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C: A Reference Manual (5th Edition) [Paperback]

Samuel P. Harbison , Guy L. Steele Jr.
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 3, 2002 013089592X 978-0130895929 5

This authoritative reference manual provides a complete description of the C language, the run-time libraries, and a style of C programming that emphasizes correctness, portability, and maintainability. The authors describe the C language more clearly and in more detail than in any other book.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

This best-selling, authoritative reference manual provides a complete description of the C language, the run-time libraries, and a style of C programming that empha_sizes correctness, portability, and maintainability.

Describing the C language more clearly and in more detail than any other book, authors Samuel P. Harbison and Guy L. Steele Jr. provide in a single manual:

  • Standard C (1999) - the new revison of the C Standard supports complex and Boolean types, variable length arrays, precise floating-point programming, and new libraries for portability and internationalization.
  • Standard C (1989)- the version of C used by most of today's programmers.
  • Traditional C-common practice before 1990, with millions of lines of code in use every day.
  • C++ compatible C-code that can be used as C or C++.
  • The complete C run-time libraries for all C versions.

C: A Reference Manual is the only book that describes all the details of C-past and present. It is the single must-have reference for all C programmers and implementors.

Thoroughly revised and updated, the expanded Fifth Edition includes a complete description of the latest C Standard, ISO/IEC 9899:1999, with its powerful language extensions and new libraries.

New! Visit the Web site. contains source code for the longer examples in the book, expanded discussions on language issues, the latest ISO/IEC language corrigenda, and links to other C resources.

About the Author

From 1996-present Harbison led SDS infrastructure team and defined a software framework architecture across all TI DSPs and dev't tools, worked to make it fit with TI businesses, help negotiate alliances and acquisitions to make it happen. (Rollout and proudcts will appear in 1998.) Developed long-term vision in SDS and helped develop technology roadmaps. From 1995-96 as CTO Harbison set Tartan's technical direction. He defined and ran a new engineering organization and product development process that gave project managers more authority. He helped spearhead Tartan's long-term growth strategy by defining new products for C and Assembly programming on DSPs. Harbison managed the technical due diligence for TI merger. In 1992, he founded and directed the C/C++ Division, Tartan's first business unit and key to diversifying into commercial markets. Developed first PC-hosted products and first C++ product, for TI DSPs. Created a line of DSP math functions. Pioneered world-wide distribution channels using TI and 3rd parties. (Direct sales used elsewhere.)In 1990, Harbison founded a company, Pine Creek Software, funded by Digital Equipment Corp. to create a market for the Modula-3 programming language. Wrote the first Modula-3 textbook, exhibited at trade shows, wrote software, and published a newsletter. Still recognized as an authority, he was contracted by CRC in 1997 for a Modula-3 chapter in forthcoming Handbook of Object Technology.From 1982-1989, Harbison held various senior positions at Tartan, including Vice President. He led the software QA team & developed company-wide QA policies (1989). He managed several technology groups (1985-89). He was the project manager for Tartan's first commercial product (1984), and program manager for a contract with IBM to develop compilers for their RT PC (precursor to RS/6000). He designed and led development of Tartan's debugger (AdaScope). He developed the C compiler front end, and other internal tools (1981-1984). From 1980-82 Harbison was part of the SPICE research project at Carnegie-Mellon, which evangelized the concept of a "personal workstation" before most companies thought it was feasible. From 1974-80, he helped to develop the Hydra object-oriented, multiprocessor operating system, whose concepts were later used in the Intel 432 microprocessor.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 5 edition (March 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 013089592X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0130895929
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #347,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A reference + more September 14, 2003
By Gerry
My friend borrowed this book from me about two weeks ago and won't give it back, I have since turned to my left side over 20 times looking for it to no avail (serious). If I was to describe this book in one word it would be "Clean", everything in this book is just beautiful, from the ease of use, to the technical details, to even it's fonts and thickness of the pages, everything is so clean and precise that the book makes you want to read it and perhaps even keep it on a pillow next to you at night (but enough about my sheltered life).
One thing that I did not expect before receiving this book was the amazing language overview that comes with the book, they could have sold the book with just that part and it would have still been great. The overview goes into great detail and is really good at pointing out things that other C books miss and the fact that the author is well versed on all the features of the latest C99 Standard adds even more to the wealth of information. My favorite part of the book is the part on the C Pre-processor, which had a great deal of information that I was not previously aware of.
Apart from that, there is the reference side which has all the detail you could ever want in a standard library reference book, all in a very simple to search format (Oh yeah and I should mention, the index kicks ....).
So long story short, if you want a single book that you can turn to for 99.9% of your standard C problems, divorce your wife and give that spot in your bed to "C: A Reference Manual (5th Edition)"... or 6th if it's out by the time you read this review.
ps. If your looking for this book in a bookstore make sure the lady types in "C: A Reference Manual (5th Edition)" and not "See: A Reference Manual (5th Edition)", long story, I'll tell you another time.
Hope you enjoyed reading this
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Content. Horrible publishing August 20, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've been using the Harrison/Steele manual (4th ed.) for years. As a reference manual, it is unsurpassed. I decided to update to the 5th edition recently and all I can say is: don't. For some reason, Prentice Hall has decided to print this edition on a low-weight, cheap paper. Whereas the 4th edition had clean, crisp text on bright paper, the 5th edition's text visibly bleeds along the paper fibers. This results in a smudged, blurry look to the text and makes reading more difficult. If you don't need the material on internationalization or complex arithmetic, you should find a copy of the 4th edition. Your eyes will thank you.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A desktop reference for the rest of us May 19, 2005
This book only gets better with age. While this book is not meant to teach the C language to beginners, it is one you can keep on your desk and refer to, even if you are moderately familiar with C. If you have any questions about topics like overflow, underflow, and anything else related to standard C, then this book is for you. The authors explain the complexities of the ANSI and C99 standards in lucid detail. You don't have to be a compiler writer to get useful and practical information from this book.

