Adventures in Machine Learning

Python Bindings: Bridging the Gap Between Python and C

Python Bindings: Bridge the Gap Between Python and C

Python is a popular language among developers due to its simplicity and flexibility. However, certain tasks require the use of C libraries and other communication libraries to interface with hardware for optimal performance.

Python bindings bridge the gap between Python and C by allowing the two languages to communicate efficiently. This article will cover why Python bindings are essential, how to marshal data types between Python and C, understanding mutable and immutable values in Python and C, and how to manage memory in Python and C.

Reasons for creating Python bindings

C libraries are essential for accessing key system resources and interfacing with hardware, C++ libraries for high-performance computing and hardware access, while communication libraries provide networking functionality. Due to Python’s dynamic nature, it’s possible to use Python as a high-level language to orchestrate complex systems that rely upon C libraries.

Python bindings enable developers to interact with these libraries easily. With Python bindings, developers can create a smoother workflow and access performance-critical C code functionality.

Marshalling data types between Python and C

Marshalling data types between Python and C is necessary when communicating between the two languages, as the two use different data types. Python supports integers, floating-point numbers, complex numbers, strings, and Boolean variables, while C supports a wide range of data types such as int, float, double, char, long, and others.

To bridge this gap, Python provides the ctypes module that enables Python to import shared libraries and provides a bridge between Python and native data types.

Understanding mutable and immutable values in Python and C

Python and C have different approaches to leveraging mutable and immutable values in their programs. In Python, objects are either mutable or immutable, which affects how data is passed between functions.

Immutable objects can’t be modified in-place, which means that a new object is created when a modification is made, while mutable objects can be modified in-place. In C, values are either passed by value or passed by reference.

In pass-by-value, the function creates a copy of the value to be modified, while in pass-by-reference, the function modifies the original value.

Managing memory in Python and C

In Python, memory management is handled by a garbage collector, which frees memory for objects no longer needed and ensures that the program doesn’t run out of memory. In C, memory allocation and freeing must be managed manually, which can lead to memory leaks when not done correctly.

Python objects have a unique memory management model, emphasizing automatic memory management and utilizing a dynamic-data structure for internal memory management.

Setting up the environment

To get started with Python bindings, developers will require a few tools to get started. A C++ library will be required, along with Python development tools and creating a virtual environment within which to work.

The invoke tool simplifies running tasks to avoid compilation errors by automating steps. Explanation of C and C++ functions used in examples

Developers will need to understand the C and C++ functions used in examples.

The C and C++ functions provided from the libraries are used to interact with the native data types and handle interlanguage communication. The various libraries each have their functions that offer different functionalities.


Python bindings provide an essential bridge between Python and C, enabling them to communicate efficiently. The ctypes module is useful for marshalling data types between Python and C, while understanding mutable and immutable values is necessary for passing data between functions.

Memory management is crucial for C and Python, and setting up an environment with the necessary tools, libraries, and virtual machines is vital for success. Learning C and C++ functions used in examples is necessary for interfacing with the native data types and handling inter-language communication.

By investing time in learning Python bindings, developers can unlock a world of opportunities in developing high-performance complex systems. ctypes and CFFI: Two Popular Python Bindings for C Integration

Python is a highly popular language for developing programs and applications due to its simplicity and flexibility.

However, certain system-level tasks require the use of C libraries, and Python bindings are instrumental in bridging the gap between Python and C by enabling communication between the two languages. ctypes and CFFI are two popular Python bindings that enable Python developers to interact with C libraries.

This article covers how to use ctypes to load a shared library, wrap input parameters in Python, and specify the return type of C functions, as well as an introduction to CFFI, including its installation, modes, and advantages.

Loading a shared library using ctypes

ctypes is a built-in package in Python that enables developers to load a shared library and interface with functions implemented in C. To load a shared library, developers can use the ctypes.CDLL function and pass the library’s filename as its argument.

This function returns a shared library object on which developers can call functions, making the library’s functions accessible in their Python script.

