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This file documents the GNU C Preprocessor.
Copyright 1987, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 Free Software
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File:, Node: Top, Next: Global Actions, Up: (DIR)
The C Preprocessor
The C preprocessor is a "macro processor" that is used automatically
by the C compiler to transform your program before actual compilation.
It is called a macro processor because it allows you to define "macros",
which are brief abbreviations for longer constructs.
The C preprocessor provides four separate facilities that you can
use as you see fit:
* Inclusion of header files. These are files of declarations that
can be substituted into your program.
* Macro expansion. You can define "macros", which are abbreviations
for arbitrary fragments of C code, and then the C preprocessor will
replace the macros with their definitions throughout the program.
* Conditional compilation. Using special preprocessing directives,
you can include or exclude parts of the program according to
various conditions.
* Line control. If you use a program to combine or rearrange source
files into an intermediate file which is then compiled, you can
use line control to inform the compiler of where each source line
originally came from.
C preprocessors vary in some details. This manual discusses the GNU
C preprocessor, the C Compatible Compiler Preprocessor. The GNU C
preprocessor provides a superset of the features of ANSI Standard C.
ANSI Standard C requires the rejection of many harmless constructs
commonly used by today's C programs. Such incompatibility would be
inconvenient for users, so the GNU C preprocessor is configured to
accept these constructs by default. Strictly speaking, to get ANSI
Standard C, you must use the options `-trigraphs', `-undef' and
`-pedantic', but in practice the consequences of having strict ANSI
Standard C make it undesirable to do this. *Note Invocation::.
The C preprocessor is designed for C-like languages; you may run into
problems if you apply it to other kinds of languages, because it assumes
that it is dealing with C. For example, the C preprocessor sometimes
outputs extra white space to avoid inadvertent C token concatenation,
and this may cause problems with other languages.
* Menu:
* Global Actions:: Actions made uniformly on all input files.
* Directives:: General syntax of preprocessing directives.
* Header Files:: How and why to use header files.
* Macros:: How and why to use macros.
* Conditionals:: How and why to use conditionals.
* Combining Sources:: Use of line control when you combine source files.
* Other Directives:: Miscellaneous preprocessing directives.
* Output:: Format of output from the C preprocessor.
* Invocation:: How to invoke the preprocessor; command options.
* Concept Index:: Index of concepts and terms.
* Index:: Index of directives, predefined macros and options.

File:, Node: Global Actions, Next: Directives, Prev: Top, Up: Top
Transformations Made Globally
Most C preprocessor features are inactive unless you give specific
directives to request their use. (Preprocessing directives are lines
starting with `#'; *note Directives::.). But there are three
transformations that the preprocessor always makes on all the input it
receives, even in the absence of directives.
* All C comments are replaced with single spaces.
* Backslash-Newline sequences are deleted, no matter where. This
feature allows you to break long lines for cosmetic purposes
without changing their meaning.
* Predefined macro names are replaced with their expansions (*note
The first two transformations are done *before* nearly all other
parsing and before preprocessing directives are recognized. Thus, for
example, you can split a line cosmetically with Backslash-Newline
anywhere (except when trigraphs are in use; see below).
*/ # /*
*/ defi\
ne FO\
O 10\
is equivalent into `#define FOO 1020'. You can split even an escape
sequence with Backslash-Newline. For example, you can split `"foo\bar"'
between the `\' and the `b' to get
This behavior is unclean: in all other contexts, a Backslash can be
inserted in a string constant as an ordinary character by writing a
double Backslash, and this creates an exception. But the ANSI C
standard requires it. (Strict ANSI C does not allow Newlines in string
constants, so they do not consider this a problem.)
But there are a few exceptions to all three transformations.
* C comments and predefined macro names are not recognized inside a
`#include' directive in which the file name is delimited with `<'
and `>'.
* C comments and predefined macro names are never recognized within a
character or string constant. (Strictly speaking, this is the
rule, not an exception, but it is worth noting here anyway.)
* Backslash-Newline may not safely be used within an ANSI "trigraph".
Trigraphs are converted before Backslash-Newline is deleted. If
you write what looks like a trigraph with a Backslash-Newline
inside, the Backslash-Newline is deleted as usual, but it is then
too late to recognize the trigraph.
This exception is relevant only if you use the `-trigraphs' option
to enable trigraph processing. *Note Invocation::.

