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A set of general-purpose linked list macros for C structures are included with uthash in utlist.h. To use these macros in your own C program, just copy utlist.h into your source directory and use it in your programs.

#include "utlist.h"

These macros support the basic linked list operations: adding and deleting elements, sorting them and iterating over them.


To download the utlist.h header file, follow the links on to clone uthash or get a zip file, then look in the src/ sub-directory.

BSD licensed

This software is made available under the revised BSD license. It is free and open source.


The utlist macros have been tested on:

  • Linux,

  • Mac OS X, and

  • Windows, using Visual Studio 2008, Visual Studio 2010, or Cygwin/MinGW.

Using utlist

Types of lists

Three types of linked lists are supported:

  • singly-linked lists,

  • doubly-linked lists, and

  • circular, doubly-linked lists


Prepending elements

Constant-time on all list types.


O(n) on singly-linked lists; constant-time on doubly-linked list. (The utlist implementation of the doubly-linked list keeps a tail pointer in head->prev so that append can be done in constant time).

Deleting elements

O(n) on singly-linked lists; constant-time on doubly-linked list.


O(n log(n)) for all list types.

Iteration, counting and searching

O(n) for all list types.

List elements

You can use any structure with these macros, as long as the structure contains a next pointer. If you want to make a doubly-linked list, the element also needs to have a prev pointer.

typedef struct element {
    char *name;
    struct element *prev; /* needed for a doubly-linked list only */
    struct element *next; /* needed for singly- or doubly-linked lists */
} element;

You can name your structure anything. In the example above it is called element. Within a particular list, all elements must be of the same type.

Flexible prev/next naming

You can name your prev and next pointers something else. If you do, there is a family of macros that work identically but take these names as extra arguments.

List head

The list head is simply a pointer to your element structure. You can name it anything. It must be initialized to NULL.

element *head = NULL;

List operations

The lists support inserting or deleting elements, sorting the elements and iterating over them.

Singly-linked Doubly-linked Circular, doubly-linked
























LL_FOREACH(head,elt) {…}

DL_FOREACH(head,elt) {…}

CDL_FOREACH(head,elt) {…}

LL_FOREACH_SAFE(head,elt,tmp) {…}

DL_FOREACH_SAFE(head,elt,tmp) {…}

CDL_FOREACH_SAFE(head,elt,tmp1,tmp2) {…}










Prepend means to insert an element in front of the existing list head (if any), changing the list head to the new element. Append means to add an element at the end of the list, so it becomes the new tail element. Concatenate takes two properly constructed lists and appends the second list to the first. (Visual Studio 2008 does not support LL_CONCAT and DL_CONCAT, but VS2010 is ok.) To prepend before an arbitrary element instead of the list head, use the _PREPEND_ELEM macro family. To append after an arbitrary element element instead of the list head, use the _APPEND_ELEM macro family. To replace an arbitrary list element with another element use the _REPLACE_ELEM family of macros.

The sort operation never moves the elements in memory; rather it only adjusts the list order by altering the prev and next pointers in each element. Also the sort operation can change the list head to point to a new element.

The foreach operation is for easy iteration over the list from the head to the tail. A usage example is shown below. You can of course just use the prev and next pointers directly instead of using the foreach macros. The foreach_safe operation should be used if you plan to delete any of the list elements while iterating.

The search operation is a shortcut for iteration in search of a particular element. It is not any faster than manually iterating and testing each element. There are two forms: the "scalar" version searches for an element using a simple equality test on a given structure member, while the general version takes an element to which all others in the list will be compared using a cmp function.

The count operation iterates over the list and increments a supplied counter.

The parameters shown in the table above are explained here:


The list head (a pointer to your list element structure).


A pointer to the list element structure you are adding to the list.


A pointer to the list element structure you are replacing or deleting from the list.


A pointer that will be assigned to each list element in succession (see example) in the case of iteration macros; or, the output pointer from the search macros.


Reference element for prepend and append operations that will be prepended before or appended after. If ref is a pointer with value NULL, the new element will be appended to the list for _PREPEND_ELEM() operations and prepended for _APPEND_ELEM() operations. ref must be the name of a pointer variable and cannot be literally NULL, use _PREPEND() and _APPEND() macro family instead.


