Pre-Processor in C Programming

The C preprocessor is exactly what its name implies. It is a program that processes our source program before it is passed to the compiler.

The preprocessor offers several features called preprocessor directives. Each of these preprocessor directives begin with a # symbol. The directives can be placed anywhere in a program but are most often placed at the beginning of a program, before the first function definition. We would learn the following preprocessor directives here:
(a) Macro expansion
(b) File inclusion #include<stdio.h> etc..
(c) Conditional Compilation

Macro expansion

Have a look at the following program

#define UPPER 25 
int main( ) 
int i ; 
for ( i = 1 ; i <= UPPER ; i++ );
printf ( "\n%d", i ) ; 
return 0;

In this program instead of writing 25 in the for loop we are writing it in the form of UPPER, which has already been defined before main( ) through the statement, #define UPPER 25

Macros with Arguments

The macros that we have used so far are called simple macros. Macros can have arguments, just as functions can. Here is an example that illustrates this fact.

#define AREA(x) ( 3.14 * x * x ) 
int main( ) 
float r1 = 6.25, r2 = 2.5, a ;
a = AREA ( r1 ) ; 
printf ( "\nArea of circle = %f", a ) ; 
a = AREA ( r2 ) ; 
printf ( "\nArea of circle = %f", a );
return 0;
Output :
Area of circle = 122.656250 
Area of circle = 19.625000     

In this program wherever the preprocessor finds the phrase AREA(x) it expands it into the statement ( 3.14 * x * x ). However, that’s not all that it does. The x in the macro template AREA(x) is an argument that matches the x in the macro expansion ( 3.14 * x * x ). The statement AREA(r1) in the program causes the variable r1 to be substituted for x.

Thus the statement AREA(r1) is equivalent to: ( 3.14 * r1 * r1 )

Conditional Compilation

We can, if we want, have the compiler skip over part of a source code by inserting the preprocessing commands #ifdef and #endif, which have the general form:

#ifdef macroname 
statement 1 ; 
statement 2 ; 
statement 3 ; 

If macroname has been #defined, the block of code will be processed as usual; otherwise not.

void main( ) 
#ifdef INTEL 
code suitable for a Intel PC 
code suitable for a Motorola PC 
code common to both the computers 

When you compile this program it would compile only the code suitable for a Intel PC and the common code. This is because the macro INTEL has not been defined. Note that the working of #ifdef - #else - #endif is similar to the ordinary if - else control instruction of C.

#if and #elif Directives

The #if directive can be used to test whether an expression evaluates to a nonzero value or not. If the result of the expression is nonzero, then subsequent lines upto a #else, #elif or #endif are compiled, otherwise they are skipped.

A simple example of #if directive is shown below:

main( ) 
#if TEST <= 5 
statement 1 ; 
statement 2 ; 
statement 3 ; 
statement 4 ; 
statement 5 ; 
statement 6 ; 

If the expression, TEST <= 5 evaluates to true then statements 1, 2 and 3 are compiled otherwise statements 4, 5 and 6 are compiled.


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