beldaz beldaz - 2 months ago 16x
C Question

Why does inline function need to be declared static if it uses fprintf?

I am refactoring some C code and performing unit testing on the factored out parts (using Google Test). One snippet was used several times in a loop, so in order to expose it to testing I factored it out as an

function in a header file
which also includes declarations of some other non-
functions. A simplified version is as follows:

#ifndef DEMO_H_
#define DEMO_H_
#ifdef __cplusplus
extern "C" {
inline void print_line(FILE* dest, const double * data, int length) {
for (int s = 0; s < length; s++)
fprintf(dest, "%lf ", data[s]);
fprintf(dest, "\n");
#ifdef __cplusplus
#endif /* MK_H_ */

My test code

#include "gtest/gtest.h"
#include "demo.h"
#include <memory>
#include <array>
#include <fstream>

TEST (demo, print_line) {
std::array<double,4> test_data = {0.1, 1.4, -0.05, 3.612};

const char* testfile = "print_line_test.txt";
auto output_file = std::unique_ptr<FILE, decltype(fclose)*>{
fopen(testfile, "w"), fclose };
print_line(output_file.get(),, test_data.size());

std::ifstream input(testfile);
double dval;
for(const auto& v: subsequence_data) {
input >> dval;
EXPECT_EQ (v, dval);
EXPECT_FALSE (input >> dval) << "No further data";

int main(int argc, char **argv) {
::testing::InitGoogleTest(&argc, argv);
return RUN_ALL_TESTS();

This code compiles and runs fine under MinGW g++ 4.8.1 with

The original C code then makes of use of this function. A simplified version would be the following:

#include "demo.h"

void process_data(const char* fname, double ** lines, int num_lines, int line_length) {
FILE* output_file = fopen(fname, "w");
for (int i=0; i<num_lines; ++i) {
print_line(output_file, lines[i], line_length);

However, when I try to compile my C code using MinGW GCC 4.8.1 with
, I get the following warning:

warning: 'fprintf' is static but used in inline function 'print_line'
which is not static [enabled by default]

I also get a subsequent error, which may be related:

undefined reference to `print_line'

Changing the signature in the header to
static inline void print_line ...
appears to fix the problem. However, I don't like not understanding the cause of the issue. Why did the lack of
not affect the C++ test? And what did the error regarding
actually mean?


Without static, you are allowing a C99 compiler to create both a function with external linkage (defined in a single place), but also separate inline code in every translation unit that includes the file. It can use any function it likes, unless you explicitly decide between static or extern.

One requirement of such functions can be seen in C99 Draft

An inline definition of a function with external linkage shall not contain a definition of a modifiable object with static storage duration, and shall not contain a reference to an identifier with internal linkage.

This makes sense, because compiler wants this function to behave equally, regardless of how it chooses to implement it.

So, in this case the compiler is complaining that your non-static inline function is calling a different function which is static, and it isn't sure that this other function (fprintf) doesn't mutate static storage.