C - Convert array of elements into 2-d matrix

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one dimensional array in c

It might be a stupid question, but I wonder if there is a efficient way to do this.

The situation:

int* array = malloc(n * m * sizeof(int));
//want to convert array into M[n][m]

what I am doing now:

int** M = malloc(n * sizeof(int*));
for(int i = 0; i < n; i++, array += m)
  M[i] = array; 

I don't think the conversion should be this complex. Is there any simple syntax C provided? Can I declare an extern M[n][m] then set its address to the array?

(error handling and memory management in the sample is omitted for simplicity. Just think it as a part of some function.)


int* array = malloc(n * m * sizeof(int));

you can do:

int (*M)[m] = (int(*)[m])array;

and then use M[1][2] for example.

You could have done that in the first place too :

int (*M)[m] = malloc( n * sizeof *M );

Two dimensional (2D) arrays in C programming with example, The two dimensional (2D) array in C programming is also known as matrix. This program demonstrates how to store the elements entered by user in a 2d  How to convert a 2-d array of size (m x n) into 1-d array and how to store the element at position [i, j] of 2-d array in 1-d array? Clearly, the size of 1-d array is the number of elements in 2-d array i.e. (m x n). If the elements in the 2-d array are stored in row-major order.

The tricky part is declaring the variable to hold the pointer to the allocated array; the rest is straight-forward — assuming you have a C99 or later compiler.

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

static void print_2dvla(int rows, int cols, int data[rows][cols])
    for (int i = 0; i < rows; i++)
        printf("%2d: ", i);
        for (int j = 0; j < cols; j++)
            printf(" %4d", data[i][j]);

int main(void)
    int m = 10;
    int n = 12;

    int (*M)[m] = malloc(n * m * sizeof(M[0][0]));
    if (M == NULL)
        fprintf(stderr, "Failed to allocate %zu bytes memory\n", n * m * sizeof(M[0][0]));

    for (int i = 0; i < n; i++)
        for (int j = 0; j < m; j++)
            M[i][j] = (i + 1) * 100 + (j + 1);

    print_2dvla(n, m, M);

    return 0;

Example output:

 0:   101  102  103  104  105  106  107  108  109  110
 1:   201  202  203  204  205  206  207  208  209  210
 2:   301  302  303  304  305  306  307  308  309  310
 3:   401  402  403  404  405  406  407  408  409  410
 4:   501  502  503  504  505  506  507  508  509  510
 5:   601  602  603  604  605  606  607  608  609  610
 6:   701  702  703  704  705  706  707  708  709  710
 7:   801  802  803  804  805  806  807  808  809  810
 8:   901  902  903  904  905  906  907  908  909  910
 9:  1001 1002 1003 1004 1005 1006 1007 1008 1009 1010
10:  1101 1102 1103 1104 1105 1106 1107 1108 1109 1110
11:  1201 1202 1203 1204 1205 1206 1207 1208 1209 1210

The key line is:

int (*M)[m] = malloc(n * m * sizeof(M[0][0]));

This says that M is a pointer to an array of int arrays each of which has the dimension m. The rest of the code simply uses that array with the usual 2-subscript notation — M[i][j] etc. It can be passed to functions. I've not shown it here, but it is trivial to put the initialization code into a function too, and then have several different sizes of matrix in a single function.

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Use an array of pointers.

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

int main() 
    int n = 3, m = 4, i, j, count=0;

    int *array[n];
    for(i=0; i<n; i++)
     array[i] = (int *)malloc(m * sizeof(int));
     if( array[i] == NULL)
        perror("Unable to allocate array");

    // going to add number to your 2d array.

    for (i = 0; i < n; i++)
      for (j = 0; j < m; j++)
         array[i][j] = ++count;

    for (i=0; i < n; i++)
      for (j=0; j < m; j++)
         printf("%d ", array[i][j]);

      // free memory

      for(i=0; i<n; i++)


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  • C'mon man this is C, cast the pointer to what you want
  • @smac89 I want to use the syntax of index M[a][b] for some other reason.
  • Seems to work here: coliru.stacked-crooked.com/a/6790414229295052
  • @MadPhysicist, I was just about to comment the same as above. How is it computed in this case: coliru.stacked-crooked.com/a/39e6761edaccd062? Here the size is not known until runtime
  • @smac89 in the same way that you'd compute i + sp * j for any other variables. When you say int (*p)[sp], that means for a given i, j, multiply the j by sp before adding to i and using as an offset. All the compiler is doing is converting the manually computed linear offset into a fancy syntax that's easier to read.
  • I think the extern keyword prevent the variable allocating memory on stack. Also, it would not be in the static zone if I have it inside a function block.
  • It's feasible to argue that the int *array = malloc(…); cannot be a global variable because in C you cannot use the result of a function call to initialize a global (or static) variable.
  • Consider showing the code needed to free the allocated memory.
  • The thing is that I got an array initially (not an array of pointer), that is nothing I would like to mess with.
  • OK I freed the memory.
  • You can just use a 2d array and and the elements then, just array[m][n] and use a for loop to put the elements into the array. No malloc needed
  • While a good generic approach, usually, in my limited experience, two layers of indirection tends to be a tad slower than computing the linear index. And you shouldn't have any problems with syntax in light of this comment: stackoverflow.com/questions/54282732/…