C Study Guide

St. Gabriel's College



We use strings a lot, so it is important to know how to use them correctly. In this section we will cover a number of important C functions that work with strings.

Here is a list of some good functions from string.h:


It is important to remember that the "length" of the string and the "size" of the string are different. Here's an example

char name[1000] = "Chris";
int length = strlen(name); // 5
int size = sizeof(name)/sizeof(char); // 1000

The string name has a length of 5 but a size of 1000. Your strings should all have a size of about 1000 (at least until you learn about pointers) to make sure you always have enough space.


This function may seem a little strange, but it's very useful when you work with pointers. It is also useful when you have an array of strings:

char students[1000][1000];
strcpy(students[0], "John");


We talked about this function in the section about conditions. strcmp() takes two strings and compares them. It then returns an int:

The +/-1 returns are useful for sorting strings by alphabetical order.


This is also a very useful function for working with strings:

char part1[1000], part2[1000], part3[1000];

strcpy(part1, "Apples");
strcpy(part2, "And");
strcpy(part3, "Pears");

strcat(part1, part2);
strcat(part1, part3);

printf(part1); // ApplesAndPears


This is an advanced function, but if you can use it right, it will work wonders. Let's say you want to take a sentence and print each word on a separate line. We could use strtok() to do this. It is a strange function, because it remembers the string in between times when you use it. When it reaches the end of the string, it will return NULL.

char sentence[1000] = "This is an advanced function, but if you can use it right, it will work wonders.";
char delimiters[1000] = ",.'() "; //These are the characters that come between words.

char *word;
word = strtok(sentence, delimiters);
while(word != NULL)
    printf("%s\n", word);
    word = strtok(NULL, delimiters);