File:, Node: Directives, Next: Header Files, Prev: Global Actions, Up: Top
Preprocessing Directives
Most preprocessor features are active only if you use preprocessing
directives to request their use.
Preprocessing directives are lines in your program that start with
`#'. The `#' is followed by an identifier that is the "directive name".
For example, `#define' is the directive that defines a macro.
Whitespace is also allowed before and after the `#'.
The set of valid directive names is fixed. Programs cannot define
new preprocessing directives.
Some directive names require arguments; these make up the rest of
the directive line and must be separated from the directive name by
whitespace. For example, `#define' must be followed by a macro name
and the intended expansion of the macro. *Note Simple Macros::.
A preprocessing directive cannot be more than one line in normal
circumstances. It may be split cosmetically with Backslash-Newline,
but that has no effect on its meaning. Comments containing Newlines
can also divide the directive into multiple lines, but the comments are
changed to Spaces before the directive is interpreted. The only way a
significant Newline can occur in a preprocessing directive is within a
string constant or character constant. Note that most C compilers that
might be applied to the output from the preprocessor do not accept
string or character constants containing Newlines.
The `#' and the directive name cannot come from a macro expansion.
For example, if `foo' is defined as a macro expanding to `define', that
does not make `#foo' a valid preprocessing directive.

File:, Node: Header Files, Next: Macros, Prev: Directives, Up: Top
Header Files
A header file is a file containing C declarations and macro
definitions (*note Macros::.) to be shared between several source
files. You request the use of a header file in your program with the C
preprocessing directive `#include'.
* Menu:
* Header Uses:: What header files are used for.
* Include Syntax:: How to write `#include' directives.
* Include Operation:: What `#include' does.
* Once-Only:: Preventing multiple inclusion of one header file.
* Inheritance:: Including one header file in another header file.

File:, Node: Header Uses, Next: Include Syntax, Prev: Header Files, Up: Header Files
Uses of Header Files
Header files serve two kinds of purposes.
* System header files declare the interfaces to parts of the
operating system. You include them in your program to supply the
definitions and declarations you need to invoke system calls and
* Your own header files contain declarations for interfaces between
the source files of your program. Each time you have a group of
related declarations and macro definitions all or most of which
are needed in several different source files, it is a good idea to
create a header file for them.
Including a header file produces the same results in C compilation as
copying the header file into each source file that needs it. But such
copying would be time-consuming and error-prone. With a header file,
the related declarations appear in only one place. If they need to be
changed, they can be changed in one place, and programs that include
the header file will automatically use the new version when next
recompiled. The header file eliminates the labor of finding and
changing all the copies as well as the risk that a failure to find one
copy will result in inconsistencies within a program.
The usual convention is to give header files names that end with
`.h'. Avoid unusual characters in header file names, as they reduce

File:, Node: Include Syntax, Next: Include Operation, Prev: Header Uses, Up: Header Files
The `#include' Directive
Both user and system header files are included using the
preprocessing directive `#include'. It has three variants:
`#include <FILE>'
This variant is used for system header files. It searches for a
file named FILE in a list of directories specified by you, then in
a standard list of system directories. You specify directories to
search for header files with the command option `-I' (*note
Invocation::.). The option `-nostdinc' inhibits searching the
standard system directories; in this case only the directories you
specify are searched.
The parsing of this form of `#include' is slightly special because
comments are not recognized within the `<...>'. Thus, in
`#include <x/*y>' the `/*' does not start a comment and the
directive specifies inclusion of a system header file named
`x/*y'. Of course, a header file with such a name is unlikely to
exist on Unix, where shell wildcard features would make it hard to
The argument FILE may not contain a `>' character. It may,
however, contain a `<' character.
`#include "FILE"'
This variant is used for header files of your own program. It
searches for a file named FILE first in the current directory,
then in the same directories used for system header files. The
current directory is the directory of the current input file. It
is tried first because it is presumed to be the location of the
files that the current input file refers to. (If the `-I-' option
is used, the special treatment of the current directory is
The argument FILE may not contain `"' characters. If backslashes
occur within FILE, they are considered ordinary text characters,
not escape characters. None of the character escape sequences
appropriate to string constants in C are processed. Thus,
`#include "x\n\\y"' specifies a filename containing three
backslashes. It is not clear why this behavior is ever useful, but
the ANSI standard specifies it.
`#include ANYTHING ELSE'
This variant is called a "computed #include". Any `#include'
directive whose argument does not fit the above two forms is a
computed include. The text ANYTHING ELSE is checked for macro
calls, which are expanded (*note Macros::.). When this is done,
the result must fit one of the above two variants--in particular,
the expanded text must in the end be surrounded by either quotes
or angle braces.
This feature allows you to define a macro which controls the file
name to be used at a later point in the program. One application
of this is to allow a site-specific configuration file for your
program to specify the names of the system include files to be
used. This can help in porting the program to various operating
systems in which the necessary system header files are found in
different places.

