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Introduction

A header file is a file with extension .h which contains C function declarations and macro definitions and to be shared between several source files. There are two types of header files: the files that the programmer writes and the files that come with your compiler.

You request the use of a header file in your program by including it, with the C preprocessing directive#include like you have seen inclusion of stdio.h header file, which comes along with your compiler.

Including a header file is equal to copying the content of the header file but we do not do it because it will be very much error-prone and it is not a good idea to copy the content of header file in the source files, specially if we have multiple source file comprising our program.

A simple practice in C or C++ programs is that we keep all the constants, macros, system wide global variables, and function prototypes in header files and include that header file wherever it is required.

Include Syntax

Both user and system header files are included using the preprocessing directive #include. It has following two forms:

 

#include <file>

This form is used for system header files. It searches for a file named file in a standard list of system directories. You can prepend directories to this list with the -I option while compiling your source code.

#include "file"

This form is used for header files of your own program. It searches for a file named file in the directory containing the current file. You can prepend directories to this list with the -I option while compiling your source code.





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