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A tiny embeddable printf replacement written in C89/C99.
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nanoprintf is an implementation of snprintf and vsnprintf for embedded systems that, when fully enabled, aims for C11 standard compliance.

nanoprintf makes no memory allocations and uses less than 100 bytes of stack. Compiling with all optional features disabled yields ~2.4KB of ARM Cortex-M object code, and compiling with all optional features enabled is closer to 5KB. This is all larger on x64, but why are you using nanoprintf on x64? :)

nanoprintf is a single header file in the style of the stb libraries. The rest of the repository is tests and scaffolding and not required for use.

nanoprintf is written in C89 for maximal compiler compatibility. C99 or C++11 compilers are required (for uint64_t and other types) if floating point conversion or large modifiers are enabled. nanoprintf does include standard headers but only uses them for types and argument lists; no calls are made into stdlib / libc, with the exception of any internal double-to-float conversion ABI calls your compiler might emit.

nanoprintf is statically configurable so users can find a balance between size, compiler requirements, and feature set. Floating point conversion, "large" length modifiers, and size write-back are all configurable and are only compiled if explicitly requested, see Configuration for details.


tinyprintf doesn't print floating point values.

printf defines the actual standard library printf symbol, which isn't always what you want. It stores the final converted string (with padding and precision) in a temporary buffer, which makes supporting longer strings more costly. It also doesn't support the %n "write-back" specifier.

No other embedded-friendly printf projects that I could fine are in the public domain and have single-file implementations. Really though, I've just wanted to try my hand at a really small printf system for a while now.


  1. Copy nanoprintf.h into your codebase somewhere.

  2. Add the following code to one of your .c or .cpp files to compile the nanoprintf implementation:

    #include "path/to/nanoprintf.h"
  3. To call, just #include "path/to/nanoprintf.h" as usual and call the functions.

  4. Compile your code with your nanoprintf configuration flags. Alternately, wrap nanoprintf.h in your own header that defines all of your configuration flags, and use that everywhere in steps 2-3.


nanoprintf has 4 main functions:

  • npf_snprintf: Use like snprintf.
  • npf_vsnprintf: Use like vsnprintf (va_list support).
  • npf_pprintf: Use like printf with a per-character write callback (semihosting, UART, etc).
  • npf_vpprintf: Use like npf_pprintf but takes a va_list.

The pprintf variations take a callback that receives the character to print and a user-provided context pointer.

Pass NULL or nullptr to npf_[v]snprintf to write nothing, and only return the length of the formatted string.

nanoprintf does not provide printf or putchar itself; those are seen as system-level services and nanoprintf is a utility library. nanoprintf is hopefully a good building block for rolling your own printf, though.


nanoprintf has the following static configuration flags. You can either inject them into your compiler (usually -D flags) or wrap nanoprintf.h in your own header that sets them up, and then #include your header instead of nanoprintf.h in your application.

If no configuration flags are specified, nanoprintf will default to "reasonable" embedded values in an attempt to be helpful: floats enabled, writeback and large formatters disabled. If any configuration flags are explicitly specified, nanoprintf requires that all flags are explicitly specified.

  • NANOPRINTF_USE_FIELD_WIDTH_FORMAT_SPECIFIERS: Set to 0 or 1. Enables field width specifiers.
  • NANOPRINTF_USE_PRECISION_FORMAT_SPECIFIERS: Set to 0 or 1. Enables precision specifiers.
  • NANOPRINTF_USE_FLOAT_FORMAT_SPECIFIERS: Set to 0 or 1. Enables floating-point specifiers.
  • NANOPRINTF_USE_LARGE_FORMAT_SPECIFIERS: Set to 0 or 1. Enables oversized modifiers.
  • NANOPRINTF_USE_WRITEBACK_FORMAT_SPECIFIERS: Set to 0 or 1. Enables %n for write-back.
  • NANOPRINTF_VISIBILITY_STATIC: Optional define. Marks prototypes as static to sandbox nanoprintf.

