ecb - Man Page

LIBECB - e-C-Builtins

About Libecb

Libecb is currently a simple header file that doesn't require any configuration to use or include in your project.

It's part of the e-suite of libraries, other members of which include libev and libeio.

Its homepage can be found here:

It mainly provides a number of wrappers around many compiler built-ins, together with replacement functions for other compilers. In addition to this, it provides a number of other lowlevel C utilities, such as endianness detection, byte swapping or bit rotations.

Or in other words, things that should be built into any standard C system, but aren't, implemented as efficient as possible with GCC (clang, msvc...), and still correct with other compilers.

More might come.

About the Header

At the moment, all you have to do is copy ecb.h somewhere where your compiler can find it and include it:

   #include <ecb.h>

The header should work fine for both C and C++ compilation, and gives you all of inttypes.h in addition to the ECB symbols.

There are currently no object files to link to - future versions might come with an (optional) object code library to link against, to reduce code size or gain access to additional features.

It also currently includes everything from inttypes.h.

About This Manual / Conventions

This manual mainly describes each (public) function available after including the ecb.h header. The header might define other symbols than these, but these are not part of the public API, and not supported in any way.

When the manual mentions a “function” then this could be defined either as as inline function, a macro, or an external symbol.

When functions use a concrete standard type, such as int or uint32_t, then the corresponding function works only with that type. If only a generic name is used (expr, cond, value and so on), then the corresponding function relies on C to implement the correct types, and is usually implemented as a macro. Specifically, a “bool” in this manual refers to any kind of boolean value, not a specific type.

Types / Type Support

ecb.h makes sure that the following types are defined (in the expected way):

   int8_t       uint8_
   int16_t      uint16_t
   int32_t      uint32_
   int64_t      uint64_t
   int_fast8_t  uint_fast8_t
   int_fast16_t uint_fast16_t
   int_fast32_t uint_fast32_t
   int_fast64_t uint_fast64_t
   intptr_t     uintptr_t

The macro ECB_PTRSIZE is defined to the size of a pointer on this platform (currently 4 or 8) and can be used in preprocessor expressions.

For ptrdiff_t and size_t use stddef.h/cstddef.

Language/Environment/Compiler Versions

All the following symbols expand to an expression that can be tested in preprocessor instructions as well as treated as a boolean (use !! to ensure it's either 0 or 1 if you need that).


True if the implementation defines the __STDC__ macro to a true value, while not claiming to be C++, i..e C, but not C++.


True if the implementation claims to be compliant to C99 (ISO/IEC 9899:1999) or any later version, while not claiming to be C++.

Note that later versions (ECB_C11) remove core features again (for example, variable length arrays).

ECB_C11, ECB_C17

True if the implementation claims to be compliant to C11/C17 (ISO/IEC 9899:2011, :20187) or any later version, while not claiming to be C++.


True if the implementation defines the __cplusplus__ macro to a true value, which is typically true for C++ compilers.


True if the implementation claims to be compliant to C++11/C++14/C++17 (ISO/IEC 14882:2011, :2014, :2017) or any later version.

Note that many C++20 features will likely have their own feature test macros (see e.g. <>).


Is 1 when the compiler optimizes for size, 0 otherwise. This symbol can also be defined before including ecb.h, in which case it will be unchanged.

ECB_GCC_VERSION (major, minor)

Expands to a true value (suitable for testing by the preprocessor) if the compiler used is GNU C and the version is the given version, or higher.

This macro tries to return false on compilers that claim to be GCC compatible but aren't.


Expands to extern "C" in C++, and a simple extern in C.

This can be used to declare a single external C function:

   ECB_EXTERN_C int printf (const char *format, ...);

These two macros can be used to wrap multiple extern "C" definitions - they expand to nothing in C.

They are most useful in header files:


   int mycfun1 (int x);
   int mycfun2 (int x);


If this evaluates to a true value (suitable for testing by the preprocessor), then float and double use IEEE 754 single/binary32 and double/binary64 representations internally and the endianness of both types match the endianness of uint32_t and uint64_t.

This means you can just copy the bits of a float (or double) to an uint32_t (or uint64_t) and get the raw IEEE 754 bit representation without having to think about format or endianness.

This is true for basically all modern platforms, although ecb.h might not be able to deduce this correctly everywhere and might err on the safe side.


Evaluates to a true value (suitable for both preprocessor and C code testing) if 64 bit integer types on this architecture are evaluated “natively”, that is, with similar speeds as 32 bit integers. While 64 bit integer support is very common (and in fact required by libecb), 32 bit cpus have to emulate operations on them, so you might want to avoid them.


These two macros are defined to 1 on the x86_64/amd64 ABI and the X32 ABI, respectively, and undefined elsewhere.

