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The C Preprocessor

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3.4 Stringification

Sometimes you may want to convert a macro argument into a string constant. Parameters are not replaced inside string constants, but you can use the `#' preprocessing operator instead. When a macro parameter is used with a leading `#', the preprocessor replaces it with the literal text of the actual argument, converted to a string constant. Unlike normal parameter replacement, the argument is not macro-expanded first. This is called stringification.

There is no way to combine an argument with surrounding text and stringify it all together. Instead, you can write a series of adjacent string constants and stringified arguments. The preprocessor will replace the stringified arguments with string constants. The C compiler will then combine all the adjacent string constants into one long string.

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)
WARN_IF (x == 0);
     ==> do { if (x == 0)
           fprintf (stderr, "Warning: " "x == 0" "\n"); } while (0);

The argument for EXP is substituted once, as-is, into the if statement, and once, stringified, into the argument to fprintf. If x were a macro, it would be expanded in the if statement, but not in the string.

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 3.9.3 Swallowing the Semicolon.

Stringification in C involves more than putting double-quote characters around the fragment. The preprocessor backslash-escapes the quotes surrounding embedded string constants, and all backslashes within 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 string or character constants are not duplicated: `\n' by itself stringifies to "\n".

All leading and trailing whitespace in text being stringified is ignored. Any sequence of whitespace in the middle of the text is converted to a single space in the stringified result. Comments are replaced by whitespace long before stringification happens, so they never appear in stringified text.

There is no way to convert a macro argument into a character constant.

If you want to stringify the result of expansion of a macro argument, you have to use two levels of macros.

 
#define xstr(s) str(s)
#define str(s) #s
#define foo 4
str (foo)
     ==> "foo"
xstr (foo)
     ==> xstr (4)
     ==> str (4)
     ==> "4"

s is stringified when it is used in str, so it is not macro-expanded first. But s is an ordinary argument to xstr, so it is completely macro-expanded before xstr itself is expanded (see section 3.9.6 Argument Prescan). Therefore, by the time str gets to its argument, it has already been macro-expanded.


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