How to convert a string to integer in C?

I am trying to find out if there is an alternative way of converting string to integer in C.

I regularly pattern the following in my code.

char s[] = "45";

int num = atoi(s);

So, is there a better way or another way?


There is strtol which is better IMO. Also I have taken a liking in strtonum, so use it if you have it (but remember it's not portable):

long long
     strtonum(const char *nptr, long long minval, long long maxval,
     const char **errstr);

You might also be interested in strtoumax and strtoimax which are standard functions in C99. For example you could say:

uintmax_t num = strtoumax(s, NULL, 10);
if (num == UINTMAX_MAX && errno == ERANGE)
    /* Could not convert. */

Anyway, stay away from atoi:

The call atoi(str) shall be equivalent to:

(int) strtol(str, (char **)NULL, 10)

except that the handling of errors may differ. If the value cannot be represented, the behavior is undefined.

Robust C89 strtol-based solution


  • no undefined behavior (as could be had with the atoi family)
  • a stricter definition of integer than strtol (e.g. no leading whitespace nor trailing trash chars)
  • classification of the error case (e.g. to give useful error messages to users)
  • a "testsuite"
#include <assert.h>
#include <ctype.h>
#include <errno.h>
#include <limits.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

typedef enum {
} str2int_errno;

/* Convert string s to int out.
 * @param[out] out The converted int. Cannot be NULL.
 * @param[in] s Input string to be converted.
 *     The format is the same as strtol,
 *     except that the following are inconvertible:
 *     - empty string
 *     - leading whitespace
 *     - any trailing characters that are not part of the number
 *     Cannot be NULL.
 * @param[in] base Base to interpret string in. Same range as strtol (2 to 36).
 * @return Indicates if the operation succeeded, or why it failed.
str2int_errno str2int(int *out, char *s, int base) {
    char *end;
    if (s[0] == '\0' || isspace(s[0]))
    errno = 0;
    long l = strtol(s, &end, base);
    /* Both checks are needed because INT_MAX == LONG_MAX is possible. */
    if (l > INT_MAX || (errno == ERANGE && l == LONG_MAX))
        return STR2INT_OVERFLOW;
    if (l < INT_MIN || (errno == ERANGE && l == LONG_MIN))
        return STR2INT_UNDERFLOW;
    if (*end != '\0')
    *out = l;
    return STR2INT_SUCCESS;

int main(void) {
    int i;
    /* Lazy to calculate this size properly. */
    char s[256];

    /* Simple case. */
    assert(str2int(&i, "11", 10) == STR2INT_SUCCESS);
    assert(i == 11);

    /* Negative number . */
    assert(str2int(&i, "-11", 10) == STR2INT_SUCCESS);
    assert(i == -11);

    /* Different base. */
    assert(str2int(&i, "11", 16) == STR2INT_SUCCESS);
    assert(i == 17);

    /* 0 */
    assert(str2int(&i, "0", 10) == STR2INT_SUCCESS);
    assert(i == 0);

    /* INT_MAX. */
    sprintf(s, "%d", INT_MAX);
    assert(str2int(&i, s, 10) == STR2INT_SUCCESS);
    assert(i == INT_MAX);

    /* INT_MIN. */
    sprintf(s, "%d", INT_MIN);
    assert(str2int(&i, s, 10) == STR2INT_SUCCESS);
    assert(i == INT_MIN);

    /* Leading and trailing space. */
    assert(str2int(&i, " 1", 10) == STR2INT_INCONVERTIBLE);
    assert(str2int(&i, "1 ", 10) == STR2INT_INCONVERTIBLE);

    /* Trash characters. */
    assert(str2int(&i, "a10", 10) == STR2INT_INCONVERTIBLE);
    assert(str2int(&i, "10a", 10) == STR2INT_INCONVERTIBLE);

    /* int overflow.
     * `if` needed to avoid undefined behaviour
     * on `INT_MAX + 1` if INT_MAX == LONG_MAX.
    if (INT_MAX < LONG_MAX) {
        sprintf(s, "%ld", (long int)INT_MAX + 1L);
        assert(str2int(&i, s, 10) == STR2INT_OVERFLOW);

    /* int underflow */
    if (LONG_MIN < INT_MIN) {
        sprintf(s, "%ld", (long int)INT_MIN - 1L);
        assert(str2int(&i, s, 10) == STR2INT_UNDERFLOW);

    /* long overflow */
    sprintf(s, "%ld0", LONG_MAX);
    assert(str2int(&i, s, 10) == STR2INT_OVERFLOW);

    /* long underflow */
    sprintf(s, "%ld0", LONG_MIN);
    assert(str2int(&i, s, 10) == STR2INT_UNDERFLOW);

    return EXIT_SUCCESS;

GitHub upstream.

Based on:

Don't use functions from ato... group. These are broken and virtually useless. A moderately better solution would be to use sscanf, although it is not perfect either.

To convert string to integer, functions from strto... group should be used. In your specific case it would be strtol function.

Tags: C / String / ATOI

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