Ruby Language C Extensions Working with C Structs


In order to be able to work with C structs as Ruby objects, you need to wrap them with calls to Data_Wrap_Struct and Data_Get_Struct.

Data_Wrap_Struct wraps a C data structure in a Ruby object. It takes a pointer to your data structure, along with a few pointers to callback functions, and returns a VALUE. The Data_Get_Struct macro takes that VALUE and gives you back a pointer to your C data structure.

Here's a simple example:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <ruby.h>

typedef struct example_struct {
  char *name;
} example_struct;

void example_struct_free(example_struct * self) {
  if (self->name != NULL) {

static VALUE rb_example_struct_alloc(VALUE klass) {
  return Data_Wrap_Struct(klass, NULL, example_struct_free, ruby_xmalloc(sizeof(example_struct)));

static VALUE rb_example_struct_init(VALUE self, VALUE name) {
  example_struct* p;

  Check_Type(name, T_STRING);

  Data_Get_Struct(self, example_struct, p);
  p->name = (char *)malloc(RSTRING_LEN(name) + 1);
  memcpy(p->name, StringValuePtr(name), RSTRING_LEN(name) + 1);

  return self;

static VALUE rb_example_struct_name(VALUE self) {
  example_struct* p;
  Data_Get_Struct(self, example_struct, p);

  printf("%s\n", p->name);

  return Qnil;

void Init_example()
  VALUE mExample = rb_define_module("Example");
  VALUE cStruct = rb_define_class_under(mExample, "Struct", rb_cObject);

  rb_define_alloc_func(cStruct, rb_example_struct_alloc);
  rb_define_method(cStruct, "initialize", rb_example_struct_init, 1);
  rb_define_method(cStruct, "name", rb_example_struct_name, 0);

And the extconf.rb:

require 'mkmf'


After compiling the extension:

irb(main):001:0> require './example'
=> true
irb(main):002:0> test_struct ="Test Struct")
=> #<Example::Struct:0x007fc741965068>
Test Struct
=> nil