The designers of the new X32 ABI for some inexplicable reason decided to make it look exactly like amd64, even though it's completely incompatible to that ABI, breaking about every piece of software that assumed that __x86_64 stands for, well, the x86-64 ABI, making these macros necessary.

Macro Trickery


Expands any macros in a and b, then concatenates the result to form a single token. This is mainly useful to form identifiers from components, e.g.:

   #define S1 str
   #define S2 cpy

   ECB_CONCAT (S1, S2)(dst, src); // == strcpy (dst, src);

Expands any macros in arg and returns the stringified version of it. This is mainly useful to get the contents of a macro in string form, e.g.:

   #define SQL_LIMIT 100
   sql_exec ("select * from table limit " ECB_STRINGIFY (SQL_LIMIT));

Like ECB_STRINGIFY, but additionally evaluates expr to make sure it is a valid expression. This is useful to catch typos or cases where the macro isn't available:

   #include <errno.h>

   ECB_STRINGIFY      (EDOM); // "33" (on my system at least)

   // now imagine we had a typo:

   ECB_STRINGIFY_EXPR (EDAM); // error: EDAM undefined


A major part of libecb deals with additional attributes that can be assigned to functions, variables and sometimes even types - much like const or volatile in C. They are implemented using either GCC attributes or other compiler/language specific features. Attributes declarations must be put before the whole declaration:

   ecb_const int mysqrt (int a);
   ecb_unused int i;

Marks a function or a variable as “unused”, which simply suppresses a warning by the compiler when it detects it as unused. This is useful when you e.g. declare a variable but do not always use it:

    ecb_unused int var;

       var = ...;
       return var;
       return 0;

Similar to ecb_unused, but marks a function, variable or type as deprecated. This makes some compilers warn when the type is used.

ecb_deprecated_message (message)

Same as ecb_deprecated, but if possible, the specified diagnostic is used instead of a generic depreciation message when the object is being used.


Expands either to (a compiler-specific equivalent of) static inline or to just static, if inline isn't supported. It should be used to declare functions that should be inlined, for code size or speed reasons.

Example: inline this function, it surely will reduce codesize.

   ecb_inline int
   negmul (int a, int b)
     return - (a * b);

Prevents a function from being inlined - it might be optimised away, but not inlined into other functions. This is useful if you know your function is rarely called and large enough for inlining not to be helpful.


Marks a function as “not returning, ever”. Some typical functions that don't return are exit or abort (which really works hard to not return), and now you can make your own:

   ecb_noreturn void
   my_abort (const char *errline)
     puts (errline);
     abort ();

In this case, the compiler would probably be smart enough to deduce it on its own, so this is mainly useful for declarations.


Expands to the restrict keyword or equivalent on compilers that support them, and to nothing on others. Must be specified on a pointer type or an array index to indicate that the memory doesn't alias with any other restricted pointer in the same scope.

Example: multiply a vector, and allow the compiler to parallelise the loop, because it knows it doesn't overwrite input values.

   multiply (ecb_restrict float *src,
             ecb_restrict float *dst,
             int len, float factor)
     int i;

     for (i = 0; i < len; ++i)
       dst [i] = src [i] * factor;

Declares that the function only depends on the values of its arguments, much like a mathematical function. It specifically does not read or write any memory any arguments might point to, global variables, or call any non-const functions. It also must not have any side effects.

Such a function can be optimised much more aggressively by the compiler - for example, multiple calls with the same arguments can be optimised into a single call, which wouldn't be possible if the compiler would have to expect any side effects.

It is best suited for functions in the sense of mathematical functions, such as a function returning the square root of its input argument.

Not suited would be a function that calculates the hash of some memory area you pass in, prints some messages or looks at a global variable to decide on rounding.

See ecb_pure for a slightly less restrictive class of functions.


Similar to ecb_const, declares a function that has no side effects. Unlike ecb_const, the function is allowed to examine global variables and any other memory areas (such as the ones passed to it via pointers).

While these functions cannot be optimised as aggressively as ecb_const functions, they can still be optimised away in many occasions, and the compiler has more freedom in moving calls to them around.

Typical examples for such functions would be strlen or memcmp. A function that calculates the MD5 sum of some input and updates some MD5 state passed as argument would NOT be pure, however, as it would modify some memory area that is not the return value.


This declares a function as “hot” with regards to the cache - the function is used so often, that it is very beneficial to keep it in the cache if possible.

The compiler reacts by trying to place hot functions near to each other in memory.

Whether a function is hot or not often depends on the whole program, and less on the function itself. ecb_cold is likely more useful in practise.


The opposite of ecb_hot - declares a function as “cold” with regards to the cache, or in other words, this function is not called often, or not at speed-critical times, and keeping it in the cache might be a waste of said cache.

