bsearch -- binary search a sorted table


cc . . . -lc

#include <stdlib.h>

void *bsearch (key, base, nel, width, compar) void *key, *base; size_t nel, width; int (*compar)();


The bsearch function is a binary search routine. It returns a pointer into a table indicating where a datum may be found. The table must be previously sorted in increasing order according to a provided comparison function. key points to a datum instance to be sought in the table. base points to the element at the base of the table. nel is the number of elements in the table. compar is the name of the comparison function, which is called with two arguments that point to the elements being compared. The function must return an integer less than, equal to, or greater than zero if the first argument is to be considered less than, equal to, or greater than the second.


For compatibility with the System V Interface Definition (SVID), include the search.h header file instead of stdlib.h.

Return value

The bsearch function returns a pointer to a matching member of the array, or a null pointer if no match is found. If two or more members compare equal, which member returned is unspecified.


The example below searches a table containing pointers to nodes consisting of a string and its length. The table is ordered alphabetically on the string in the node pointed to by each entry.

This code fragment reads in strings and either finds the corresponding node and prints out the string and its length, or prints an error message.

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

#define TABSIZE 1000

struct node { /* these are stored in the table */ char *string; int length; }; struct node table[TABSIZE]; /* table to be searched */ . . . { struct node *node_ptr, node; int node_compare( ); /* routine to compare 2 nodes */ char str_space[20]; /* space to read string into */ . . . node.string = str_space; while (scanf("%s", node.string) != EOF) { node_ptr = (struct node *)bsearch((char *)(&node), (char *)table, TABSIZE, sizeof(struct node), node_compare); if (node_ptr != NULL) { (void)printf("string = %20s, length = %d\n", node_ptr->string, node_ptr->length); } else { (void)printf("not found: %s\n", node.string); } } } /* This routine compares two nodes based on an alphabetical ordering of the string field. */ int node_compare(node1, node2) char *node1, *node2; { return (strcmp( ((struct node *)node1)->string, ((struct node *)node2)->string)); }


A NULL pointer is returned if the key cannot be found in the table.


The pointers to the key and the element at the base of the table should be of type pointer-to-element, and cast to type pointer-to-character.

The comparison function need not compare every byte, so arbitrary data may be contained in the elements in addition to the values being compared.

Although bsearch is declared as type pointer-to-character, the value returned should be cast into type pointer-to-element.

See also

hsearch(S), lsearch(S), qsort(S), tsearch(S)

Standards conformance

bsearch is conformant with:

X/Open Portability Guide, Issue 3, 1989 ;
ANSI X3.159-1989 Programming Language -- C ;
IEEE POSIX Std 1003.1-1990 System Application Program Interface (API) [C Language] (ISO/IEC 9945-1) ;
and NIST FIPS 151-1 .

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