An element pointer, having the same type as elt, for which the search macro seeks a match (if found, the match is stored in elt). A match is determined by the given cmp function.


pointer to comparison function which accepts two arguments-- these are pointers to two element structures to be compared. The comparison function must return an int that is negative, zero, or positive, which specifies whether the first item should sort before, equal to, or after the second item, respectively. (In other words, the same convention that is used by strcmp). Note that under Visual Studio 2008 you may need to declare the two arguments as void * and then cast them back to their actual types.


A pointer of the same type as elt. Used internally. Need not be initialized.


In the scalar search macro, the name of a member within the elt structure which will be tested (using ==) for equality with the value val.


In the scalar search macro, specifies the value of (of structure member field) of the element being sought.


integer which will be set to the length of the list


This example program reads names from a text file (one name per line), and appends each name to a doubly-linked list. Then it sorts and prints them.

A doubly-linked list
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <string.h>
#include "utlist.h"

#define BUFLEN 20

typedef struct el {
    char bname[BUFLEN];
    struct el *next, *prev;
} el;

int namecmp(el *a, el *b) {
    return strcmp(a->bname,b->bname);

el *head = NULL; /* important- initialize to NULL! */

int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {
    el *name, *elt, *tmp, etmp;

    char linebuf[BUFLEN];
    int count;
    FILE *file;

    if ( (file = fopen( "test11.dat", "r" )) == NULL ) {
        perror("can't open: ");

    while (fgets(linebuf,BUFLEN,file) != NULL) {
        if ( (name = (el*)malloc(sizeof(el))) == NULL) exit(-1);
        DL_APPEND(head, name);
    DL_SORT(head, namecmp);
    DL_FOREACH(head,elt) printf("%s", elt->bname);
    DL_COUNT(head, elt, count);
    printf("%d number of elements in list\n", count);

    memcpy(&etmp.bname, "WES\n", 5);
    if (elt) printf("found %s\n", elt->bname);

    /* now delete each element, use the safe iterator */
    DL_FOREACH_SAFE(head,elt,tmp) {


    return 0;

Other names for prev and next

If the prev and next fields are named something else, a separate group of macros must be used. These work the same as the regular macros, but take the field names as extra parameters.

These "flexible field name" macros are shown below. They all end with "2". Each operates the same as its counterpart without the 2, but they take the name of the prev and next fields (as applicable) as trailing arguments.

Flexible field name macros
LL_SORT2(list, cmp, next);
DL_SORT2(list, cmp, prev, next);
CDL_SORT2(list, cmp, prev, next);
LL_PREPEND2(head, add, next);
LL_PREPEND_ELEM2(head, ref, add, next);
LL_APPEND_ELEM2(head, ref, add, next);
LL_REPLACE_ELEM(head, del, add, next);
LL_CONCAT2(head1, head2, next);
LL_APPEND2(head, add, next);
LL_DELETE2(head, del, next);
LL_FOREACH2(head, elt, next) {...}
LL_FOREACH_SAFE2(head, elt, tmp, next) {...}
LL_SEARCH_SCALAR2(head, out, field, val, next);
LL_SEARCH2(head, out, elt, cmp, next);
LL_COUNT2(head, elt, count, next);
DL_PREPEND2(head, add, prev, next);
DL_PREPEND_ELEM2(head, ref, add, prev, next);
DL_APPEND_ELEM2(head, ref, add, prev, next);
DL_REPLACE_ELEM2(head, del, add, prev, next);
DL_CONCAT2(head1, head2, prev, next);
DL_APPEND2(head, add, prev, next);
DL_DELETE2(head, del, prev, next);
DL_FOREACH2(head, elt, next) {...}
DL_FOREACH_SAFE2(head, elt, tmp, next) {...}
DL_SEARCH_SCALAR2(head, out, field, val, next);
DL_COUNT2(head, elt, count, next);
CDL_PREPEND2(head, add, prev, next);
CDL_PREPEND_ELEM2(head, ref, add, prev, next);
CDL_APPEND_ELEM2(head, ref, add, prev, next);
CDL_REPLACE_ELEM2(head, del, add, prev, next);
CDL_APPEND2(head, add, prev, next);
CDL_DELETE2(head, del, prev, next);
CDL_FOREACH2(head, elt, next) {...}
CDL_FOREACH_SAFE2(head, elt, tmp1, tmp2, prev, next) {...}
CDL_SEARCH_SCALAR2(head, out, field, val, next);
CDL_SEARCH2(head, out, elt, cmp, next);
CDL_COUNT2(head, elt, count, next);