In addition to placing cold functions together (or at least away from hot functions), this knowledge can be used in other ways, for example, the function will be optimised for size, as opposed to speed, and codepaths leading to calls to those functions can automatically be marked as if ecb_expect_false had been used to reach them.

Good examples for such functions would be error reporting functions, or functions only called in exceptional or rare cases.


Declares the function as “artificial”, in this case meaning that this function is not really meant to be a function, but more like an accessor - many methods in C++ classes are mere accessor functions, and having a crash reported in such a method, or single-stepping through them, is not usually so helpful, especially when it's inlined to just a few instructions.

Marking them as artificial will instruct the debugger about just this, leading to happier debugging and thus happier lives.

Example: in some kind of smart-pointer class, mark the pointer accessor as artificial, so that the whole class acts more like a pointer and less like some C++ abstraction monster.

  template<typename T>
  struct my_smart_ptr
    T *value;

    operator T *()
      return value;

Optimisation Hints

bool ecb_is_constant (expr)

Returns true iff the expression can be deduced to be a compile-time constant, and false otherwise.

For example, when you have a rndm16 function that returns a 16 bit random number, and you have a function that maps this to a range from 0..n-1, then you could use this inline function in a header file:

  ecb_inline uint32_t
  rndm (uint32_t n)
    return (n * (uint32_t)rndm16 ()) >> 16;

However, for powers of two, you could use a normal mask, but that is only worth it if, at compile time, you can detect this case. This is the case when the passed number is a constant and also a power of two (n & (n - 1) == 0):

  ecb_inline uint32_t
  rndm (uint32_t n)
    return is_constant (n) && !(n & (n - 1))
      ? rndm16 () & (num - 1)
      : (n * (uint32_t)rndm16 ()) >> 16;
ecb_expect (expr, value)

Evaluates expr and returns it. In addition, it tells the compiler that the expr evaluates to value a lot, which can be used for static branch optimisations.

Usually, you want to use the more intuitive ecb_expect_true and ecb_expect_false functions instead.

bool ecb_expect_true (cond)
bool ecb_expect_false (cond)

These two functions expect a expression that is true or false and return 1 or 0, respectively, so when used in the condition of an if or other conditional statement, it will not change the program:

  /* these two do the same thing */
  if (some_condition) ...;
  if (ecb_expect_true (some_condition)) ...;

However, by using ecb_expect_true, you tell the compiler that the condition is likely to be true (and for ecb_expect_false, that it is unlikely to be true).

For example, when you check for a null pointer and expect this to be a rare, exceptional, case, then use ecb_expect_false:

  void my_free (void *ptr)
    if (ecb_expect_false (ptr == 0))

Consequent use of these functions to mark away exceptional cases or to tell the compiler what the hot path through a function is can increase performance considerably.

You might know these functions under the name likely and unlikely - while these are common aliases, we find that the expect name is easier to understand when quickly skimming code. If you wish, you can use ecb_likely instead of ecb_expect_true and ecb_unlikely instead of ecb_expect_false - these are simply aliases.

A very good example is in a function that reserves more space for some memory block (for example, inside an implementation of a string stream) - each time something is added, you have to check for a buffer overrun, but you expect that most checks will turn out to be false:

  /* make sure we have "size" extra room in our buffer */
  ecb_inline void
  reserve (int size)
    if (ecb_expect_false (current + size > end))
      real_reserve_method (size); /* presumably noinline */
ecb_assume (cond)

Tries to tell the compiler that some condition is true, even if it's not obvious. This is not a function, but a statement: it cannot be used in another expression.

This can be used to teach the compiler about invariants or other conditions that might improve code generation, but which are impossible to deduce form the code itself.

For example, the example reservation function from the ecb_expect_false description could be written thus (only ecb_assume was added):

  ecb_inline void
  reserve (int size)
    if (ecb_expect_false (current + size > end))
      real_reserve_method (size); /* presumably noinline */

    ecb_assume (current + size <= end);

If you then call this function twice, like this:

  reserve (10);
  reserve (1);

Then the compiler might be able to optimise out the second call completely, as it knows that current + 1 > end is false and the call will never be executed.

ecb_unreachable ()

This function does nothing itself, except tell the compiler that it will never be executed. Apart from suppressing a warning in some cases, this function can be used to implement ecb_assume or similar functionality.

ecb_prefetch (addr, rw, locality)

Tells the compiler to try to prefetch memory at the given address for either reading (rw = 0) or writing (rw = 1). A locality of 0 means that there will only be one access later, 3 means that the data will likely be accessed very often, and values in between mean something... in between. The memory pointed to by the address does not need to be accessible (it could be a null pointer for example), but rw and locality must be compile-time constants.

