Quite often I am using third party snippets of C code that uses a Unix/Linux C library, an example #include <glib.h>, #include <net/if.h>. And they require me to know the specific library file name or pkg-config name, an example -lglib-2.0, -lbluetooth, pkg-config --libs dbus-1. Note that a lot of them differ from the header file having a '2.0', '1' so you just can't guess it.

How the heck can I find out the exact name of the library file an API/library has? Using my examples above; how do I find that #include <glib.h>'s library file is called -lglib-2.0? It's quite frustrating that the online references for Glib/dbus/all of them don't just say "the name of the library file is glib-2.0".

Are there any terminal commands I can use to find this out? Are there utilities I can use to find this out? Online API/Library references are really bad for finding this out.

If I want to find where hci.h is located I can easily just go locate hci.h and find its location. Is there anything like a terminal command for finding out the library name?


There's no general way to know which library is required to use a particular function. You need to look at the documentation of that library. A well-written tutorial or API reference should tell you, that's its job.

You can at least get an idea of what library package is required: it's the same library package that contains the header file. How to determine which package contains the header file depends on the distribution, for example dpkg -S /usr/include/glib-2.0/glib.h on Debian/Ubuntu/Mint/…, rpm -qf /usr/include/glib-2.0/glib.h on RHEL/CentOS/Fedora/…, etc. Once you know the library package, list its contents to find what .so files it contains, e.g.

dpkg -L libglib2.0-dev | grep '\.so$'
rpm -qlf /usr/include/glib-2.0/glib.h | grep '\.so$'

With Glib, there are several .so files, and there's no automatic way to tell which ones are required for a particular function (there may be more than one).

If the library uses pkg-config, you should use it rather than hard-coding header and library paths. Not all libraries use it however. You can normally tell because your distribution's library package should depend on its pkg-config package (e.g. dpkg -s libglib2.0-dev |grep '^Depends:.*pkg-config').

If the documentation is really bad, try listing the symbols defined by the library:

nm -D /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libgio-2.0.so |awk '$2=="T" {print $3}'

This isn't a sure-fire way because it won't tell you if some other library is needed as well.

  • +1 however even when using pkg-config, it's sometimes hard to guess the pkg-config identifier (e.g. that glib.h is provided by glib-2.0 rather than, say, glib) - for this, I often resort to grepping the output of pkg-config --list-all – steeldriver Jun 11 '16 at 14:05

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