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ANSI C standard library

Both Unix and C were created at AT&T's Bell Laboratories in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During the 1970s the C programming language became increasingly popular. Many universities and organizations began creating their own variations of the language for their own projects. By the beginning of the 1980s compatibility problems between the various C implementations became apparent. In 1983 the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) formed a committee to establish a standard implementation of C known as "ANSI C". Part of the resulting standard was a set of software libraries called the ANSI C standard library.

The ANSI C standard library consists of 18 C header files which can be included into a programmer's project with a single statement. Each header file contains one or more functions, function prototypes, data type definitions and macros. The contents of these header files follows.

Later revisions of the C standard have added several new required definitions to the library, notably the , adding a standard boolean type, and functions for dealing with Unicode in and . Support for these new extensions varies between implementations.

In comparison to some other languages (for example Java) the standard library is minuscule. The library provides a basic set of mathematical functions, string manipulation, type conversions, and file and console-based I/O. It does not include a standard set of "container types" like the C++ Standard Template Library, let alone the complete GUI toolkits, networking tools, and profusion of other functionality that Java provides as standard. The main advantage of the small standard library is that providing a working ANSI C environment is much easier than for other languages, and consquently porting C to a new platform is relatively easy.

Many other libraries have been developed to supply equivalent functionality to that provided by other languages in their standard library. For instance, the GNOME desktop environment project has developed the GTK graphics toolkit and glib, a library of container data structures, and there are many other well-known examples. The variety of libraries available has meant that some superior toolkits have proven themselves through history. The considerable downside is that they often do not work particularly well together, programmers are often familiar with different sets of libraries, and a different set of them may be available on any particular platform.

Much of the C standard library has been shown to have been well-designed. A few parts, with the benefit of hindsight, are regarded as mistakes. The string input functions gets() (and the use of scanf() to read string input) are the source of many buffer overflows, and most programming guides recommend avoiding this usage. Another oddity is strtok(), a function that is designed as a primitive lexical analyser but is highly "fragile" and very difficult to use.

ANSI C library header files

Contains the assert macro, used to assist with detecting logical errors and other types of bug in debugging versions of a program.

This contains functions used to classify characters by their types or to convert between upper and lower case in the simple ASCII character set.

For testing error codes reported by library functions.

Contains defined constants speciying the implementation-specific properties of the floating point library, such as the minimum difference between two different floating point numbers (_EPSILON), the maximum number of digits of accuracy (_DIG) and the range of numbers which can be represented (_MIN, _MAX).

For programming in ISO 646 variant character sets

Contains defined constants speciying the implementation-specific properties of the integer library, such as the range of numbers which can be represented (_MIN, _MAX).

For adapting to different cultural conventions, like time zones.

For computing common mathematical functions

For executing nonlocal goto statements

For controlling various exceptional conditions

For accessing a varying number of arguments passed to functions and procedures.

For defining several useful types and macros.

Provides the core input and output capabilities of the C language. This file includes the legendary printf function.

For performing a variety of operations, including conversion, pseudo-random numbers, memory allocation, process control, environment, signalling, searching, and sorting.

For manipulating several kinds of strings.

for converting between various time and date formats.

For manipulating wide streams and several kinds of strings usign wide characters - key to supporting a range of languages.

for classifying wide characters

See also: C standard library, Fopen

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