Julia calling C: A more minimal example

Earlier I presented a minimal example of Julia calling C. It mimics how one would go about writing C code, wrapping it a library and then calling it from Julia. Today I came across and even more minimal way of doing that while reading an excellent blog on Julia’s syntactic loop fusion. Associated with the blog was notebook that explores the matter further.

Basically, you an write you C in a string and pass it directly to the compiler. It goes something like

C_code= """
       double mean(double a, double b) {
         return (a+b) / 2;
const Clib=tempname()
open(`gcc -fPIC -O3 -xc -shared -o $(Clib * "." * Libdl.dlext) -`, "w") do f
     print(f, C_code)

The tempname function generate a unique temporary file path. On my Linux system Clib will be string like "/tmp/juliaivzRkT". That path is used to generate a library name "/tmp/juliaivzRkT.so" which will then used in the ccall:

julia> x=ccall((:mean,Clib),Float64,(Float64,Float64),2.0,5.0)

This approach would be be recommended if are writing anything sophisticated in C. However, it fun to experiment with for short bits of C code that you might like to call from Julia. Saves you the hassle of creating a Makefile, compiling, etc…


Julia calling C: A minimal example

This blog is a “Hello World” example of Julia calling C.

We start of by at bit of C code we want to call from Julia. We write the following in calc_mean.c

double mean(double a, double b) {
  return (a+b) / 2;

To build the library, we need to create a Makefile

CFLAGS=-c -Wall -fPIC
    $(CC) $(CFLAGS) $< -o $@ 
lib: $(OBJECTS)
    $(CC) -shared -fPIC -o libmean.so $(OBJECTS)
    rm *.o *.so

The option fPIC and -shared are essential for Julia to be able to resolve the function in our library. Now we are almost ready to build our library. From the bash terminal we invoke:

make lib

This will generate a libmean.so file.

In Julia we call the function in our c library by


For this to work,

  • Julia must be running either on the same path where libmean.so resides,
  • the path to libmean.so is in LD_LIBRARY_PATH, or
  • the path to the library is pushed to Libdl.DL_LOAD_PATH via


P.S. Thanks to Christopher Rackauckas for tips on Julia highlighting.