Calling C functions from Python

By Christian Stigen Larsen
28 Mar 2006

Here's a small tutorial on how to call your C functions from Python.

Let's make some simple functions in C. We'll call the file myModule.c.

#include <Python.h>

 * Function to be called from Python
static PyObject* py_myFunction(PyObject* self, PyObject* args)
  char *s = "Hello from C!";
  return Py_BuildValue("s", s);

 * Another function to be called from Python
static PyObject* py_myOtherFunction(PyObject* self, PyObject* args)
  double x, y;
  PyArg_ParseTuple(args, "dd", &x, &y);
  return Py_BuildValue("d", x*y);

 * Bind Python function names to our C functions
static PyMethodDef myModule_methods[] = {
  {"myFunction", py_myFunction, METH_VARARGS},
  {"myOtherFunction", py_myOtherFunction, METH_VARARGS},

 * Python calls this to let us initialize our module
void initmyModule()
  (void) Py_InitModule("myModule", myModule_methods);

Compiling dynamic libraries on Mac OS X is different from the usual gcc -shared you might be used to:

gcc -dynamiclib -I/usr/include/python2.3/ -lpython2.3 -o myModule.dylib myModule.c

Now you have to do something awkward; rename myModule.dylib to, so that Python will find the correct file (this is a bug in Python, it should've been fixed, but that's as far as I know):

mv myModule.dylib

If you are using a system that supports -shared you can simply do this:

gcc -shared -I/usr/include/python2.3/ -lpython2.3 -o myModule.c

On Windows you can reportedly type

gcc -shared -IC:\Python27\include -LC:\Python27\libs myModule.c -lpython27 -o myModule.pyd

Here's a simple program in Python to call your functions:

from myModule import *

print "Result from myFunction:", myFunction()
print "Result from myOtherFunction(4.0, 5.0):", myOtherFunction(4.0, 5.0)

The output is:

Result from myFunction(): Hello from C!
Result from myOtherFunction(4.0, 5.0): 20.0

If you are going to make bigger libraries available from Python I strongly suggest you check out SWIG or Boost Python.