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Structures and Unions in C

nikhilesh2601 profile image Nikhilesh2601 Updated on ・6 min read

Structures in c:

Arrays allow to define type of variables that can hold several data items of the same kind. Similarly structure is another user defined data type available in C that allows to combine data items of different kinds.

Structures are used to represent a record. Suppose you want to keep track of your books in a library. You might want to track the following attributes about each book

Title
Author
Subject
Book ID
Defining a Structure
To define a structure, you must use the struct statement. The struct statement defines a new data type, with more than one member. The format of the struct statement is as follows

struct [structure tag] {

member definition;
member definition;
...
member definition;
} [one or more structure variables];

The structure tag is optional and each member definition is a normal variable definition, such as int i; or float f; or any other valid variable definition. At the end of the structure's definition, before the final semicolon, you can specify one or more structure variables but it is optional. Here is the way you would declare the Book structure −

struct Books {
char title[50];
char author[50];
char subject[100];
int book_id;
} book;

Accessing Structure Members:
To access any member of a structure, we use the member access operator (.). The member access operator is coded as a period between the structure variable name and the structure member that we wish to access. You would use the keyword struct to define variables of structure type. The following example shows how to use a structure in a program

include

include

struct Books {
char title[50];
char author[50];
char subject[100];
int book_id;
};

int main( ) {

struct Books Book1; /* Declare Book1 of type Book /
struct Books Book2; /
Declare Book2 of type Book */

/* book 1 specification */
strcpy( Book1.title, "C Programming");
strcpy( Book1.author, "Nuha Ali");
strcpy( Book1.subject, "C Programming Tutorial");
Book1.book_id = 6495407;

/* book 2 specification */
strcpy( Book2.title, "Telecom Billing");
strcpy( Book2.author, "Zara Ali");
strcpy( Book2.subject, "Telecom Billing Tutorial");
Book2.book_id = 6495700;

/* print Book1 info */
printf( "Book 1 title : %s\n", Book1.title);
printf( "Book 1 author : %s\n", Book1.author);
printf( "Book 1 subject : %s\n", Book1.subject);
printf( "Book 1 book_id : %d\n", Book1.book_id);

/* print Book2 info */
printf( "Book 2 title : %s\n", Book2.title);
printf( "Book 2 author : %s\n", Book2.author);
printf( "Book 2 subject : %s\n", Book2.subject);
printf( "Book 2 book_id : %d\n", Book2.book_id);

return 0;
}

When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result

Book 1 title : C Programming
Book 1 author : Nuha Ali
Book 1 subject : C Programming Tutorial
Book 1 book_id : 6495407
Book 2 title : Telecom Billing
Book 2 author : Zara Ali
Book 2 subject : Telecom Billing Tutorial
Book 2 book_id : 6495700
Structures as Function Arguments
You can pass a structure as a function argument in the same way as you pass any other variable or pointer.

include

include

struct Books {
char title[50];
char author[50];
char subject[100];
int book_id;
};

/* function declaration */
void printBook( struct Books book );

int main( ) {

struct Books Book1; /* Declare Book1 of type Book /
struct Books Book2; /
Declare Book2 of type Book */

/* book 1 specification */
strcpy( Book1.title, "C Programming");
strcpy( Book1.author, "Nuha Ali");
strcpy( Book1.subject, "C Programming Tutorial");
Book1.book_id = 6495407;

/* book 2 specification */
strcpy( Book2.title, "Telecom Billing");
strcpy( Book2.author, "Zara Ali");
strcpy( Book2.subject, "Telecom Billing Tutorial");
Book2.book_id = 6495700;

/* print Book1 info */
printBook( Book1 );

/* Print Book2 info */
printBook( Book2 );

return 0;
}

void printBook( struct Books book ) {

printf( "Book title : %s\n", book.title);
printf( "Book author : %s\n", book.author);
printf( "Book subject : %s\n", book.subject);
printf( "Book book_id : %d\n", book.book_id);
}

When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result

Book title : C Programming
Book author : Nuha Ali
Book subject : C Programming Tutorial
Book book_id : 6495407
Book title : Telecom Billing
Book author : Zara Ali
Book subject : Telecom Billing Tutorial
Book book_id : 6495700
Pointers to Structures
You can define pointers to structures in the same way as you define pointer to any other variable −

struct Books *struct_pointer;
Now, you can store the address of a structure variable in the above defined pointer variable. To find the address of a structure variable, place the '&'; operator before the structure's name as follows −

struct_pointer = &Book1;
To access the members of a structure using a pointer to that structure, you must use the → operator as follows −

struct_pointer->title;
Let us re-write the above example using structure pointer.

