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Sunday, 3 November 2013

Character pointer

Pointer to character:
What is character pointer?
If the base type of a pointer is a character, then the pointer is called character pointer or pointer to character.

How to declare character pointer?
Below is the declaration for character pointer.
          char *<variable_name>;
          char *ptr;

How to initialize character pointer in c?
Below are few examples for character pointer initialization.
     char *ptr = NULL;
     char *ptr = "Hello world";

What is the size of character pointer?
The size of character pointer can be obtained using the sizeof() operator


  #include <stdio.h>
  int main() {
        char *cptr;
        printf("Sizeof character pointer: %d bytes\n", sizeof(cptr));
        return 0;

  jp@jp-VirtualBox:~/$ ./a.out
  Sizeof character pointer: 4 bytes

How character pointer works?
Basically, a string is an array of characters terminated with null character '\0'.  And it can be accessed using pointer of type char.  Consider the below declarations.
          char str[16] = "Hello World";
          char *cptr;

Here, str is an character array and cptr is a character pointer.  Let us assign the base address of the array str to pointer cptr
          cptr = str;
Now, pointer cptr refers to the first character in the array str.

Below are few other ways to access characters in an array using pointers.
(cptr + i)  <=> &str[i]  // refers to ith element in array str
cptr[i]      <=> str[i]    // character at ith index of array str
*(cptr +i) <=> str[i]    // character at ith index of array str

How to print a string using pointers in c?
Below program explains how to print a string using character pointers.

  #include <stdio.h>
  int main() {
        char *cptr, str[32] = "Hello world";

        /* assigning base address of the array str */
        cptr = str;

        /* printing the output */
        printf("Input string: ");
        while (*cptr != '\0') {
                printf("%c", *cptr++);

        return 0;

  jp@jp-VirtualBox:~/$ ./a.out
  Input string: Hello world

How to compare strings using character pointers?
Consider two characters pointers cptr1 and cptr2.  And they point to two different strings.
          char *cptr1 = "Hello world";
          char *cptr2 = "Hello world";
Let us check whether the strings pointed by two given pointers are same or not.

  #include <stdio.h>
  int main() {
        int flag = 0;
        char *cptr1 = "hello world";
        char *cptr2 = "hello world";

        /* checking whether the given 2 strings are same */
        while (*cptr1 == *cptr2) {
                if (!*cptr1 && !*cptr2) {
                        flag = 1;
                cptr1++, cptr2++;

        /* printing the result */
        if (flag) {
                printf("Given two strings are same\n");
        } else {
                printf("Given two strings are not same\n");
        return 0;

  jp@jp-VirtualBox:~/$ ./a.out
  Given two strings are same

How to pass character pointer as function argument? How to return character pointer?
Like other data types, character pointer can also be passed as function argument.  Below program explains how to pass character pointer as function argument and how to return character pointer.

  #include <stdio.h>
  #include <stdlib.h>

  /* returns a string "hello world" to the caller */
  char * charPtr(char *src) {
        char *tmp, *dest, *ptr = "world";

        /* dynamic memory allocation */
        dest = (char *)calloc(32, sizeof(char));

        tmp = dest;

        /* copying hello in src to dest pointer */
        while (*src) {
                *dest = *src;
                src++, dest++;

        /* appending space */
        *dest++ = ' ';

        /* copying the string "world" */
        while (*ptr) {
                *dest = *ptr;
                ptr++, dest++;

        /* null termination */
        *dest = '\0';
        dest = tmp;

        /* returning null pointer */
        return (dest);

  int main() {
        char *cptr1, *cptr2 = "Hello";
        /* passing character pointer as argument */
        cptr1 = charPtr(cptr2);
        printf("Ouput: %s\n", cptr1);

        /* release the dynamically allocated block */
        return 0;

  jp@jp-VirtualBox:~/$ ./a.out
  Ouput: Hello world

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