PRINTF(1) BSD General Commands Manual PRINTF(1)
printf -- formatted output
printf format [arguments ...]
The printf utility formats and prints its arguments, after the first,
under control of the format. The format is a character string which con-
tains three types of objects: plain characters, which are simply copied
to standard output, character escape sequences which are converted and
copied to the standard output, and format specifications, each of which
causes printing of the next successive argument.
The arguments after the first are treated as strings if the corresponding
format is either c, b or s; otherwise it is evaluated as a C constant,
with the following extensions:
o A leading plus or minus sign is allowed.
o If the leading character is a single or double quote, the value
is the ASCII code of the next character.
The format string is reused as often as necessary to satisfy the
arguments. Any extra format specifications are evaluated with zero or
the null string.
Character escape sequences are in backslash notation as defined in the
ANSI X3.159-1989 (``ANSI C89''), with extensions. The characters and
their meanings are as follows:
\a Write a <bell> character.
\b Write a <backspace> character.
\c Ignore remaining characters in this string.
\f Write a character.
\n Write a character.
\r Write a character.
\t Write a <tab> character.
\v Write a character.
\' Write a character.
\\ Write a backslash character.
\0num Write an 8-bit character whose ASCII value is the 1-, 2-,
or 3-digit octal number num.
Each format specification is introduced by the percent character (``%'').
The remainder of the format specification includes, in the following
Zero or more of the following flags:
# A `#' character specifying that the value should be
printed in an ``alternate form''. For c, d, and s, for-
mats, this option has no effect. For the o formats the
precision of the number is increased to force the first
character of the output string to a zero. For the x (X)
format, a non-zero result has the string 0x (0X)
prepended to it. For e, E, f, g, and G, formats, the
result will always contain a decimal point, even if no
digits follow the point (normally, a decimal point only
appears in the results of those formats if a digit fol-
lows the decimal point). For g and G formats, trailing
zeros are not removed from the result as they would oth-
- A minus sign `-' which specifies left adjustment of the
output in the indicated field;
+ A `+' character specifying that there should always be a
sign placed before the number when using signed formats.
' ' A space specifying that a blank should be left before a
positive number for a signed format. A `+' overrides a
space if both are used;
0 A zero `0' character indicating that zero-padding should
be used rather than blank-padding. A `-' overrides a `0'
if both are used;
An optional digit string specifying a field width; if the output
string has fewer characters than the field width it will be
blank-padded on the left (or right, if the left-adjustment indi-
cator has been given) to make up the field width (note that a
leading zero is a flag, but an embedded zero is part of a field
An optional period, '.', followed by an optional digit string
giving a precision which specifies the number of digits to appear
after the decimal point, for e and f formats, or the maximum num-
ber of characters to be printed from a string; if the digit
string is missing, the precision is treated as zero;
A character which indicates the type of format to use (one of
diouxXfFeEgGaAcsb). The uppercase formats differ from their low-
ercase counterparts only in that the output of the former is
entirely in uppercase. The floating-point format specifiers
(fFeEgGaA) may be prefixed by an L to request that additional
precision be used, if available.
A field width or precision may be '*' instead of a digit string. In this
case an argument supplies the field width or precision.
The format characters and their meanings are:
diouXx The argument is printed as a signed decimal (d or i),
unsigned octal, unsigned decimal, or unsigned hexadecimal (X
or x), respectively.
fF The argument is printed in the style `[-]ddd.ddd' where the
number of d's after the decimal point is equal to the preci-
sion specification for the argument. If the precision is
missing, 6 digits are given; if the precision is explicitly
0, no digits and no decimal point are printed. The values
infinity and NaN are printed as 'inf' and 'nan', respec-
eE The argument is printed in the style e '[-d.ddd+-dd]' where
there is one digit before the decimal point and the number
after is equal to the precision specification for the argu-
ment; when the precision is missing, 6 digits are produced.
The values infinity and NaN are printed as 'inf' and 'nan',
gG The argument is printed in style f (F) or in style e (E)
whichever gives full precision in minimum space.
aA The argument is printed in style '[-h.hhh+-pd]' where there
is one digit before the hexadecimal point and the number
after is equal to the precision specification for the argu-
ment; when the precision is missing, enough digits are pro-
duced to convey the argument's exact double-precision float-
ing-point representation. The values infinity and NaN are
printed as 'inf' and 'nan', respectively.
c The first character of argument is printed.
s Characters from the string argument are printed until the end
is reached or until the number of characters indicated by the
precision specification is reached; however if the precision
is 0 or missing, all characters in the string are printed.
b As for s, but interpret character escapes in backslash nota-
tion in the string argument.
% Print a `%'; no argument is used.
The decimal point character is defined in the program's locale (category
In no case does a non-existent or small field width cause truncation of a
field; padding takes place only if the specified field width exceeds the
The printf utility exits 0 on success, and >0 if an error occurs.
The traditional BSD behavior of converting arguments of numeric formats
not beginning with a digit to the ASCII code of the first character is
The printf command is expected to be compatible with the IEEE Std 1003.2
The printf command appeared in 4.3BSD-Reno. It is modeled after the
standard library function, printf(3).
Since the floating point numbers are translated from ASCII to floating-
point and then back again, floating-point precision may be lost. (By
default, the number is translated to an IEEE-754 double-precision value
before being printed. The L modifier may produce additional precision,
depending on the hardware platform.)
ANSI hexadecimal character constants were deliberately not provided.
The escape sequence \000 is the string terminator. When present in the
argument for the b format, the argument will be truncated at the \000
Multibyte characters are not recognized in format strings (this is only a
problem if '%' can appear inside a multibyte character).
BSD April 14, 2005 BSD