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stdarg.h - handle variable argument list
void va_start(va_list ap, argN);
void va_copy(va_list dest, va_list src);
type va_arg(va_list ap, type);
void va_end(va_list ap);
The <stdarg.h> header shall contain a set of macros which allows
portable functions that accept variable argument lists to be written.
Functions that have variable argument lists (such as printf()) but do
not use these macros are inherently non-portable, as different systems
use different argument-passing conventions.
The type va_list shall be defined for variables used to traverse the
The va_start() macro is invoked to initialize ap to the beginning of
the list before any calls to va_arg().
The va_copy() macro initializes dest as a copy of src, as if the
va_start() macro had been applied to dest followed by the same sequence
of uses of the va_arg() macro as had previously been used to reach the
present state of src. Neither the va_copy() nor va_start() macro shall
be invoked to reinitialize dest without an intervening invocation of
the va_end() macro for the same dest.
The object ap may be passed as an argument to another function; if that
function invokes the va_arg() macro with parameter ap, the value of ap
in the calling function is unspecified and shall be passed to the
va_end() macro prior to any further reference to ap. The parameter argN
is the identifier of the rightmost parameter in the variable parameter
list in the function definition (the one just before the ...). If the
parameter argN is declared with the register storage class, with a
function type or array type, or with a type that is not compatible with
the type that results after application of the default argument
promotions, the behavior is undefined.
The va_arg() macro shall return the next argument in the list pointed
to by ap. Each invocation of va_arg() modifies ap so that the values of
successive arguments are returned in turn. The type parameter shall be
a type name specified such that the type of a pointer to an object that
has the specified type can be obtained simply by postfixing a '*' to
type. If there is no actual next argument, or if type is not compatible
with the type of the actual next argument (as promoted according to the
default argument promotions), the behavior is undefined, except for the
* One type is a signed integer type, the other type is the
corresponding unsigned integer type, and the value is representable
in both types.
* One type is a pointer to void and the other is a pointer to a
* Both types are pointers.
Different types can be mixed, but it is up to the routine to know what
type of argument is expected.
The va_end() macro is used to clean up; it invalidates ap for use
(unless va_start() or va_copy() is invoked again).
Each invocation of the va_start() and va_copy() macros shall be matched
by a corresponding invocation of the va_end() macro in the same
Multiple traversals, each bracketed by va_start() ... va_end(), are
This example is a possible implementation of execl():
#define MAXARGS 31
* execl is called by
* execl(file, arg1, arg2, ..., (char *)(0));
int execl(const char *file, const char *args, ...)
char *array[MAXARGS +1];
int argno = 0;
while (args != 0 && argno < MAXARGS)
array[argno++] = args;
args = va_arg(ap, const char *);
array[argno] = (char *) 0;
return execv(file, array);
The following sections are informative.
It is up to the calling routine to communicate to the called routine
how many arguments there are, since it is not always possible for the
called routine to determine this in any other way. For example,
execl() is passed a null pointer to signal the end of the list. The
printf() function can tell how many arguments are there by the format
The System Interfaces volume of IEEE Std 1003.1-2001, exec, printf()
Portions of this text are reprinted and reproduced in electronic form
from IEEE Std 1003.1, 2003 Edition, Standard for Information Technology
-- Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX), The Open Group Base
Specifications Issue 6, Copyright (C) 2001-2003 by the Institute of
Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc and The Open Group. In the
event of any discrepancy between this version and the original IEEE and
The Open Group Standard, the original IEEE and The Open Group Standard
is the referee document. The original Standard can be obtained online
at http://www.opengroup.org/unix/online.html .