File:, Node: Include Operation, Next: Once-Only, Prev: Include Syntax, Up: Header Files
How `#include' Works
The `#include' directive works by directing the C preprocessor to
scan the specified file as input before continuing with the rest of the
current file. The output from the preprocessor contains the output
already generated, followed by the output resulting from the included
file, followed by the output that comes from the text after the
`#include' directive. For example, given a header file `header.h' as
char *test ();
and a main program called `program.c' that uses the header file, like
int x;
#include "header.h"
main ()
printf (test ());
the output generated by the C preprocessor for `program.c' as input
would be
int x;
char *test ();
main ()
printf (test ());
Included files are not limited to declarations and macro
definitions; those are merely the typical uses. Any fragment of a C
program can be included from another file. The include file could even
contain the beginning of a statement that is concluded in the
containing file, or the end of a statement that was started in the
including file. However, a comment or a string or character constant
may not start in the included file and finish in the including file.
An unterminated comment, string constant or character constant in an
included file is considered to end (with an error message) at the end
of the file.
It is possible for a header file to begin or end a syntactic unit
such as a function definition, but that would be very confusing, so
don't do it.
The line following the `#include' directive is always treated as a
separate line by the C preprocessor even if the included file lacks a
final newline.

File:, Node: Once-Only, Next: Inheritance, Prev: Include Operation, Up: Header Files
Once-Only Include Files
Very often, one header file includes another. It can easily result
that a certain header file is included more than once. This may lead
to errors, if the header file defines structure types or typedefs, and
is certainly wasteful. Therefore, we often wish to prevent multiple
inclusion of a header file.
The standard way to do this is to enclose the entire real contents
of the file in a conditional, like this:
#endif /* FILE_FOO_SEEN */
The macro `FILE_FOO_SEEN' indicates that the file has been included
once already. In a user header file, the macro name should not begin
with `_'. In a system header file, this name should begin with `__' to
avoid conflicts with user programs. In any kind of header file, the
macro name should contain the name of the file and some additional
text, to avoid conflicts with other header files.
The GNU C preprocessor is programmed to notice when a header file
uses this particular construct and handle it efficiently. If a header
file is contained entirely in a `#ifndef' conditional, then it records
that fact. If a subsequent `#include' specifies the same file, and the
macro in the `#ifndef' is already defined, then the file is entirely
skipped, without even reading it.
There is also an explicit directive to tell the preprocessor that it
need not include a file more than once. This is called `#pragma once',
and was used *in addition to* the `#ifndef' conditional around the
contents of the header file. `#pragma once' is now obsolete and should
not be used at all.
In the Objective C language, there is a variant of `#include' called
`#import' which includes a file, but does so at most once. If you use
`#import' *instead of* `#include', then you don't need the conditionals
inside the header file to prevent multiple execution of the contents.
`#import' is obsolete because it is not a well designed feature. It
requires the users of a header file--the applications programmers--to
know that a certain header file should only be included once. It is
much better for the header file's implementor to write the file so that
users don't need to know this. Using `#ifndef' accomplishes this goal.

File:, Node: Inheritance, Prev: Once-Only, Up: Header Files
Inheritance and Header Files
"Inheritance" is what happens when one object or file derives some
of its contents by virtual copying from another object or file. In the
case of C header files, inheritance means that one header file includes
another header file and then replaces or adds something.
If the inheriting header file and the base header file have different
names, then inheritance is straightforward: simply write `#include
"BASE"' in the inheriting file.
Sometimes it is necessary to give the inheriting file the same name
as the base file. This is less straightforward.
For example, suppose an application program uses the system header
`sys/signal.h', but the version of `/usr/include/sys/signal.h' on a
particular system doesn't do what the application program expects. It
might be convenient to define a "local" version, perhaps under the name
`/usr/local/include/sys/signal.h', to override or add to the one
supplied by the system.
You can do this by compiling with the option `-I.', and writing a
file `sys/signal.h' that does what the application program expects.
But making this file include the standard `sys/signal.h' is not so
easy--writing `#include <sys/signal.h>' in that file doesn't work,
because it includes your own version of the file, not the standard
system version. Used in that file itself, this leads to an infinite
recursion and a fatal error in compilation.
`#include </usr/include/sys/signal.h>' would find the proper file,
but that is not clean, since it makes an assumption about where the
system header file is found. This is bad for maintenance, since it
means that any change in where the system's header files are kept
requires a change somewhere else.
The clean way to solve this problem is to use `#include_next', which
means, "Include the *next* file with this name." This directive works
like `#include' except in searching for the specified file: it starts
searching the list of header file directories *after* the directory in
which the current file was found.
Suppose you specify `-I /usr/local/include', and the list of
directories to search also includes `/usr/include'; and suppose both
directories contain `sys/signal.h'. Ordinary `#include <sys/signal.h>'
finds the file under `/usr/local/include'. If that file contains
`#include_next <sys/signal.h>', it starts searching after that
directory, and finds the file in `/usr/include'.

