C++ – Using C++ library in C code


I have a C++ library that provides various classes for managing data. I have the source code for the library.

I want to extend the C++ API to support C function calls so that the library can be used with C code and C++ code at the same time.

I'm using GNU tool chain (gcc, glibc, etc), so language and architecture support are not an issue.

Are there any reasons why this is technically not possible?

Are there any gotcha's that I need to watch out for?

Are there resources, example code and/or documentation available regarding this?

Some other things that I have found out:

  1. Use the following to wrap your C++ headers that need to be used by C code.
#ifdef __cplusplus
extern "C" {  
// Code goes here ...  
#ifdef __cplusplus  
} // extern "C"  
  1. Keep "real" C++ interfaces in separate header files that are not included by C. Think PIMPL principle here. Using #ifndef __cplusplus #error stuff helps here to detect any craziness.
  2. Careful of C++ identifiers as names in C code
  3. Enums varying in size between C and C++ compilers. Probably not an issue if you're using GNU tool chain, but still, be careful.
  4. For structs follow the following form so that C does not get confused.

    typedef struct X { ... } X
  5. Then use pointers for passing around C++ objects, they just have to be declared in C as struct X where X is the C++ object.

All of this is courtesy of a friend who's a wizard at C++.

Best Solution

Yes, this is certainly possible. You will need to write an interface layer in C++ that declares functions with extern "C":

extern "C" int foo(char *bar)
    return realFoo(std::string(bar));

Then, you will call foo() from your C module, which will pass the call on to the realFoo() function which is implemented in C++.

If you need to expose a full C++ class with data members and methods, then you may need to do more work than this simple function example.