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A.1.1 Getting Started with Oct-Files

The basic command to build oct-files is mkoctfile and it can be call from within octave or from the command line.

Function File: mkoctfile [-options] file …

The mkoctfile function compiles source code written in C, C++, or Fortran. Depending on the options used with mkoctfile, the compiled code can be called within Octave or can be used as a stand-alone application.

mkoctfile can be called from the shell prompt or from the Octave prompt.

mkoctfile accepts the following options, all of which are optional except for the file name of the code you wish to compile:


Add the include directory DIR to compile commands.


Add the definition DEF to the compiler call.

-l LIB

Add the library LIB to the link command.


Add the library directory DIR to the link command.


Generate dependency files (.d) for C and C++ source files.


Compile but do not link.


Enable debugging options for compilers.

--output FILE

Output file name. Default extension is .oct (or .mex if –mex is specified) unless linking a stand-alone executable.

-p VAR
--print VAR

Print the configuration variable VAR. Recognized variables are:

   ALL_CFLAGS                FFTW_LIBS     
   ALL_CXXFLAGS              FLIBS       
   ALL_FFLAGS                FPICFLAG      
   ALL_LDFLAGS               INCFLAGS      
   BLAS_LIBS                 LDFLAGS             
   CC                        LD_CXX              
   CFLAGS                    LD_STATIC_FLAG
   CPICFLAG                  LFLAGS              
   CPPFLAGS                  LIBCRUFT      
   CXX                       LIBOCTAVE     
   CXXFLAGS                  LIBOCTINTERP  
   CXXPICFLAG                LIBREADLINE   
   DEPEND_FLAGS              OCTAVE_LIBS   
   DL_LD                     RDYNAMIC_FLAG 
   DL_LDFLAGS                RLD_FLAG      
   F2C                       SED         
   F2CFLAGS                  XTRA_CFLAGS   
   F77                       XTRA_CXXFLAGS 

Link a stand-alone executable file.


Assume we are creating a MEX file. Set the default output extension to ".mex".


Strip the output file.


Echo commands as they are executed.


The file to compile or link. Recognized file types are

                  .c    C source
                  .cc   C++ source
                  .C    C++ source
                  .cpp  C++ source
                  .f    Fortran source
                  .F    Fortran source
                  .o    object file

Consider the short example

This example although short introduces the basics of writing a C++ function that can be dynamically linked to Octave. The easiest way to make available most of the definitions that might be necessary for an oct-file in Octave is to use the #include <octave/oct.h> header.

The macro that defines the entry point into the dynamically loaded function is DEFUN_DLD. This macro takes four arguments, these being

  1. The function name as it will be seen in Octave,
  2. The list of arguments to the function of type octave_value_list,
  3. The number of output arguments, which can and often is omitted if not used, and
  4. The string that will be seen as the help text of the function.

The return type of functions defined with DEFUN_DLD is always octave_value_list.

There are a couple of important considerations in the choice of function name. Firstly, it must be a valid Octave function name and so must be a sequence of letters, digits and underscores, not starting with a digit. Secondly, as Octave uses the function name to define the filename it attempts to find the function in, the function name in the DEFUN_DLD macro must match the filename of the oct-file. Therefore, the above function should be in a file ‘’, and it should be compiled to an oct-file using the command


This will create a file called ‘helloworld.oct’, that is the compiled version of the function. It should be noted that it is perfectly acceptable to have more than one DEFUN_DLD function in a source file. However, there must either be a symbolic link to the oct-file for each of the functions defined in the source code with the DEFUN_DLD macro or the autoload (Function Files) function should be used.

The rest of this function then shows how to find the number of input arguments, how to print through the octave pager, and return from the function. After compiling this function as above, an example of its use is

helloworld (1, 2, 3)
-| Hello World has 3 input arguments and 0 output arguments.

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