This is a statement, not a function: you cannot use it as part of an expression.

An obvious way to use this is to prefetch some data far away, in a big array you loop over. This prefetches memory some 128 array elements later, in the hope that it will be ready when the CPU arrives at that location.

  int sum = 0;

  for (i = 0; i < N; ++i)
      sum += arr [i]
      ecb_prefetch (arr + i + 128, 0, 0);

It's hard to predict how far to prefetch, and most CPUs that can prefetch are often good enough to predict this kind of behaviour themselves. It gets more interesting with linked lists, especially when you do some fair processing on each list element:

  for (node *n = start; n; n = n->next)
      ecb_prefetch (n->next, 0, 0);
      ... do medium amount of work with *n

After processing the node, (part of) the next node might already be in cache.

Bit Fiddling / Bit Wizardry

bool ecb_big_endian ()
bool ecb_little_endian ()

These two functions return true if the byte order is big endian (most-significant byte first) or little endian (least-significant byte first) respectively.

On systems that are neither, their return values are unspecified.

int ecb_ctz32 (uint32_t x)
int ecb_ctz64 (uint64_t x)
int ecb_ctz (T x) [C++]

Returns the index of the least significant bit set in x (or equivalently the number of bits set to 0 before the least significant bit set), starting from 0. If x is 0 the result is undefined.

For smaller types than uint32_t you can safely use ecb_ctz32.

The overloaded C++ ecb_ctz function supports uint8_t, uint16_t, uint32_t and uint64_t types.

For example:

  ecb_ctz32 (3) = 0
  ecb_ctz32 (6) = 1
bool ecb_is_pot32 (uint32_t x)
bool ecb_is_pot64 (uint32_t x)
bool ecb_is_pot (T x) [C++]

Returns true iff x is a power of two or x == 0.

For smaller types than uint32_t you can safely use ecb_is_pot32.

The overloaded C++ ecb_is_pot function supports uint8_t, uint16_t, uint32_t and uint64_t types.

int ecb_ld32 (uint32_t x)
int ecb_ld64 (uint64_t x)
int ecb_ld64 (T x) [C++]

Returns the index of the most significant bit set in x, or the number of digits the number requires in binary (so that 2**ld <= x < 2**(ld+1)). If x is 0 the result is undefined. A common use case is to compute the integer binary logarithm, i.e. floor (log2 (n)), for example to see how many bits a certain number requires to be encoded.

This function is similar to the “count leading zero bits” function, except that that one returns how many zero bits are “in front” of the number (in the given data type), while ecb_ld returns how many bits the number itself requires.

For smaller types than uint32_t you can safely use ecb_ld32.

The overloaded C++ ecb_ld function supports uint8_t, uint16_t, uint32_t and uint64_t types.

int ecb_popcount32 (uint32_t x)
int ecb_popcount64 (uint64_t x)
int ecb_popcount (T x) [C++]

Returns the number of bits set to 1 in x.

For smaller types than uint32_t you can safely use ecb_popcount32.

The overloaded C++ ecb_popcount function supports uint8_t, uint16_t, uint32_t and uint64_t types.

For example:

  ecb_popcount32 (7) = 3
  ecb_popcount32 (255) = 8
uint8_t  ecb_bitrev8  (uint8_t  x)
uint16_t ecb_bitrev16 (uint16_t x)
uint32_t ecb_bitrev32 (uint32_t x)
T ecb_bitrev (T x) [C++]

Reverses the bits in x, i.e. the MSB becomes the LSB, MSB-1 becomes LSB+1 and so on.

The overloaded C++ ecb_bitrev function supports uint8_t, uint16_t and uint32_t types.


   ecb_bitrev8 (0xa7) = 0xea
   ecb_bitrev32 (0xffcc4411) = 0x882233ff
T ecb_bitrev (T x) [C++]

Overloaded C++ bitrev function.

T must be one of uint8_t, uint16_t or uint32_t.

uint32_t ecb_bswap16 (uint32_t x)
uint32_t ecb_bswap32 (uint32_t x)
uint64_t ecb_bswap64 (uint64_t x)
T ecb_bswap (T x)

These functions return the value of the 16-bit (32-bit, 64-bit) value x after reversing the order of bytes (0x11223344 becomes 0x44332211 in ecb_bswap32).

