Today I Learned

A Hashrocket project

Dynamically Create A Printf String Format

Formatting a string with Printf requires defining a format for that string.

let str = Printf.sprintf("%6s", "dope");
/* str => "  dope" */

The format is the first argument. At compile-time it is interpreted as a format6 type value.

So, what if you want a dynamically created format value? Simply concatenating some strings together won’t do it because then the type will be string and that’s not going to compile.

The Scanf.format_from_string function can help.

let some_num = 6;
let format_str = "%" ++ string_of_int(some_num) ++ "s";
let format = Scanf.format_from_string(format_str, "%s");

let str = Printf.sprintf(format, "dope");
/* str => "  dope" */

We can convert our string that has the appearance of a format into an actual format6 type. To do this, we have to tell format_from_string what types each of the formats is going to have — hence the second argument %s.