File Exchange

image thumbnail


version (5.33 KB) by Val Schmidt
Functions to ease the reading and writing of C data structures from and to binary files.

1 Download

Updated 24 Jun 2009

View License

struct_read simplifies the reading of a C structure from a binary file by providing a functionality similar to the Python 'struct' module. The elements of the structure are specified as a series of characters (and optional multipliers) in a format string. struct_read then reads these binary values returning a cell array of the results. Results are returned either as character arrays or doubles since these are the default MATLAB types.

struct_write similarly takes a file handle, a format string and a cell array of data. Each item in the cell array is converted to the specified format in the string and written to the file handle.

The following list of format specifiers is generally supported.
% Specifier Bytes: Notes
% c 2 char returned as a string character
% C 2 char returned as a number (double)
% b 2 signed char
% B 2 unsigned char
% h 2 short
% H 4 unsigned short
% i 4 int
% I 4 unsigned int
% l 4 long
% L 4 unsigned long
% f 4 float
% d 8 double
% s char[] char[] returns character string

% Given the following C structure definition for a depth measurement from an
% echo-sounder:
% typedef struct
% {
% float depth1; //Depth1
% char units; // m for meters, f for feet
% double time_stamp; //Time stamp, number of seconds elapsed since midnight (00:00:00), January 1, 1970
% char[256] navstring; // GPS Position String
% } ECHO;
% fid = fopen('mybinaryfile','r');
% D = struct_read(fid,'fcd256c')
% D:
% { [23.456],'m',[1242238192.870432012], ...
% '$GPGGA,182503.00,7121.11801,N,15651.53926,W,1,12,0.8,20.49,M,-048,M,,*57' }

Reading and properly interpreting C-pointers is not generally supported.

Cite As

Val Schmidt (2021). struct_read/struct_write (, MATLAB Central File Exchange. Retrieved .

Comments and Ratings (2)

Val Schmidt

Hello Jean-Marie!

You are probably quite right. I wrote this some time ago, mimicking the easily used methods in python, and have not revisited it since. Indeed in other work, I have sometimes used the very strategy you suggest. I'll have to see how it performs.

Thanks for the comment!!!


Jean Marie


What you propose is interesting but I suppose the time to read the file is the same as if you were doing the individual read actions.

This problem of low performances to read structures in files made of datagrams as are the Multibeam Echo Sounders ones is a tremendous problem.

I have perhaps an idea for you to improve the speed, you could read the data using an array of uint8 then use the "typecast" function to convert the data into your different fields.

Let see the example :

K>> x = typecast(pi, 'uint8')

x =

24 45 68 84 251 33 9 64

K>> whos x
Name Size Bytes Class Attributes

x 1x8 8 uint8

K>> y = typecast(x, 'double')

y =


K>> whos y
Name Size Bytes Class Attributes

y 1x1 8 double


MATLAB Release Compatibility
Created with R2008a
Compatible with any release
Platform Compatibility
Windows macOS Linux

Community Treasure Hunt

Find the treasures in MATLAB Central and discover how the community can help you!

Start Hunting!