The overloaded C++ ecb_bswap function supports uint8_t, uint16_t, uint32_t and uint64_t types.

uint8_t  ecb_rotl8  (uint8_t  x, unsigned int count)
uint16_t ecb_rotl16 (uint16_t x, unsigned int count)
uint32_t ecb_rotl32 (uint32_t x, unsigned int count)
uint64_t ecb_rotl64 (uint64_t x, unsigned int count)
uint8_t  ecb_rotr8  (uint8_t  x, unsigned int count)
uint16_t ecb_rotr16 (uint16_t x, unsigned int count)
uint32_t ecb_rotr32 (uint32_t x, unsigned int count)
uint64_t ecb_rotr64 (uint64_t x, unsigned int count)

These two families of functions return the value of x after rotating all the bits by count positions to the right (ecb_rotr) or left (ecb_rotl). There are no restrictions on the value count, i.e. both zero and values equal or larger than the word width work correctly. Also, notwithstanding count being unsigned, negative numbers work and shift to the opposite direction.

Current GCC/clang versions understand these functions and usually compile them to “optimal” code (e.g. a single rol or a combination of shld on x86).

T ecb_rotl (T x, unsigned int count) [C++]
T ecb_rotr (T x, unsigned int count) [C++]

Overloaded C++ rotl/rotr functions.

T must be one of uint8_t, uint16_t, uint32_t or uint64_t.

Bit Mixing, Hashing

Sometimes you have an integer and want to distribute its bits well, for example, to use it as a hash in a hashtable. A common example is pointer values, which often only have a limited range (e.g. low and high bits are often zero).

The following functions try to mix the bits to get a good bias-free distribution. They were mainly made for pointers, but the underlying integer functions are exposed as well.

As an added benefit, the functions are reversible, so if you find it convenient to store only the hash value, you can recover the original pointer from the hash (“unmix”), as long as your pinters are 32 or 64 bit (if this isn't the case on your platform, drop us a note and we will add functions for other bit widths).

The unmix functions are very slightly slower than the mix functions, so it is equally very slightly preferable to store the original values wehen convenient.

The underlying algorithm if subject to change, so currently these functions are not suitable for persistent hash tables, as their result value can change between diferent versions of libecb.

uintptr_t ecb_ptrmix (void *ptr)

Mixes the bits of a pointer so the result is suitable for hash table lookups. In other words, this hashes the pointer value.

uintptr_t ecb_ptrmix (T *ptr) [C++]

Overload the ecb_ptrmix function to work for any pointer in C++.

void *ecb_ptrunmix (uintptr_t v)

Unmix the hash value into the original pointer. This only works as long as the hash value is not truncated, i.e. you used uintptr_t (or equivalent) throughout to store it.

T *ecb_ptrunmix<T> (uintptr_t v) [C++]

The somewhat less useful template version of ecb_ptrunmix for C++. Example:

   sometype *myptr;
   uintptr_t hash = ecb_ptrmix (myptr);
   sometype *orig = ecb_ptrunmix<sometype> (hash);
uint32_t ecb_mix32 (uint32_t v)
uint64_t ecb_mix64 (uint64_t v)

Sometimes you don't have a pointer but an integer whose values are very badly distributed. In this case you cna sue these integer versions of the mixing function. No C++ template is provided currently.

uint32_t ecb_unmix32 (uint32_t v)
uint64_t ecb_unmix64 (uint64_t v)

The reverse of the ecb_mix functions - they take a mixed/hashed value and recover the original value.

Host Endianness Conversion

uint_fast16_t ecb_be_u16_to_host (uint_fast16_t v)
uint_fast32_t ecb_be_u32_to_host (uint_fast32_t v)
uint_fast64_t ecb_be_u64_to_host (uint_fast64_t v)
uint_fast16_t ecb_le_u16_to_host (uint_fast16_t v)
uint_fast32_t ecb_le_u32_to_host (uint_fast32_t v)
uint_fast64_t ecb_le_u64_to_host (uint_fast64_t v)

Convert an unsigned 16, 32 or 64 bit value from big or little endian to host byte order.

The naming convention is ecb_(be|le)_u16|32|64_to_host, where be and le stand for big endian and little endian, respectively.

uint_fast16_t ecb_host_to_be_u16 (uint_fast16_t v)
uint_fast32_t ecb_host_to_be_u32 (uint_fast32_t v)
uint_fast64_t ecb_host_to_be_u64 (uint_fast64_t v)
uint_fast16_t ecb_host_to_le_u16 (uint_fast16_t v)
uint_fast32_t ecb_host_to_le_u32 (uint_fast32_t v)
uint_fast64_t ecb_host_to_le_u64 (uint_fast64_t v)

Like above, but converts from host byte order to the specified endianness.

In C++ the following additional template functions are supported:

T ecb_be_to_host (T v)

T ecb_le_to_host (T v)

T ecb_host_to_be (T v)

T ecb_host_to_le (T v)

These functions work like their C counterparts, above, but use templates, which make them useful in generic code.