File:, Node: Macros, Next: Conditionals, Prev: Header Files, Up: Top
A macro is a sort of abbreviation which you can define once and then
use later. There are many complicated features associated with macros
in the C preprocessor.
* Menu:
* Simple Macros:: Macros that always expand the same way.
* Argument Macros:: Macros that accept arguments that are substituted
into the macro expansion.
* Predefined:: Predefined macros that are always available.
* Stringification:: Macro arguments converted into string constants.
* Concatenation:: Building tokens from parts taken from macro arguments.
* Undefining:: Cancelling a macro's definition.
* Redefining:: Changing a macro's definition.
* Macro Pitfalls:: Macros can confuse the unwary. Here we explain
several common problems and strange features.

File:, Node: Simple Macros, Next: Argument Macros, Prev: Macros, Up: Macros
Simple Macros
A "simple macro" is a kind of abbreviation. It is a name which
stands for a fragment of code. Some people refer to these as "manifest
Before you can use a macro, you must "define" it explicitly with the
`#define' directive. `#define' is followed by the name of the macro
and then the code it should be an abbreviation for. For example,
#define BUFFER_SIZE 1020
defines a macro named `BUFFER_SIZE' as an abbreviation for the text
`1020'. If somewhere after this `#define' directive there comes a C
statement of the form
foo = (char *) xmalloc (BUFFER_SIZE);
then the C preprocessor will recognize and "expand" the macro
`BUFFER_SIZE', resulting in
foo = (char *) xmalloc (1020);
The use of all upper case for macro names is a standard convention.
Programs are easier to read when it is possible to tell at a glance
which names are macros.
Normally, a macro definition must be a single line, like all C
preprocessing directives. (You can split a long macro definition
cosmetically with Backslash-Newline.) There is one exception: Newlines
can be included in the macro definition if within a string or character
constant. This is because it is not possible for a macro definition to
contain an unbalanced quote character; the definition automatically
extends to include the matching quote character that ends the string or
character constant. Comments within a macro definition may contain
Newlines, which make no difference since the comments are entirely
replaced with Spaces regardless of their contents.
Aside from the above, there is no restriction on what can go in a
macro body. Parentheses need not balance. The body need not resemble
valid C code. (But if it does not, you may get error messages from the
C compiler when you use the macro.)
The C preprocessor scans your program sequentially, so macro
definitions take effect at the place you write them. Therefore, the
following input to the C preprocessor
foo = X;
#define X 4
bar = X;
produces as output
foo = X;
bar = 4;
After the preprocessor expands a macro name, the macro's definition
body is appended to the front of the remaining input, and the check for
macro calls continues. Therefore, the macro body can contain calls to
other macros. For example, after
#define BUFSIZE 1020
the name `TABLESIZE' when used in the program would go through two
stages of expansion, resulting ultimately in `1020'.
This is not at all the same as defining `TABLESIZE' to be `1020'.
The `#define' for `TABLESIZE' uses exactly the body you specify--in
this case, `BUFSIZE'--and does not check to see whether it too is the
name of a macro. It's only when you *use* `TABLESIZE' that the result
of its expansion is checked for more macro names. *Note Cascaded

