peek at stdin, flush stdin

Discussion in 'C Programming' started by Johnathan Doe, May 15, 2004.

  1. I'm trying to find a way to reliably peek at stdin, and if anything's
    waiting, flush stdin so that it clears the stream ready to wait for a

    The problem I have is that in an application, if I call say scanf() to
    get some input, occasionally the newline is still left hanging around in
    the buffer. If there's any junk left over in stdin after getting input
    I'd like to clear it out. And then when going to read input again
    later, check for any junk and clear it out before prompting and
    attempting to read input.

    I've found a way to do this quite well by using:

    scanf("%c%*c", &ch);

    which gets a menu choice of a single character, and sucks up the newline
    still in the stream. But, if any extra stuff is entered, this is not
    very robust. It's all still left in the input stream. Because most of
    my programs run in blocking mode, I can sit there in a loop and read
    everything until stdin drains out. I've tried going into non-blocking
    mode to "peek" at anything that might be there, get it, and then return,
    but I couldn't make it work. It also seems like a bit of a nasty hack.

    Any ideas?

    Many thanks for your help.

    Johnathan Doe, May 15, 2004
    1. Advertisements

  2. char c;
    scanf("%c%*[^\n]%*c", &c);

    Should do the trick. It does not clear stdin if more than
    one line was entered in some way.
    Thomas stegen, May 15, 2004
    1. Advertisements

  3. Johnathan Doe

    Chris Torek Guest

    Unfortunately, this technique does not work *unless* there is
    at least one character other than newline following the one
    desired input character. The reason is that the %[ directive
    ("%*[^\n]" => scan an unlimited length sequence of characters
    other than newline, discarding each character scanned) fails
    if the number of characters that match the scanset is zero.

    In other words, scanning an input stream containing "y\n" puts the
    'y' into c, then finds a newline and fails the %[ directive, and
    then stops (and scanf() returns 1 -- one successful convert and
    assign occurred). The newline remains in the stream. If the stream
    contains "yes\n", on the other hand, the %c converts the 'y' as
    desired, the %[ skips the 'e' and 's' as desired, than the %*c
    discards the newline as desired. (Here scanf() again returns 1.)

    The trick is to separate this into *two* scanf() calls:

    r1 = scanf("%c%*[^\n]", &c);
    r2 = scanf("%*c");

    If it ever gets anything at all, the second scanf() just gets one
    newline character, so it can be replaced with getchar(). The return
    value from the first scanf() should be inspected first, to make
    sure that the stream has not already hit end-of-file.

    These all have a flaw: if the character stuck into "c" is a newline,
    they read one more line, so you actually need *three* scanf() calls:

    r1 = scanf("%c", &c);
    ... check for EOF and newline; if not ...
    r2 = scanf("%*[^\n]"); /* read and discard all non-newlines */
    if (r2 != EOF)
    r3 = scanf("%*c"); /* then read and discard the newline */

    A tiny function that calls getchar() in a loop may be more readable
    to future programmers:

    int get_one_letter_response_on_a_line(void) {
    int c, first;

    /* get and save the first character */
    first = c = getchar();

    /* if it was not newline, keep getting more (but stop on EOF) */
    while (c != '\n' && c != EOF)
    c = getchar();

    /* in any case, return the first one, which may be '\n' or EOF */
    return first;

    Now you can just have:

    int c;
    c = get_one_letter_response_on_a_line();
    switch (c) {
    case 'y': case 'Y': /* handle "yes" */ break;
    case 'n': case 'N': /* handle "no" */ break;
    case EOF: /* handle EOF */ break;
    default: puts("y(es) or n(o), please"); ...

    for instance.
    Chris Torek, May 15, 2004
  4. Chris Torek wrote:


    WOW, thanks!!! :) :) :)
    Johnathan Doe, May 23, 2004
  5. Thomas stegen wrote:

    Thankyou for teaching me about [^\n] : it's not in my textbook!

    Kind Regards.
    Johnathan Doe, May 23, 2004
  6. Johnathan Doe


    Oct 26, 2010
    Likes Received:
    This fine info. came in handy; appropriate question, thank you.
    Chatoyer, May 17, 2013
    1. Advertisements

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.