T must be one of uint8_t, uint16_t, uint32_t or uint64_t (so unlike their C counterparts, there is a version for uint8_t, which again can be useful in generic code).

Unaligned Load/Store

These function load or store unaligned multi-byte values.

uint_fast16_t ecb_peek_u16_u (const void *ptr)
uint_fast32_t ecb_peek_u32_u (const void *ptr)
uint_fast64_t ecb_peek_u64_u (const void *ptr)

These functions load an unaligned, unsigned 16, 32 or 64 bit value from memory.

uint_fast16_t ecb_peek_be_u16_u (const void *ptr)
uint_fast32_t ecb_peek_be_u32_u (const void *ptr)
uint_fast64_t ecb_peek_be_u64_u (const void *ptr)
uint_fast16_t ecb_peek_le_u16_u (const void *ptr)
uint_fast32_t ecb_peek_le_u32_u (const void *ptr)
uint_fast64_t ecb_peek_le_u64_u (const void *ptr)

Like above, but additionally convert from big endian (be) or little endian (le) byte order to host byte order while doing so.

ecb_poke_u16_u (void *ptr, uint16_t v)
ecb_poke_u32_u (void *ptr, uint32_t v)
ecb_poke_u64_u (void *ptr, uint64_t v)

These functions store an unaligned, unsigned 16, 32 or 64 bit value to memory.

ecb_poke_be_u16_u (void *ptr, uint_fast16_t v)
ecb_poke_be_u32_u (void *ptr, uint_fast32_t v)
ecb_poke_be_u64_u (void *ptr, uint_fast64_t v)
ecb_poke_le_u16_u (void *ptr, uint_fast16_t v)
ecb_poke_le_u32_u (void *ptr, uint_fast32_t v)
ecb_poke_le_u64_u (void *ptr, uint_fast64_t v)

Like above, but additionally convert from host byte order to big endian (be) or little endian (le) byte order while doing so.

In C++ the following additional template functions are supported:

T ecb_peek<T>      (const void *ptr)
T ecb_peek_be<T>   (const void *ptr)
T ecb_peek_le<T>   (const void *ptr)
T ecb_peek_u<T>    (const void *ptr)
T ecb_peek_be_u<T> (const void *ptr)
T ecb_peek_le_u<T> (const void *ptr)

Similarly to their C counterparts, these functions load an unsigned 8, 16, 32 or 64 bit value from memory, with optional conversion from big/little endian.

Since the type cannot be deduced, it has to be specified explicitly, e.g.

   uint_fast16_t v = ecb_peek<uint16_t> (ptr);

T must be one of uint8_t, uint16_t, uint32_t or uint64_t.

Unlike their C counterparts, these functions support 8 bit quantities (uint8_t) and also have an aligned version (without the _u prefix), all of which hopefully makes them more useful in generic code.

ecb_poke      (void *ptr, T v)
ecb_poke_be   (void *ptr, T v)
ecb_poke_le   (void *ptr, T v)
ecb_poke_u    (void *ptr, T v)
ecb_poke_be_u (void *ptr, T v)
ecb_poke_le_u (void *ptr, T v)

Again, similarly to their C counterparts, these functions store an unsigned 8, 16, 32 or z64 bit value to memory, with optional conversion to big/little endian.

T must be one of uint8_t, uint16_t, uint32_t or uint64_t.

Unlike their C counterparts, these functions support 8 bit quantities (uint8_t) and also have an aligned version (without the _u prefix), all of which hopefully makes them more useful in generic code.

Fast Integer to String

Libecb defines a set of very fast integer to decimal string (or integer to ascii, short i2a) functions.  These work by converting the integer to a fixed point representation and then successively multiplying out the topmost digits. Unlike some other, also very fast, libraries, ecb's algorithm should be completely branchless per digit, and does not rely on the presence of special cpu functions (such as clz).

There is a high level API that takes an int32_t, uint32_t, int64_t or uint64_t as argument, and a low-level API, which is harder to use but supports slightly more formatting options.


The high level API consists of four functions, one each for int32_t, uint32_t, int64_t and uint64_t:


   char buf[ECB_I2A_MAX_DIGITS + 1];
   char *end = ecb_i2a_i32 (buf, 17262);
   *end = 0;
   // buf now contains "17262"
ECB_I2A_I32_DIGITS (=11)
char *ecb_i2a_u32 (char *ptr, uint32_t value)

Takes an uint32_t value and formats it as a decimal number starting at ptr, using at most ECB_I2A_I32_DIGITS characters. Returns a pointer to just after the generated string, where you would normally put the terminating 0 character. This function outputs the minimum number of digits.

ECB_I2A_U32_DIGITS (=10)
char *ecb_i2a_i32 (char *ptr, int32_t value)

Same as ecb_i2a_u32, but formats a int32_t value, including a minus sign if needed.