My only complaint with this book is that the index totally sucks. Many of the topics/words I wanted to look up either didn't have an index entry or only referenced a page or two, when the topic was actually on many more pages. But this doesn't take away from the book, because if you read the contents, you can figure out where you need to look for something.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book, low print quality April 10, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Harbison & Steele is a very good, modern and complete C language reference. Quality-wise it is in the same league as Kernighan & Ritchie book.
I gave it 4 (four) points instead of 5 solely because of the poor manufacturing quality of the 5-th edition print. It is printed on a low quality paper. One cannot use highlighters, for the color markings protrude onto the opposite side of the sheet. I do not expect the book to last long. The content, on the other hand, is great!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Print quality is awful March 10, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
No questions to the contents, it is great, and book serves be very good and is always on my desk when I am writing the C code.

However, publisher does an awful job, releasing book on a such a low-quality paper. Given the fact that book is to be used frequently, I guess I will have to order another copy since my current will hardly live long.

To sum up, great work on the part of the authors, simply awful work on the part of the publishers.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent text but inadequate index November 15, 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very complete book, but unfortunately, I have found its index to be inadequate. Several times now, I have gone looking in the index for something, and couldn't find it. More persistent searching throught the table of contents and the text showed that the item was in fact there. Here's a blatant example: "const" has no entry in the index. This, despite the fact that section 4.4.4 on page 89 is called "4.4.4 Const" and the book devotes the next 2 pages to the use of "const". Similar sounding entries in the index (e.g. constants, etc.) do not refer you to this page anywhere. That's simply unbelievable that the heading of a section does not appear in the index.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing reference manual December 30, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
To be honest, I haven't done a lot of C programming. But when I need to, this is the place to go. It has reference material for just about anything you can imagine about the C language. And the cross referencing throughout the book is great. For me it replaces K&R without a doubt.

The thing that I value the most about it, is that it is a true reference. It's not meant to be a "teach you C" book, it's a book that assumes you know what you're doing, and you just need to look up information about the language. And I must say, everything is *thoroughly* covered. Then going beyond the C language in terms of syntactical grammar, it includes reference for the standard C library.

So, even if you've been programming C for years, you would probably enjoy this book, and possible learn something you didn't know, just from it's completeness. Or, for new developers to C, I would use this as a supplement to another "teach you C" style book. When going through a "teach you C" style book, look up the concepts that may be confusing, or incomplete in this book, and I'd bet you'll learn twice as much just from having this next to you.

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars good
Looks great. The book and all the staff are just like a new one. It is worthy to buy it.
Published 4 months ago by Tian Qiu
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor paper.
The content may be alright. But the paper quality is very poor. Tried to contact Prentice Hall to let them know. Left a message and they didn'y call back. Read more
Published 12 months ago by R G.
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good
Very good book to have. It helps in understanding C fundamentals better. This book is widely recommended for C by many.
Published 12 months ago by Ashwin
5.0 out of 5 stars Best C Reference By Far
I've coded about 100,000 lines of C and used every single reference there is. Harbison and Steele have created the best C reference manual. That's all you need to know.
Published on May 26, 2011 by Warren F. Seltzer
1.0 out of 5 stars Might be useful if you can decipher it.
I come from a strong C++ background. I picked this book up because I needed to give myself a crash course on what limits C has relative to C++. Read more
Published on February 21, 2011 by Graeme P. Swallow
5.0 out of 5 stars must-have
An must-have reference book for every serious C programmer.
You can do without the K&R, but you can't do whithout the Harbison-Steele. Read more
Published on January 31, 2011 by shark
5.0 out of 5 stars the best C book for a professional
If you haven't programmed before, not a book for you (but then, C is not the language for you). If you do have experience, and think mathematically (that is, you value precision... Read more
Published on May 27, 2010 by Narada
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent but needs updating
If you don't already have this reference and are a professional C programmer, you better get it NOW!!! Read more
Published on October 4, 2009 by Grant
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Book
This book contains nice layout of information on C Programming. A nice reference to have.
Published on January 2, 2008 by Madan M. Reddy
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