File:, Node: Argument Macros, Next: Predefined, Prev: Simple Macros, Up: Macros
Macros with Arguments
A simple macro always stands for exactly the same text, each time it
is used. Macros can be more flexible when they accept "arguments".
Arguments are fragments of code that you supply each time the macro is
used. These fragments are included in the expansion of the macro
according to the directions in the macro definition. A macro that
accepts arguments is called a "function-like macro" because the syntax
for using it looks like a function call.
To define a macro that uses arguments, you write a `#define'
directive with a list of "argument names" in parentheses after the name
of the macro. The argument names may be any valid C identifiers,
separated by commas and optionally whitespace. The open-parenthesis
must follow the macro name immediately, with no space in between.
For example, here is a macro that computes the minimum of two numeric
values, as it is defined in many C programs:
#define min(X, Y) ((X) < (Y) ? (X) : (Y))
(This is not the best way to define a "minimum" macro in GNU C. *Note
Side Effects::, for more information.)
To use a macro that expects arguments, you write the name of the
macro followed by a list of "actual arguments" in parentheses,
separated by commas. The number of actual arguments you give must
match the number of arguments the macro expects. Examples of use of
the macro `min' include `min (1, 2)' and `min (x + 28, *p)'.
The expansion text of the macro depends on the arguments you use.
Each of the argument names of the macro is replaced, throughout the
macro definition, with the corresponding actual argument. Using the
same macro `min' defined above, `min (1, 2)' expands into
((1) < (2) ? (1) : (2))
where `1' has been substituted for `X' and `2' for `Y'.
Likewise, `min (x + 28, *p)' expands into
((x + 28) < (*p) ? (x + 28) : (*p))
Parentheses in the actual arguments must balance; a comma within
parentheses does not end an argument. However, there is no requirement
for brackets or braces to balance, and they do not prevent a comma from
separating arguments. Thus,
macro (array[x = y, x + 1])
passes two arguments to `macro': `array[x = y' and `x + 1]'. If you
want to supply `array[x = y, x + 1]' as an argument, you must write it
as `array[(x = y, x + 1)]', which is equivalent C code.
After the actual arguments are substituted into the macro body, the
entire result is appended to the front of the remaining input, and the
check for macro calls continues. Therefore, the actual arguments can
contain calls to other macros, either with or without arguments, or
even to the same macro. The macro body can also contain calls to other
macros. For example, `min (min (a, b), c)' expands into this text:
((((a) < (b) ? (a) : (b))) < (c)
? (((a) < (b) ? (a) : (b)))
: (c))
(Line breaks shown here for clarity would not actually be generated.)
If a macro `foo' takes one argument, and you want to supply an empty
argument, you must write at least some whitespace between the
parentheses, like this: `foo ( )'. Just `foo ()' is providing no
arguments, which is an error if `foo' expects an argument. But `foo0
()' is the correct way to call a macro defined to take zero arguments,
like this:
#define foo0() ...
If you use the macro name followed by something other than an
open-parenthesis (after ignoring any spaces, tabs and comments that
follow), it is not a call to the macro, and the preprocessor does not
change what you have written. Therefore, it is possible for the same
name to be a variable or function in your program as well as a macro,
and you can choose in each instance whether to refer to the macro (if
an actual argument list follows) or the variable or function (if an
argument list does not follow).
Such dual use of one name could be confusing and should be avoided
except when the two meanings are effectively synonymous: that is, when
the name is both a macro and a function and the two have similar
effects. You can think of the name simply as a function; use of the
name for purposes other than calling it (such as, to take the address)
will refer to the function, while calls will expand the macro and
generate better but equivalent code. For example, you can use a
function named `min' in the same source file that defines the macro.
If you write `&min' with no argument list, you refer to the function.
If you write `min (x, bb)', with an argument list, the macro is
expanded. If you write `(min) (a, bb)', where the name `min' is not
followed by an open-parenthesis, the macro is not expanded, so you wind
up with a call to the function `min'.
You may not define the same name as both a simple macro and a macro
with arguments.
In the definition of a macro with arguments, the list of argument
names must follow the macro name immediately with no space in between.
If there is a space after the macro name, the macro is defined as
taking no arguments, and all the rest of the line is taken to be the
expansion. The reason for this is that it is often useful to define a
macro that takes no arguments and whose definition begins with an
identifier in parentheses. This rule about spaces makes it possible
for you to do either this:
#define FOO(x) - 1 / (x)
(which defines `FOO' to take an argument and expand into minus the
reciprocal of that argument) or this:
#define BAR (x) - 1 / (x)
(which defines `BAR' to take no argument and always expand into `(x) -
1 / (x)').
Note that the *uses* of a macro with arguments can have spaces before
the left parenthesis; it's the *definition* where it matters whether
there is a space.

File:, Node: Predefined, Next: Stringification, Prev: Argument Macros, Up: Macros
Predefined Macros
Several simple macros are predefined. You can use them without
giving definitions for them. They fall into two classes: standard
macros and system-specific macros.
* Menu:
* Standard Predefined:: Standard predefined macros.
* Nonstandard Predefined:: Nonstandard predefined macros.

