Structure and Union in C

Structure and Union in C

What is Structure

Arrays allow to define type of variables that can hold several data items of the same kind. Similarly structure is another user defined data type available in C that allows to combine data items of different kinds.

Structures are used to represent a record. Suppose you want to keep track of your books in a library. You might want to track the following attributes about each book −
Title
Author
Subject
Book ID

struct [structure tag] 

{

   member definition;
   member definition;
   ...
   member definition;

} (one or more structure variables); 

Accessing Structure Members

To access any member of a structure, we use the member access operator (.). The member access operator is coded as a period between the structure variable name and the structure member that we wish to access. You would use the keyword struct to define variables of structure type. The following example shows how to use a structure in a program

#include <stdio.h>
#include <string.h>
 
struct Books {
   char  title[50];
   char  author[50];
   char  subject[100];
   int   book_id;
};
 
int main( ) {

   struct Books Book1;        /* Declare Book1 of type Book */
   struct Books Book2;        /* Declare Book2 of type Book */
 
   /* book 1 specification */
   strcpy( Book1.title, "C Programming");
   strcpy( Book1.author, "Nuha Ali"); 
   strcpy( Book1.subject, "C Programming Tutorial");
   Book1.book_id = 6495407;

   /* book 2 specification */
   strcpy( Book2.title, "Telecom Billing");
   strcpy( Book2.author, "Zara Ali");
   strcpy( Book2.subject, "Telecom Billing Tutorial");
   Book2.book_id = 6495700;
 
   /* print Book1 info */
   printf( "Book 1 title : %s\n", Book1.title);
   printf( "Book 1 author : %s\n", Book1.author);
   printf( "Book 1 subject : %s\n", Book1.subject);
   printf( "Book 1 book_id : %d\n", Book1.book_id);

   /* print Book2 info */
   printf( "Book 2 title : %s\n", Book2.title);
   printf( "Book 2 author : %s\n", Book2.author);
   printf( "Book 2 subject : %s\n", Book2.subject);
   printf( "Book 2 book_id : %d\n", Book2.book_id);

   return 0;
}

What is Union

A union is a special data type available in C that allows to store different data types in the same memory location. You can define a union with many members, but only one member can contain a value at any given time. Unions provide an efficient way of using the same memory location for multiple-purpose.


Defining a Union

To define a union, you must use the union statement in the same way as you did while defining a structure. The union statement defines a new data type with more than one member for your program. The format of the union statement is as follows

union [union tag] {
   member definition;
   member definition;
   ...
   member definition;
} 
;

The union tag is optional and each member definition is a normal variable definition, such as int i; or float f; or any other valid variable definition. At the end of the union's definition, before the final semicolon, you can specify one or more union variables but it is optional. Here is the way you would define a union type named Data having three members i, f, and str

union Data {
   int i;
   float f;
   char str[20];
} data; 

Now, a variable of Data type can store an integer, a floating-point number, or a string of characters. It means a single variable, i.e., same memory location, can be used to store multiple types of data. You can use any built-in or user defined data types inside a union based on your requirement.

The memory occupied by a union will be large enough to hold the largest member of the union. For example, in the above example, Data type will occupy 20 bytes of memory space because this is the maximum space which can be occupied by a character string. The following example displays the total memory size occupied by the above union


#include <stdio.h>
#include <string.h>
 
union Data {
   int i;
   float f;
   char str[20];
};
 
int main( ) {

   union Data data;        

   printf( "Memory size occupied by data : %d\n", sizeof(data));

   return 0;
}