Shweta Shweta - 3 months ago 10
C Question

How to pass 2D array (matrix) in a function in C?

I need to do this to persist operations on the matrix as well. Does that mean that it needs to be passed by reference?

Will this suffice?

void operate_on_matrix(char matrix[][20]);

Answer

C does not really have multi-dimensional arrays, but there are several ways to simulate them. The way to pass such arrays to a function depends on the way used to simulate the multiple dimensions:

1) Use an array of arrays. This can only be used if your array bounds are fully determined at compile time, or if your compiler supports VLA's:

#define ROWS 4
#define COLS 5

void func(int array[ROWS][COLS])
{
  int i, j;

  for (i=0; i<ROWS; i++)
  {
    for (j=0; j<COLS; j++)
    {
      array[i][j] = i*j;
    }
  }
}

void func_vla(int rows, int cols, int array[rows][cols])
{
  int i, j;

  for (i=0; i<rows; i++)
  {
    for (j=0; j<cols; j++)
    {
      array[i][j] = i*j;
    }
  }
}

int main()
{
  int x[ROWS][COLS];

  func(x);
  func_vla(x, rows, cols);
}

2) Use a (dynamically allocated) array of pointers to (dynamically allocated) arrays. This is used mostly when the array bounds are not known until runtime.

void func(int** array, int rows, int cols)
{
  int i, j;

  for (i=0; i<rows; i++)
  {
    for (j=0; j<cols; j++)
    {
      array[i][j] = i*j;
    }
  }
}

int main()
{
  int rows, cols, i;
  int **x;

  /* obtain values for rows & cols */

  /* allocate the array */
  x = malloc(rows * sizeof *x);
  for (i=0; i<rows; i++)
  {
    x[i] = malloc(cols * sizeof *x[i]);
  }

  /* use the array */
  func(x, rows, cols);

  /* deallocate the array */
  for (i=0; i<rows; i++)
  {
    free(x[i]);
  }
  free(x);
}

3) Use a 1-dimensional array and fixup the indices. This can be used with both statically allocated (fixed-size) and dynamically allocated arrays:

void func(int* array, int rows, int cols)
{
  int i, j;

  for (i=0; i<rows; i++)
  {
    for (j=0; j<cols; j++)
    {
      array[i*rows+j] = i*j;
    }
  }
}

int main()
{
  int rows, cols;
  int *x;

  /* obtain values for rows & cols */

  /* allocate the array */
  x = malloc(rows * cols * sizeof *x);

  /* use the array */
  func(x, rows, cols);

  /* deallocate the array */
  free(x);
}