File:, Node: Standard Predefined, Next: Nonstandard Predefined, Prev: Predefined, Up: Predefined
Standard Predefined Macros
The standard predefined macros are available with the same meanings
regardless of the machine or operating system on which you are using
GNU C. Their names all start and end with double underscores. Those
preceding `__GNUC__' in this table are standardized by ANSI C; the rest
are GNU C extensions.
This macro expands to the name of the current input file, in the
form of a C string constant. The precise name returned is the one
that was specified in `#include' or as the input file name
This macro expands to the current input line number, in the form
of a decimal integer constant. While we call it a predefined
macro, it's a pretty strange macro, since its "definition" changes
with each new line of source code.
This and `__FILE__' are useful in generating an error message to
report an inconsistency detected by the program; the message can
state the source line at which the inconsistency was detected.
For example,
fprintf (stderr, "Internal error: "
"negative string length "
"%d at %s, line %d.",
length, __FILE__, __LINE__);
A `#include' directive changes the expansions of `__FILE__' and
`__LINE__' to correspond to the included file. At the end of that
file, when processing resumes on the input file that contained the
`#include' directive, the expansions of `__FILE__' and `__LINE__'
revert to the values they had before the `#include' (but
`__LINE__' is then incremented by one as processing moves to the
line after the `#include').
The expansions of both `__FILE__' and `__LINE__' are altered if a
`#line' directive is used. *Note Combining Sources::.
This macro expands to a string constant that describes the date on
which the preprocessor is being run. The string constant contains
eleven characters and looks like `"Feb 1 1996"'.
This macro expands to a string constant that describes the time at
which the preprocessor is being run. The string constant contains
eight characters and looks like `"23:59:01"'.
This macro expands to the constant 1, to signify that this is ANSI
Standard C. (Whether that is actually true depends on what C
compiler will operate on the output from the preprocessor.)
On some hosts, system include files use a different convention,
where `__STDC__' is normally 0, but is 1 if the user specifies
strict conformance to the C Standard. The preprocessor follows
the host convention when processing system include files, but when
processing user files it follows the usual GNU C convention.
This macro is not defined if the `-traditional' option is used.
This macro expands to the C Standard's version number, a long
integer constant of the form `YYYYMML' where YYYY and MM are the
year and month of the Standard version. This signifies which
version of the C Standard the preprocessor conforms to. Like
`__STDC__', whether this version number is accurate for the entire
implementation depends on what C compiler will operate on the
output from the preprocessor.
This macro is not defined if the `-traditional' option is used.
This macro is defined if and only if this is GNU C. This macro is
defined only when the entire GNU C compiler is in use; if you
invoke the preprocessor directly, `__GNUC__' is undefined. The
value identifies the major version number of GNU CC (`1' for GNU CC
version 1, which is now obsolete, and `2' for version 2).
The macro contains the minor version number of the compiler. This
can be used to work around differences between different releases
of the compiler (for example, if gcc 2.6.3 is known to support a
feature, you can test for `__GNUC__ > 2 || (__GNUC__ == 2 &&
__GNUC_MINOR__ >= 6)'). The last number, `3' in the example
above, denotes the bugfix level of the compiler; no macro contains
this value.
The GNU C compiler defines this when the compilation language is
C++; use `__GNUG__' to distinguish between GNU C and GNU C++.
The draft ANSI standard for C++ used to require predefining this
variable. Though it is no longer required, GNU C++ continues to
define it, as do other popular C++ compilers. You can use
`__cplusplus' to test whether a header is compiled by a C compiler
or a C++ compiler.
This macro is defined if and only if the `-ansi' switch was
specified when GNU C was invoked. Its definition is the null
string. This macro exists primarily to direct certain GNU header
files not to define certain traditional Unix constructs which are
incompatible with ANSI C.
This macro expands to the name of the main input file, in the form
of a C string constant. This is the source file that was specified
as an argument when the C compiler was invoked.
This macro expands to a decimal integer constant that represents
the depth of nesting in include files. The value of this macro is
incremented on every `#include' directive and decremented at every
end of file. For input files specified by command line arguments,
the nesting level is zero.
This macro expands to a string which describes the version number
of GNU C. The string is normally a sequence of decimal numbers
separated by periods, such as `"2.6.0"'. The only reasonable use
of this macro is to incorporate it into a string constant.
This macro is defined in optimizing compilations. It causes
certain GNU header files to define alternative macro definitions
for some system library functions. It is unwise to refer to or
test the definition of this macro unless you make very sure that
programs will execute with the same effect regardless.
This macro is defined if and only if the data type `char' is
unsigned on the target machine. It exists to cause the standard
header file `limits.h' to work correctly. It is bad practice to
refer to this macro yourself; instead, refer to the standard
macros defined in `limits.h'. The preprocessor uses this macro to
determine whether or not to sign-extend large character constants
written in octal; see *Note The `#if' Directive: #if Directive.
This macro expands to a string describing the prefix applied to cpu
registers in assembler code. It can be used to write assembler
code that is usable in multiple environments. For example, in the
`m68k-aout' environment it expands to the string `""', but in the
`m68k-coff' environment it expands to the string `"%"'.
This macro expands to a string describing the prefix applied to
user generated labels in assembler code. It can be used to write
assembler code that is usable in multiple environments. For
example, in the `m68k-aout' environment it expands to the string
`"_"', but in the `m68k-coff' environment it expands to the string
`""'. This does not work with the `-mno-underscores' option that
the i386 OSF/rose and m88k targets provide nor with the `-mcall*'
options of the rs6000 System V Release 4 target.

