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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Some details about Pointers and Structures in C...

A pointer can be defined as a variable pointing to another variable or a variable storing the location or address of another variable.Pointers can be used to point to any data type.There are object pointers, function pointers, structure pointers and so on. Like any other pointers, structure pointers are also a very useful tool in C programming.Pointer structures are easy to declare and declared similarly like any other kind of pointer by putting a “*” sign before the name of the structure. See the example below:

Struct address *a1, *a2;
a1 = &b2;
a2 = &b3;

where b2 and b3 are the actual structure address variables. Using the below given assignment statement you can copy the details of structure pointed by a2 to a1:

*a1 = *a2;

Any member of a structure can be accessed using a pointer in the following way:

Here A is a pointer pointing to a structure and b is a data member or a member function of the structure being pointed. And there’s another way to access a member of a structure which has been given below:


Both the statements are equivalent. Use of structure pointers is very common and useful.Be careful while dealing with structure pointers like any other normal pointer.The precedence of operators matters a lot. Be careful with the precedence of operators while programming in C.If we enclose *A is parentheses, an error will be generated and the code will not be compiled since the “.” Operator has got a high precedence than the”*” operator.Using so many parentheses can be quite a tedious job so, C allows us to use a shorthand notation to reduce the bombastic jargon. ” (*A).” can also be written as given below:

A ->

This is equivalent to (*A). but takes less characters. We can create pointers to structure arrays. A lot of space can be saved if we declare an array of pointers instead of an array to structures. In this only one structure is created and subsequently values are entered and disposed. Even structures can contain pointers as shown below:

Typedef struct
Char a[10];
Char *b;
} c;
c d;
char e[10];
d.b = (char *) malloc (sizeof (char[strlen(e)+ 1]));
strcpy(d.b, e);

This method is implemented when only a few records are required to be stored. When the size of the structure is large, it becomes difficult to pass and return the structures to the functions. To overcome this problem we can pass structure pointers to the functions. These structures can be accessed indirectly via pointers. Given below is a small code to illustrate the passing of structure pointers to the function and accessing them:

struct product
Int pno;
Float price;
Void inputpno (struct product *pnoptr);
Void outputpno (struct product *pnoptr);
Void main()
Struct product item;
Printf(“product details\n\n”);
Inputpno (&item);
Outputpno (&item);
Void outputpno (struct product *pnoptr)
Printf( “product no. = %d, price = %5.2f \n”, ( *pnoptr). Pno, (*pnoptr).price);
Void inputpno (struct product *pnoptr)
Int x;
Float y;
Struct product pno;
Printf( “product number: “);
Scanf( “%d”, &x);
( *pnoptr).pno = x;
Printf ( “price of the product: “);
Scanf( “%f”, &y);
( *pnoptr). Price = y;

In this program code, the prototypes, function calls and definitions have been changed in order to work with structure pointers. Dereferencing of a structure pointer is very common in programs. “->” (arrow) is an operator that is provided by C for accessing the member function of a structure. The 2 statements given below are equivalent:

Pnoptr -> pno;

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