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32 C/Fortran interoperability

Most of the time, a program is written is written in a single language, but in some circumstances it is necessary or desirable to mix sources in more than one language for a single executable. One such case is when a library is written in one language, but used by a program in another. In such a case, the library writer will probably have made it easy for you to use the library; this section is for the case that you find yourself in the place of the library writer. We will focus on the common case of interoperability between C/C++ and Fortran.

This issue is complicated by the fact that both languages have been around for a long time, and various recent language standards have introduced mechanisms to facilitate interoperability. However, there is still a lot of old code around, and not all compilers support the latest standards. Therefore, we discuss both the old and the new solutions.

32.1 Linker conventions

Top > Linker conventions

As explained above, a compiler turns a source file into a binary, which no longer has any trace of the source language: it contains in effect functions in machine language. The linker will then match up calls and definitions, which can be in different files. The problem with using multiple languages is then that compilers have different notions of how to translate function names from the source file to the binary file.

Let's look at codes (you can find example files in tutorials/linking):

// C: Subroutine foo() Return End Subroutine ! Fortran void foo() { return; }

After compilation you can use nm to investigate the binary object file :
0000000000000000 T _foo_
0000000000000000 T _foo
You see that internally the foo routine has different names: the Fortran name has an underscore appended. This makes it hard to call a Fortran routine from C, or vice versa. The possible name mismatches are:

Since C is a popular language to write libraries in, this means that the problem is often solved in the C library by:

32.1.1 C bindings in Fortran 2003

Top > Linker conventions > C bindings in Fortran 2003

With the latest Fortran standard there are explicit C bindings , making it possible to declare the external name of variables and routines:

module operator
  real, bind(C) :: x
  subroutine s() bind(C,name='s')
  end subroutine
end module

.... T _s .... C _x

It is also possible to declare data types to be C-compatible:

Program fdata

  use iso_c_binding

  type, bind(C) :: c_comp
    real (c_float)  :: data
    integer (c_int) :: i
    type (c_ptr)    :: ptr
  end type

end Program fdata

32.1.2 C++ linking

Top > Linker conventions > C++ linking

Libraries written in C++ offer further problems. The C++ compiler makes external symbols by combining the names a class and its methods, in a process known as name mangling . You can force the compiler to generate names that are intelligible to other languages by

#ifdef __cplusplus
  extern"C" {
  place declarations here
#ifdef __cplusplus

Example: compiling

#include <stdlib.h>

int foo(int x) {
  return x;
and inspecting the output with nm gives:
0000000000000010 s EH_frame1
0000000000000000 T _foo
On the other hand, the identical program compiled as C++ gives
0000000000000010 s EH_frame1
0000000000000000 T __Z3fooi
You see that the name for foo is something mangled, so you can not call this routine from a program in a different language. On the other hand, if you add the extern declaration:
#include <stdlib.h>

#ifdef __cplusplus
  extern"C" {
int foo(int x) {
  return x;
#ifdef __cplusplus
you again get the same linker symbols as for C, so that the routine can be called from both C and Fortran.

If your main program is in C, you can use the C++ compiler as linker. If the main program is in Fortran, you need to use the Fortran compiler as linker. It is then necessary to link in extra libraries for the C++ system routines. For instance, with the Intel compiler -lstdc++ -lc needs to be added to the link line.

The use of extern is also needed if you link other languages to a C++ main program. For instance, a Fortran subprogram foo should be

declared as

extern "C" {
void foo_();
In that case, you again use the C++ compiler as linker.

32.1.3 Complex numbers

Top > Linker conventions > Complex numbers The complex data types in C/C++ and Fortran%

are compatible with each other. Here is an example of a C++ program linking to Lapack's complex vector scaling routine  \indextermtt{zscal}. \verbatimsnippet{zscale}

32.2 Arrays

Top > Arrays

C and Fortran have different conventions for storing multi-dimensional arrays. You need to be aware of this when you pass an array between routines written in different languages.