File:, Node: Nonstandard Predefined, Prev: Standard Predefined, Up: Predefined
Nonstandard Predefined Macros
The C preprocessor normally has several predefined macros that vary
between machines because their purpose is to indicate what type of
system and machine is in use. This manual, being for all systems and
machines, cannot tell you exactly what their names are; instead, we
offer a list of some typical ones. You can use `cpp -dM' to see the
values of predefined macros; see *Note Invocation::.
Some nonstandard predefined macros describe the operating system in
use, with more or less specificity. For example,
`unix' is normally predefined on all Unix systems.
`BSD' is predefined on recent versions of Berkeley Unix (perhaps
only in version 4.3).
Other nonstandard predefined macros describe the kind of CPU, with
more or less specificity. For example,
`vax' is predefined on Vax computers.
`mc68000' is predefined on most computers whose CPU is a Motorola
68000, 68010 or 68020.
`m68k' is also predefined on most computers whose CPU is a 68000,
68010 or 68020; however, some makers use `mc68000' and some use
`m68k'. Some predefine both names. What happens in GNU C depends
on the system you are using it on.
`M68020' has been observed to be predefined on some systems that
use 68020 CPUs--in addition to `mc68000' and `m68k', which are
less specific.
Both `_AM29K' and `_AM29000' are predefined for the AMD 29000 CPU
`ns32000' is predefined on computers which use the National
Semiconductor 32000 series CPU.
Yet other nonstandard predefined macros describe the manufacturer of
the system. For example,
`sun' is predefined on all models of Sun computers.
`pyr' is predefined on all models of Pyramid computers.
`sequent' is predefined on all models of Sequent computers.
These predefined symbols are not only nonstandard, they are contrary
to the ANSI standard because their names do not start with underscores.
Therefore, the option `-ansi' inhibits the definition of these symbols.
This tends to make `-ansi' useless, since many programs depend on the
customary nonstandard predefined symbols. Even system header files
check them and will generate incorrect declarations if they do not find
the names that are expected. You might think that the header files
supplied for the Uglix computer would not need to test what machine
they are running on, because they can simply assume it is the Uglix;
but often they do, and they do so using the customary names. As a
result, very few C programs will compile with `-ansi'. We intend to
avoid such problems on the GNU system.
What, then, should you do in an ANSI C program to test the type of
machine it will run on?
GNU C offers a parallel series of symbols for this purpose, whose
names are made from the customary ones by adding `__' at the beginning
and end. Thus, the symbol `__vax__' would be available on a Vax, and
so on.
The set of nonstandard predefined names in the GNU C preprocessor is
controlled (when `cpp' is itself compiled) by the macro
`CPP_PREDEFINES', which should be a string containing `-D' options,
separated by spaces. For example, on the Sun 3, we use the following
#define CPP_PREDEFINES "-Dmc68000 -Dsun -Dunix -Dm68k"
This macro is usually specified in `tm.h'.

File:, Node: Stringification, Next: Concatenation, Prev: Predefined, Up: Macros
"Stringification" means turning a code fragment into a string
constant whose contents are the text for the code fragment. For
example, stringifying `foo (z)' results in `"foo (z)"'.
In the C preprocessor, stringification is an option available when
macro arguments are substituted into the macro definition. In the body
of the definition, when an argument name appears, the character `#'
before the name specifies stringification of the corresponding actual
argument when it is substituted at that point in the definition. The
same argument may be substituted in other places in the definition
without stringification if the argument name appears in those places
with no `#'.
Here is an example of a macro definition that uses stringification:
#define WARN_IF(EXP) \
do { if (EXP) \
fprintf (stderr, "Warning: " #EXP "\n"); } \
while (0)
Here the actual argument for `EXP' is substituted once as given, into
the `if' statement, and once as stringified, into the argument to
`fprintf'. The `do' and `while (0)' are a kludge to make it possible
to write `WARN_IF (ARG);', which the resemblance of `WARN_IF' to a
function would make C programmers want to do; see *Note Swallow
The stringification feature is limited to transforming one macro
argument into one string constant: there is no way to combine the
argument with other text and then stringify it all together. But the
example above shows how an equivalent result can be obtained in ANSI
Standard C using the feature that adjacent string constants are
concatenated as one string constant. The preprocessor stringifies the
actual value of `EXP' into a separate string constant, resulting in
text like
do { if (x == 0) \
fprintf (stderr, "Warning: " "x == 0" "\n"); } \
while (0)
but the C compiler then sees three consecutive string constants and
concatenates them into one, producing effectively
do { if (x == 0) \
fprintf (stderr, "Warning: x == 0\n"); } \
while (0)
Stringification in C involves more than putting doublequote
characters around the fragment; it is necessary to put backslashes in
front of all doublequote characters, and all backslashes in string and
character constants, in order to get a valid C string constant with the
proper contents. Thus, stringifying `p = "foo\n";' results in `"p =
\"foo\\n\";"'. However, backslashes that are not inside of string or
character constants are not duplicated: `\n' by itself stringifies to
Whitespace (including comments) in the text being stringified is
handled according to precise rules. All leading and trailing
whitespace is ignored. Any sequence of whitespace in the middle of the
text is converted to a single space in the stringified result.

