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comp.lang.c FAQ list · Question 20.5

Q: How can I write data files which can be read on other machines with different word size, byte order, or floating point formats?

A: The most portable solution is to use text files (usually ASCII), written with fprintf and read with fscanf or the like. (Similar advice also applies to network protocols.) Be skeptical of arguments which imply that text files are too big, or that reading and writing them is too slow. Not only is their efficiency frequently acceptable in practice, but the advantages of being able to interchange them easily between machines, and manipulate them with standard tools, can be overwhelming.

If you must use a binary format, you can improve portability, and perhaps take advantage of prewritten I/O libraries, by making use of standardized formats such as Sun's XDR (RFC 1014), OSI's ASN.1 (referenced in CCITT X.409 and ISO 8825 ``Basic Encoding Rules''), CDF, netCDF, or HDF. See also questions 2.12, 12.38, and 12.42.

References: PCS Sec. 6 pp. 86, 88

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