Fortran stores multi-dimensional arrays in column-major order; see figure  1 . For two dimensional arrays \texttt{A(i,j)} this means that the elements in each column are stored contiguously: a $2\times2$ array is stored as \texttt{A(1,1), A(2,1), A(1,2), A(2,2)}. Three and

Fortran and C array storage by columns and rows respectively

higher dimensional arrays are an obvious extension: it is sometimes said that `the left index varies quickest'.

C arrays are stored in row-major order: elements in each row are stored contiguous, and columns are then placed sequentially in memory. A $2\times2$ array \texttt{A[2][2]} is stored as \texttt{A[1][1], A[1][2], A[2][1], A[2][2]}.

A number of remarks about arrays in C.

Given the above limitation on passing multi-dimensional arrays, and the fact that a C routine can not tell whether it's called from Fortran or C, it is best not to bother with multi-dimensional arrays in C, and to emulate them:
float *A;
A = (float*)malloc(m*n*sizeof(float));
#define SUB(i,j,m,n) i+j*m
for (i=0; i<m; i++)
  for (j=0; j<n; j++)
    .... A[SUB(i,j,m,n)] ....
where for interoperability we store the elements in column-major fashion.

32.2.1 Array alignment

Top > Arrays > Array alignment

For reasons such as SIMD vector instructions , it can be advantageous to use \indextermsubdef{aligned}{allocation}. For instance, `16-byte alignment' means that the starting address of your array, expressed in bytes, is a multiple of 16.

In C, you can force such alignment with \indextermtt{posix\_memalign}. In Fortran there is no general mechanism for this. The Intel compiler allows you to write:

double precision, allocatable :: A(:), B(:)

32.3 Strings

Top > Strings

Programming languages differ widely in how they handle strings.

As you can see, passing strings between different languages is fraught with peril. This situation is made even worse by the fact that passing strings as subroutine arguments is not standard.

Example: the main program in Fortran passes a string

Program Fstring
  character(len=5) :: word = "Word"
  call cstring(word)
end Program Fstring

and the C routine accepts a character string and its length:

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>

void cstring_(char *txt,int txtlen) {
  printf("length = %d\n",txtlen);
  for (int i=0; i<txtlen; i++) 

which produces:

length = 5
<<Word >>

To pass a Fortran string to a C program you need to append a null character:

call cfunction ('A string'//CHAR(0))
Some compilers support extensions to facilitate this, for instance writing
DATA forstring /'This is a null-terminated string.'C/
Recently, the `C/Fortran interoperability standard' has provided a systematic solution to this.

32.4 Subprogram arguments

Top > Subprogram arguments

In C, you pass a \texttt{float} argument to a function if the function needs its value, and \texttt{float*} if the function has to modify the value of the variable in the calling environment. Fortran has no such distinction: every variable is passed by reference . This has some strange consequences: if you pass a literal value \texttt{37} to a subroutine, the compiler will allocate a nameless variable with that value, and pass the address of it, rather than the value\footnote{With a bit of cleverness and the right compiler, you can have a program that says \texttt{print *,7} and prints \texttt{8} because of this.}.

For interfacing Fortran and C routines, this means that a Fortran routine looks to a C program like all its argument are `star' arguments. Conversely, if you want a C subprogram to be callable from Fortran, all its arguments have to be star-this or that. This means on the one hand that you will sometimes pass a variable by reference that you would like to pass by value.

Worse, it means that C subprograms like

void mysub(int **iarray) {
 *iarray = (int*)malloc(8*sizeof(int));
can not be called from Fortran. There is a hack to get around this (check out the Fortran77 interface to the Petsc routine \texttt{VecGetValues}) and with more cleverness you can use \texttt{POINTER} variables for this.

32.5 Input/output

Top > Input/output

Both languages have their own system for handling input/output, and it is not really possible to meet in the middle. Basically, if Fortran routines do I/O, the main program has to be in Fortran. Consequently, it is best to isolate I/O as much as possible, and use C for I/O in mixed language programming.

32.6 Fortran/C interoperability in Fortran2003

Top > Fortran/C interoperability in Fortran2003

The latest version of Fortran, unsupported by many compilers at this time, has mechanisms for interfacing to C.

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