What does the C preprocessor do?
Revision 1, 09/04/2006


To see preprocessor output before compilation, use the -E switch:

   gcc -ansi -E program.c > program_post.c

The above command pipes the pre-processor output into a file which you can view with:

     cat program_post.c | more


Here's a sample C program with three #defines used within main():

    pre.c   (and it's output when executed)

Here's the file directly after preprocessing.  It has a lot of preprocessor comments that clutter things up, so it's not all that helpful:

   pre0.i   (the preprocessor pulled in the full contents of /usr/include/stdio.h)

Here's the preprocessed source file with all added comments removed (only code added by the preprocessor is left).  You can see that the #include <stdio.h> added all the function prototypes for the standard IO library, even though this program only needs the prototype for the printf function:

   pre1.i

And finally, here's the preprocessed source file with all unused code removed (stripped to it's bare essentials).  Now you can easily see the effect of string substitution due to the #define NUMVALS 10 in the original source code:

   pre2.i