include

include

struct Books {
char title[50];
char author[50];
char subject[100];
int book_id;
};

/* function declaration */
void printBook( struct Books *book );
int main( ) {

struct Books Book1; /* Declare Book1 of type Book /
struct Books Book2; /
Declare Book2 of type Book */

/* book 1 specification */
strcpy( Book1.title, "C Programming");
strcpy( Book1.author, "Nuha Ali");
strcpy( Book1.subject, "C Programming Tutorial");
Book1.book_id = 6495407;

/* book 2 specification */
strcpy( Book2.title, "Telecom Billing");
strcpy( Book2.author, "Zara Ali");
strcpy( Book2.subject, "Telecom Billing Tutorial");
Book2.book_id = 6495700;

/* print Book1 info by passing address of Book1 */
printBook( &Book1 );

/* print Book2 info by passing address of Book2 */
printBook( &Book2 );

return 0;
}

void printBook( struct Books *book ) {

printf( "Book title : %s\n", book->title);
printf( "Book author : %s\n", book->author);
printf( "Book subject : %s\n", book->subject);
printf( "Book book_id : %d\n", book->book_id);
}

When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result

Book title : C Programming
Book author : Nuha Ali
Book subject : C Programming Tutorial
Book book_id : 6495407
Book title : Telecom Billing
Book author : Zara Ali
Book subject : Telecom Billing Tutorial
Book book_id : 6495700

Unions in c:

A union is a special data type available in C that allows to store different data types in the same memory location. You can define a union with many members, but only one member can contain a value at any given time. Unions provide an efficient way of using the same memory location for multiple-purpose.

Defining a Union:
To define a union, you must use the union statement in the same way as you did while defining a structure. The union statement defines a new data type with more than one member for your program. The format of the union statement is as follows

union [union tag] {
member definition;
member definition;
...
member definition;
} [one or more union variables];

The union tag is optional and each member definition is a normal variable definition, such as int i; or float f; or any other valid variable definition. At the end of the union's definition, before the final semicolon, you can specify one or more union variables but it is optional. Here is the way you would define a union type named Data having three members i, f, and str −

union Data {
int i;
float f;
char str[20];
} data;

Now, a variable of Data type can store an integer, a floating-point number, or a string of characters. It means a single variable, i.e., same memory location, can be used to store multiple types of data. You can use any built-in or user defined data types inside a union based on your requirement.

The memory occupied by a union will be large enough to hold the largest member of the union. For example, in the above example, Data type will occupy 20 bytes of memory space because this is the maximum space which can be occupied by a character string. The following example displays the total memory size occupied by the above union

include

include

union Data {
int i;
float f;
char str[20];
};

int main( ) {

union Data data;

printf( "Memory size occupied by data : %d\n", sizeof(data));

return 0;
}

When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result −

Memory size occupied by data : 20
Accessing Union Members
To access any member of a union, we use the member access operator (.). The member access operator is coded as a period between the union variable name and the union member that we wish to access. You would use the keyword union to define variables of union type. The following example shows how to use unions in a program

include

include

union Data {
int i;
float f;
char str[20];
};

int main( ) {

union Data data;

data.i = 10;
data.f = 220.5;
strcpy( data.str, "C Programming");

printf( "data.i : %d\n", data.i);
printf( "data.f : %f\n", data.f);
printf( "data.str : %s\n", data.str);

return 0;
}

When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result

data.i : 1917853763
data.f : 4122360580327794860452759994368.000000
data.str : C Programming
Here, we can see that the values of i and f members of union got corrupted because the final value assigned to the variable has occupied the memory location and this is the reason that the value of str member is getting printed very well.

Now let's look into the same example once again where we will use one variable at a time which is the main purpose of having unions

include

include

union Data {
int i;
float f;
char str[20];
};

int main( ) {

union Data data;

data.i = 10;
printf( "data.i : %d\n", data.i);

data.f = 220.5;
printf( "data.f : %f\n", data.f);

strcpy( data.str, "C Programming");
printf( "data.str : %s\n", data.str);

return 0;
}
When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result −

data.i : 10
data.f : 220.500000
data.str : C Programming

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