SWIG(Simplified Wrapper and Interface Generator).

Scripting languages like python presents a lot of ease to the programmer while coding , but the fact remains that there are certain tasks that would screw you up when attempted in Python. So the coding is done in a more flexible language like C and the modules are imported in Python. SWIG is a tool that is used for extending your C programs into python and make the functions callable from Python.

Here we discuss how to import a C module into Python using SWIG.
Installing SWIG in your system ,if you haven’t already, is the first task.

$:apt-get install swig

would do that for you.

Now its better you create a directory for the entire purpose and setup yourself within it.
Consider you have a C file ,avl.c , as our example (Avl is a height balanced Tree ,avl.c is an implementation of such a tree.) You could download the source code for avl.c here.

Our first step is to create an interface file ‘avl.i‘ for setting up the interface. ‘avl.i ‘ consists of the declarations of the various functions and global variables that are used in the file ‘avl.c’ and are prefixed with ‘extern’.

%module avl


extern struct node *root;

extern struct node *p;


extern void insert(struct node* move,int item);


The ‘avl.i ‘ file would like as above:
Now we have two files in our directory ,

avl.c & avl.i

This is all that we have to code for the task of extending a C module in Python. Now its all about SWIG.

Lets move further: Do the following.

$:swig -python avl.i

now have have a look into your directory and you will find two more files there .

avl.py & avl_wrap.c
avl_wrap.c is the wrapper file that has been created for the purpose of extension . Wrapper functions act as a glue layer between languages.

$: gcc -c avl.c avl_wrap.c -I /usr/include/python2.5/

You could now see 2 more files present in your directory.
avl.o & avl_wrap.o

These two are the object files that have been created for avl.c and avl_wrap.c respectively.

$: ld -shared avl.o avl_wrap.o -o _avl.so

This is the last thing you need to do before you could use start using your C module in Python.
Check your directory and you could see a new file , ‘_avl.so’. This is the shared object file that has been created .
If you create a make file for these , then obviously you wont have to go doing these tasks repeatedly.
Now ,the python module corresponding to the C module avl.c has been created which means that now you could start using it.

$: python

>>>import avl

The source code can be downloaded here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s