For example, to load the libc library, developers can use the following code:


import ctypes

libc = ctypes.CDLL(‘’)


Wrapping input parameters in Python to be passed to C functions

The data types in Python are different from those in C, so developers must wrap input parameters in Python to be passed to C functions. ctypes provides basic data types, such as c_char, c_int, c_long, c_float, and c_double, which can be used when calling functions in C.

These data types can be used to wrap input parameters to be passed to C functions. For instance, if a C function requires a float as input, developers can use the c_float data type to wrap the input parameter, as shown below:


a = ctypes.c_float(3.14)

libc.printf(“%fn”, a)


Specifying the return type of the C function

ctypes requires that the return type of a C function be specified when calling the function from Python. This helps ctypes enforce type safety and guarantees that a Python application receives the correct data type.

To specify the return type, developers can use the .restype attribute of the CDLL object.

For example, if a C function returns a float, developers can set the return type as shown below:


libc.random.restype = ctypes.c_float

val = libc.random()


Strengths and Weaknesses of ctypes

ctypes provides an easy-to-use interface to call any C function, whether it has a simple or complex return type or input parameters. It’s a built-in package in Python, so no external libraries need to be installed, making it an excellent choice for small applications.

However, it is a low-level interface. Thus, developers need to manage many details that may add overhead to the code.

It is also considered somewhat cumbersome to use when handling multiple input parameter C CFFI

C Foreign Function Interface for Python (CFFI) is another Python binding that enables users to interface with C code from Python. CFFI is more automated than ctypes, requiring less intervention from the developer while providing faster code.

Despite being a third-party module, installing CFFI is a breeze, as it can be installed with pip like any other Python package.

To use CFFI, developers start by importing the ffi module:


import cffi

ffi = cffi.FFI()


Choosing between API and ABI modes and in-line vs. out-of-line modes

When working with CFFI, developers can choose between API mode and ABI mode.

API mode creates a C wrapper module around the C library, making it easy to load and interact with the library’s functions. In contrast, ABI mode provides a more direct interface to the C library, enabling developers to access the library’s functions as they would in C.

CFFI also provides in-line mode and out-of-line mode. In-line mode generates and compiles Python modules at runtime, while out-of-line mode generates C extension modules during the build phase.

Both modes have their benefits. In-line mode is useful for quick experimentation, while out-of-line mode is useful when optimizing code for production.

Installation of CFFI with pip

CFFI is an open-source package and can be installed using pip like any other Python package, making it easy to set up. It is recommended to install CFFI within a virtual environment, so the package doesn’t interfere with other system-wide installations.

The following command installs CFFI with pip:


pip install cffi


Strengths and Weaknesses of CFFI

CFFI provides a faster and more natural way to interface with C, making Python programs more performant. Unlike ctypes, CFFI doesn’t require manual intervention to manage data types, making it more convenient.

CFFI is similar to other Python bindings, using a consistent pattern to access C libraries, making it easy to learn. However, CFFI’s API is more complex than ctypes, and it requires some additional work to set up.


Python bindings provide a bridge between Python and C, enabling developers to interface with complex C libraries to create high-performance systems. ctypes provides a built-in package for interfacing with C, while CFFI provides an external package.

With these two Python bindings, developers can efficiently work with C code and unlock a world of possibilities. PyBind11 and Cython: Two High-Performance Python Bindings

Python is an excellent language for rapid prototyping, but sometimes, performance is critical or when it’s necessary to interact with native code libraries, Python bindings offer a solution.

PyBind11 and Cython are two Python bindings that enable developers to interface with C++ and C code more efficiently. In this article, we’ll cover the advantages of PyBind11 over other tools, its installation, creating the Python bindings using PyBind11, as well as an introduction to Cython, its integration with Python, installation, creating Python bindings, and its strengths and weaknesses.

PyBind11: A High-Level Modern C++ Bindings for Python

PyBind11 is a modern C++ toolkit for interfacing with Python that offers a high-level of abstraction and makes coding and debugging easier. One significant advantage of PyBind11 over other tools is the capability to seamlessly integrate C++11 and C++14 code into Python.