If a disabled format specifier feature is used, no conversion will occur and the format specifier string simply will be printed instead.


Like printf, nanoprintf expects a conversion specification string of the following form:

[flags][field width][.precision][length modifier][conversion specifier]

  • Flags

    None or more of the following:

    • 0: Pad the field with leading zero characters.
    • -: Left-justify the conversion result in the field.
    • +: Signed conversions always begin with + or - characters.
    • : (space) A space character is inserted if the first converted character is not a sign.
    • #: Writes extra characters (0x for hex, . for empty floats, '0' for empty octals, etc).
  • Field width (if enabled)

    A number that specifies the total field width for the conversion, adds padding. If field width is *, the field width is read from the next vararg.

  • Precision (if enabled)

    Prefixed with a ., a number that specifies the precision of the number or string. If precision is *, the precision is read from the next vararg.

  • Length modifier

    None or more of the following:

    • h: Use short for integral and write-back vararg width.
    • L: Use long double for float vararg width (note: it will then be casted down to float)
    • l: Use long, double, or wide vararg width.
    • hh: Use char for integral and write-back vararg width.
    • ll: (large specifier) Use long long for integral and write-back vararg width.
    • j: (large specifier) Use the [u]intmax_t types for integral and write-back vararg width.
    • z: (large specifier) Use the size_t types for integral and write-back vararg width.
    • t: (large specifier) Use the ptrdiff_t types for integral and write-back vararg width.
  • Conversion specifier

    Exactly one of the following:

    • %%: Percent-sign literal
    • %c: Characters
    • %s: Null-terminated strings
    • %i/%d: Signed integers
    • %u: Unsigned integers
    • %o: Unsigned octal integers
    • %x / %X: Unsigned hexadecimal integers
    • %p: Pointers
    • %n: Write the number of bytes written to the pointer vararg
    • %f/%F: Floating-point values

Floating Point

Floating point conversion is performed by extracting the value into 64:64 fixed-point with an extra field that specifies the number of leading zero fractional digits before the first nonzero digit. No rounding is currently performed; values are simply truncated at the specified precision. This is done for simplicity, speed, and code footprint.

Despite nano in the name, there's no way to do away with double entirely, since the C language standard says that floats are promoted to double any time they're passed into variadic argument lists. nanoprintf casts all doubles back down to floats before doing any conversions.


To get the environment and run tests (linux / mac only for now):

  1. Clone or fork this repository.
  2. Run ./b from the root.

This will build all of the unit, conformance, and compilation tests for your host environment. Any test failures will return a non-zero exit code.

The nanoprintf development environment uses cmake and ninja. If you have these in your path, ./b will use them. If not, ./b will download and deploy them into path/to/your/nanoprintf/external.

nanoprintf uses CircleCI for continuous integration builds. The CircleCI builds use this Docker image on Docker Hub. The Dockerfile for the CircleCI builds lives here.


No wide-character support exists: the %lc and %ls fields require that the arg be converted to a char array as if by a call to wcrtomb. When locale and character set conversions get involved, it's hard to keep the name "nano". Accordingly, %lc and %ls behave like %c and %s, respectively.

Currently the only supported float conversions are the decimal forms: %f and %F. All other float conversions (exponent form, hexadecimal exponent form, dynamic precision form) behave like %f and %F. Pull requests welcome!


This code is optimized for size, not readability or structure. Unfortunately modularity and "cleanliness" even in C adds overhead at this small scale, so most of the functionality and logic is pushed together into npf_vpprintf. This is not what normal embedded systems code should look like; it's #ifdef soup and hard to make sense of, and I apologize if you have to spelunk around in the implementation. Hopefully the various tests will serve as guide rails if you hack around in it.

Alternately, perhaps you're a significantly better programmer than I! In that case, please help me make this code smaller and cleaner without making the footprint larger, or nudge me in the right direction. :)


Float-to-int conversion is done using Wojciech Muła's float -> 64:64 fixed algorithm.

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