ECB_I2A_I64_DIGITS (=20)
char *ecb_i2a_u64 (char *ptr, uint64_t value)
ECB_I2A_U64_DIGITS (=21)
char *ecb_i2a_i64 (char *ptr, int64_t value)

Similar to their 32 bit counterparts, these take a 64 bit argument.


Instead of using a type specific length macro, you can just use ECB_I2A_MAX_DIGITS, which is good enough for any ecb_i2a function.


The functions above use a number of low-level APIs which have some strict limitations, but can be used as building blocks (studying ecb_i2a_i32 and related functions is recommended).

There are three families of functions: functions that convert a number to a fixed number of digits with leading zeroes (ecb_i2a_0N, 0 for “leading zeroes”), functions that generate up to N digits, skipping leading zeroes (_N), and functions that can generate more digits, but the leading digit has limited range (_xN).

None of the functions deal with negative numbers.

Example: convert an IP address in an u32 into dotted-quad:

   uint32_t ip = 0x0a000164; //
   char ips[3 * 4 + 3 + 1];
   char *ptr = ips;
   ptr = ecb_i2a_3 (ptr,  ip >> 24        ); *ptr++ = '.';
   ptr = ecb_i2a_3 (ptr, (ip >> 16) & 0xff); *ptr++ = '.';
   ptr = ecb_i2a_3 (ptr, (ip >>  8) & 0xff); *ptr++ = '.';
   ptr = ecb_i2a_3 (ptr,  ip        & 0xff); *ptr++ = 0;
   printf ("ip: %s\n", ips); // prints "ip:"
char *ecb_i2a_02  (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 32 bit
char *ecb_i2a_03  (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 32 bit
char *ecb_i2a_04  (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 32 bit
char *ecb_i2a_05  (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 64 bit
char *ecb_i2a_06  (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 64 bit
char *ecb_i2a_07  (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 64 bit
char *ecb_i2a_08  (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 64 bit
char *ecb_i2a_09  (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 64 bit

The ecb_i2a_0N functions take an unsigned value and convert them to exactly N digits, returning a pointer to the first character after the digits. The value must be in range. The functions marked with 32 bit do their calculations internally in 32 bit, the ones marked with 64 bit internally use 64 bit integers, which might be slow on 32 bit architectures (the high level API decides on 32 vs. 64 bit versions using ECB_64BIT_NATIVE).

char *ecb_i2a_2   (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 32 bit
char *ecb_i2a_3   (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 32 bit
char *ecb_i2a_4   (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 32 bit
char *ecb_i2a_5   (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 64 bit
char *ecb_i2a_6   (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 64 bit
char *ecb_i2a_7   (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 64 bit
char *ecb_i2a_8   (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 64 bit
char *ecb_i2a_9   (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 64 bit

Similarly, the ecb_i2a_N functions take an unsigned value and convert them to at most N digits, suppressing leading zeroes, and returning a pointer to the first character after the digits.

ECB_I2A_MAX_X5 (=59074)
char *ecb_i2a_x5  (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 32 bit
ECB_I2A_MAX_X10 (=2932500665)
char *ecb_i2a_x10 (char *ptr, uint32_t value) // 64 bit

The ecb_i2a_xN functions are similar to the ecb_i2a_N functions, but they can generate one digit more, as long as the number is within range, which is given by the symbols ECB_I2A_MAX_X5 (almost 16 bit range) and ECB_I2A_MAX_X10 (a bit more than 31 bit range), respectively.

For example, the digit part of a 32 bit signed integer just fits into the ECB_I2A_MAX_X10 range, so while ecb_i2a_x10 cannot convert a 10 digit number, it can convert all 32 bit signed numbers. Sadly, it's not good enough for 32 bit unsigned numbers.

Floating Point Fiddling


Evaluates to positive infinity if supported by the platform, otherwise to a truly huge number.


Evaluates to a quiet NAN if supported by the platform, otherwise to ECB_INFINITY.

float ecb_ldexpf (float x, int exp) [-UECB_NO_LIBM]

Same as ldexpf, but always available.

uint32_t ecb_float_to_binary16  (float  x) [-UECB_NO_LIBM]
uint32_t ecb_float_to_binary32  (float  x) [-UECB_NO_LIBM]
uint64_t ecb_double_to_binary64 (double x) [-UECB_NO_LIBM]

These functions each take an argument in the native float or double type and return the IEEE 754 bit representation of it (binary16/half, binary32/single or binary64/double precision).

The bit representation is just as IEEE 754 defines it, i.e. the sign bit will be the most significant bit, followed by exponent and mantissa.

