FILE *popen(const char *command, const char *type);
int pclose(FILE *stream);
Feature Test Macro Requirements for glibc (see feature_test_macros(7)):
_POSIX_C_SOURCE >= 2 || _XOPEN_SOURCE || _BSD_SOURCE ||
The popen() function opens a process by creating a pipe, forking, and
invoking the shell. Since a pipe is by definition unidirectional, the
type argument may specify only reading or writing, not both; the
resulting stream is correspondingly read-only or write-only.
The command argument is a pointer to a null-terminated string contain-
ing a shell command line. This command is passed to /bin/sh using the
-c flag; interpretation, if any, is performed by the shell. The type
argument is a pointer to a null-terminated string which must contain
either the letter 'r' for reading or the letter 'w' for writing. Since
glibc 2.9, this argument can additionally include the letter 'e', which
causes the close-on-exec flag (FD_CLOEXEC) to be set on the underlying
file descriptor; see the description of the O_CLOEXEC flag in open(2)
for reasons why this may be useful.
The return value from popen() is a normal standard I/O stream in all
respects save that it must be closed with pclose() rather than
fclose(3). Writing to such a stream writes to the standard input of
the command; the command's standard output is the same as that of the
process that called popen(), unless this is altered by the command
itself. Conversely, reading from a "popened" stream reads the com-
mand's standard output, and the command's standard input is the same as
that of the process that called popen().
Note that output popen() streams are fully buffered by default.
The pclose() function waits for the associated process to terminate and
returns the exit status of the command as returned by wait4(2).
The popen() function returns NULL if the fork(2) or pipe(2) calls fail,
or if it cannot allocate memory.
The pclose() function returns -1 if wait4(2) returns an error, or some
other error is detected.
The popen() function does not set errno if memory allocation fails. If
the underlying fork(2) or pipe(2) fails, errno is set appropriately.
seek offset with the process that called popen(), if the original
process has done a buffered read, the command's input position may not
be as expected. Similarly, the output from a command opened for writ-
ing may become intermingled with that of the original process. The
latter can be avoided by calling fflush(3) before popen().
Failure to execute the shell is indistinguishable from the shell's
failure to execute command, or an immediate exit of the command. The
only hint is an exit status of 127.
sh(1), fork(2), pipe(2), wait4(2), fclose(3), fflush(3), fopen(3),
This page is part of release 3.35 of the Linux man-pages project. A
description of the project, and information about reporting bugs, can
be found at http://man7.org/linux/man-pages/.
GNU 2010-02-03 POPEN(3)
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