PyBind11 is lightweight and efficient, providing high-performance by generating only minimal boilerplate code on compilation. With PyBind11, developers can easily export C++ classes and functions with minimal boilerplate, making it an excellent choice for small and large projects.

Installation of PyBind11 with pip

PyBind11 is an open-source project and can be installed using pip like any other Python package. It is recommended to install it within a virtual environment, so the package doesn’t interfere with other system-wide installations.

The following command installs PyBind11 with pip:


pip install pybind11


Creating Python bindings using PyBind11

Creating Python bindings using PyBind11 involves creating a C++ extension that exposes Python APIs. Developers use the py::module class to define a new module and py::class_ to define a new Python class. Methods of the class can be exported using the py::class_::def or py::class_::def_static.

To specify arguments for functions, developers use the py::arg keyword.

For instance, to create a Python module called “example,” developers would use the following PyBind11 code:



int add(int i, int j) {

return i + j;


namespace py = pybind11;

PYBIND11_MODULE(example, m) {

m.doc() = “pybind11 example plugin”; // optional module docstring

m.def(“add”, &add, “A function which adds two numbers”,

py::arg(“i”) = 0, py::arg(“j”) = 0);



Strengths and Weaknesses of PyBind11

PyBind11 is a lightweight, easy-to-use C++ library that provides high compile-time and runtime performance. Its C++11/C++14 syntax encourages writing modern and clear code.

PyBind11 has a high-level of abstraction that makes debugging much more manageable. However, its syntax can be complex for beginners.

Despite that, PyBind11 offers a modern C++ library for creating Python bindings effortlessly. Cython: A Static Compiler to Generate Python Extensions

Cython is a Python-based static compiler that generates CPython extension modules.

Cython offers the best of both worlds by creating C extensions that are Pythonic and easy to use. In addition, it provides performance gains by compiling the Python code into C extensions, allowing developers to use C compiler optimizations.

Cython provides developers with a hybrid programming language that combines the ease of Python programming with C-like syntax.

Installation of Cython with pip

Cython is another open-source Python package which can be installed using pip, just like any other Python package. Like other packages, it’s recommended to install it within a virtual environment.

The following command installs Cython with pip:


pip install cython


Creating Python bindings using Cython

To create Python bindings with Cython, developers write their code in .pyx files compatible with Python extensions modules. Developers can use Python and Cython syntax in the same file.

Developers use the def keyword to define Python functions and the cdef keyword to define C functions. Developers use the cpdef keyword when the function needs to be accessible both from Python and C.

For instance, to create the “add” function in Cython, developers would use the following code:


cpdef int add(int x, int y):

return x+y


The code above can accept inputs and outputs that are Python objects, but when triggered, they are then converted into C code that can reduce overhead.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Cython

Cython is a hybrid language that combines Python’s ease of use with C-like syntax that can result in significant performance gains. Cython’s use of C compiler optimizations and transpiling into C extensions reduces overhead, making it much faster.

One disadvantage of Cython is its complexity. Developers must learn both Python and C syntaxes to use Cython effectively.


PyBind11 and Cython are two essential Python bindings for interfacing with C++ and C libraries. PyBind11’s modern C++ syntax and simplicity make it an excellent choice for small and large projects.

Conversely, Cython’s hybrid language and static compiler make it an excellent choice for performance-conscious applications. By using these Python bindings, developers can leverage Python’s ease of use while interfacing and improving the performance of native libraries.

Other Solutions: Exploring Different Tools for Creating Python Bindings

Besides PyBind11 and Cython, there are other solutions for creating Python bindings that developers can choose from, depending on the specific project’s requirements. In this article, we will explore several other popular solutions, including PyBindGen, Boost.Python, SIP, Cppyy, Shiboken, and SWIG.

We’ll provide a brief overview of each tool and discuss their strengths and weaknesses to help developers choose the right tool for their project. PyBindGen: An XML-Based Scripting Tool for Generating Python Bindings

PyBindGen is a tool that automatically generates Python bindings from C

Popular Posts