This function should work even when the native floating point format isn't IEEE compliant, of course at a speed and code size penalty, and of course also within reasonable limits (it tries to convert NaNs, infinities and denormals, but will likely convert negative zero to positive zero).

On all modern platforms (where ECB_STDFP is true), the compiler should be able to completely optimise away the 32 and 64 bit functions.

These functions can be helpful when serialising floats to the network - you can serialise the return value like a normal uint16_t/uint32_t/uint64_t.

Another use for these functions is to manipulate floating point values directly.

Silly example: toggle the sign bit of a float.

   /* On gcc-4.7 on amd64, */
   /* this results in a single add instruction to toggle the bit, and 4 extra */
   /* instructions to move the float value to an integer register and back. */

   x = ecb_binary32_to_float (ecb_float_to_binary32 (x) ^ 0x80000000U)
float  ecb_binary16_to_float  (uint16_t x) [-UECB_NO_LIBM]
float  ecb_binary32_to_float  (uint32_t x) [-UECB_NO_LIBM]
double ecb_binary64_to_double (uint64_t x) [-UECB_NO_LIBM]

The reverse operation of the previous function - takes the bit representation of an IEEE binary16, binary32 or binary64 number (half, single or double precision) and converts it to the native float or double format.

This function should work even when the native floating point format isn't IEEE compliant, of course at a speed and code size penalty, and of course also within reasonable limits (it tries to convert normals and denormals, and might be lucky for infinities, and with extraordinary luck, also for negative zero).

On all modern platforms (where ECB_STDFP is true), the compiler should be able to optimise away this function completely.

uint16_t ecb_binary32_to_binary16 (uint32_t x)
uint32_t ecb_binary16_to_binary32 (uint16_t x)

Convert a IEEE binary32/single precision to binary16/half format, and vice versa, handling all details (round-to-nearest-even, subnormals, infinity and NaNs) correctly.

These are functions are available under -DECB_NO_LIBM, since they do not rely on the platform floating point format. The ecb_float_to_binary16 and ecb_binary16_to_float functions are usually what you want.


x = ecb_mod (m, n)

Returns m modulo n, which is the same as the positive remainder of the division operation between m and n, using floored division. Unlike the C remainder operator %, this function ensures that the return value is always positive and that the two numbers m and m' = m + i * n result in the same value modulo n - in other words, ecb_mod implements the mathematical modulo operation, which is missing in the language.

n must be strictly positive (i.e. >= 1), while m must be negatable, that is, both m and -m must be representable in its type (this typically excludes the minimum signed integer value, the same limitation as for / and % in C).

Current GCC/clang versions compile this into an efficient branchless sequence on almost all CPUs.

For example, when you want to rotate forward through the members of an array for increasing m (which might be negative), then you should use ecb_mod, as the % operator might give either negative results, or change direction for negative values:

   for (m = -100; m <= 100; ++m)
     int elem = myarray [ecb_mod (m, ecb_array_length (myarray))];
x = ecb_div_rd (val, div)
x = ecb_div_ru (val, div)

Returns val divided by div rounded down or up, respectively. val and div must have integer types and div must be strictly positive. Note that these functions are implemented with macros in C and with function templates in C++.


element_count = ecb_array_length (name)

Returns the number of elements in the array name. For example:

  int primes[] = { 2, 3, 5, 7, 11 };
  int sum = 0;

  for (i = 0; i < ecb_array_length (primes); i++)
    sum += primes [i];

Symbols Governing Compilation of ecb.h Itself

These symbols need to be defined before including ecb.h the first time.


If ecb.h is never used from multiple threads, then this symbol can be defined, in which case memory fences (and similar constructs) are completely removed, leading to more efficient code and fewer dependencies.

Setting this symbol to a true value implies ECB_NO_SMP.


The weaker version of ECB_NO_THREADS - if ecb.h is used from multiple threads, but never concurrently (e.g. if the system the program runs on has only a single CPU with a single core, no hyperthreading and so on), then this symbol can be defined, leading to more efficient code and fewer dependencies.


When defined to 1, do not export any functions that might introduce dependencies on the math library (usually called -lm) - these are marked with [-UECB_NO_LIBM].

Undocumented Functionality

ecb.h is full of undocumented functionality as well, some of which is intended to be internal-use only, some of which we forgot to document, and some of which we hide because we are not sure we will keep the interface stable.

While you are welcome to rummage around and use whatever you find useful (we don't want to stop you), keep in mind that we will change undocumented functionality in incompatible ways without thinking twice, while we are considerably more conservative with documented things.


libecb is designed and maintained by:

   Emanuele Giaquinta <>
   Marc Alexander Lehmann <>


2021-12-17 perl v5.34.0 User Contributed Perl Documentation