
    // If all of $array1 is <= all of $array2, just append them.
    if (call_user_func($cmp_function, end($array1), $array2[0]) < 1) {
        $array = array_merge($array1, $array2);
    // Merge the two sorted arrays into a single sorted array
    $array = array();
    $ptr1 = $ptr2 = 0;
    while ($ptr1 < count($array1) && $ptr2 < count($array2)) {
        if (call_user_func($cmp_function, $array1[$ptr1], $array2[$ptr2]) < 1) {
            $array[] = $array1[$ptr1++];
        else {
            $array[] = $array2[$ptr2++];
    // Merge the remainder
    while ($ptr1 < count($array1)) $array[] = $array1[$ptr1++];
    while ($ptr2 < count($array2)) $array[] = $array2[$ptr2++];

Also, you may find this forum thread interesting.

Source: stackoverflow