File:, Node: Concatenation, Next: Undefining, Prev: Stringification, Up: Macros
"Concatenation" means joining two strings into one. In the context
of macro expansion, concatenation refers to joining two lexical units
into one longer one. Specifically, an actual argument to the macro can
be concatenated with another actual argument or with fixed text to
produce a longer name. The longer name might be the name of a function,
variable or type, or a C keyword; it might even be the name of another
macro, in which case it will be expanded.
When you define a macro, you request concatenation with the special
operator `##' in the macro body. When the macro is called, after
actual arguments are substituted, all `##' operators are deleted, and
so is any whitespace next to them (including whitespace that was part
of an actual argument). The result is to concatenate the syntactic
tokens on either side of the `##'.
Consider a C program that interprets named commands. There probably
needs to be a table of commands, perhaps an array of structures
declared as follows:
struct command
char *name;
void (*function) ();
struct command commands[] =
{ "quit", quit_command},
{ "help", help_command},
It would be cleaner not to have to give each command name twice,
once in the string constant and once in the function name. A macro
which takes the name of a command as an argument can make this
unnecessary. The string constant can be created with stringification,
and the function name by concatenating the argument with `_command'.
Here is how it is done:
#define COMMAND(NAME) { #NAME, NAME ## _command }
struct command commands[] =
COMMAND (quit),
COMMAND (help),
The usual case of concatenation is concatenating two names (or a
name and a number) into a longer name. But this isn't the only valid
case. It is also possible to concatenate two numbers (or a number and
a name, such as `1.5' and `e3') into a number. Also, multi-character
operators such as `+=' can be formed by concatenation. In some cases
it is even possible to piece together a string constant. However, two
pieces of text that don't together form a valid lexical unit cannot be
concatenated. For example, concatenation with `x' on one side and `+'
on the other is not meaningful because those two characters can't fit
together in any lexical unit of C. The ANSI standard says that such
attempts at concatenation are undefined, but in the GNU C preprocessor
it is well defined: it puts the `x' and `+' side by side with no
particular special results.
Keep in mind that the C preprocessor converts comments to whitespace
before macros are even considered. Therefore, you cannot create a
comment by concatenating `/' and `*': the `/*' sequence that starts a
comment is not a lexical unit, but rather the beginning of a "long"
space character. Also, you can freely use comments next to a `##' in a
macro definition, or in actual arguments that will be concatenated,
because the comments will be converted to spaces at first sight, and
concatenation will later discard the spaces.

File:, Node: Undefining, Next: Redefining, Prev: Concatenation, Up: Macros
Undefining Macros
To "undefine" a macro means to cancel its definition. This is done
with the `#undef' directive. `#undef' is followed by the macro name to
be undefined.
Like definition, undefinition occurs at a specific point in the
source file, and it applies starting from that point. The name ceases
to be a macro name, and from that point on it is treated by the
preprocessor as if it had never been a macro name.
For example,
#define FOO 4
x = FOO;
#undef FOO
x = FOO;
expands into
x = 4;
x = FOO;
In this example, `FOO' had better be a variable or function as well as
(temporarily) a macro, in order for the result of the expansion to be
valid C code.
The same form of `#undef' directive will cancel definitions with
arguments or definitions that don't expect arguments. The `#undef'
directive has no effect when used on a name not currently defined as a

File:, Node: Redefining, Next: Macro Pitfalls, Prev: Undefining, Up: Macros
Redefining Macros
"Redefining" a macro means defining (with `#define') a name that is
already defined as a macro.
A redefinition is trivial if the new definition is transparently
identical to the old one. You probably wouldn't deliberately write a
trivial redefinition, but they can happen automatically when a header
file is included more than once (*note Header Files::.), so they are
accepted silently and without effect.
Nontrivial redefinition is considered likely to be an error, so it
provokes a warning message from the preprocessor. However, sometimes it
is useful to change the definition of a macro in mid-compilation. You
can inhibit the warning by undefining the macro with `#undef' before the
second definition.
In order for a redefinition to be trivial, the new definition must
exactly match the one already in effect, with two possible exceptions:
* Whitespace may be added or deleted at the beginning or the end.
* Whitespace may be changed in the middle (but not inside strings).
However, it may not be eliminated entirely, and it may not be added
where there was no whitespace at all.
Recall that a comment counts as whitespace.