When writing C program code for 8-bit Atmel AVR microcontrollers and using Atmel Studio, functions such as printf() and sprintf() do not print floating point numbers of type float. Instead of printing a float to a string or standard output, a question mark is printed.
Question Mark is Printed from the sprintf Function Instead of Float Number
The image below shows the output from the serial port of an AVR microcontroller that printed a floating point number to a string using the sprintf() function. The string was then sent to a terminal program running on a PC. The C program was built in Atmel Studio 7 using the default project settings. As can be seen, floating point numbers don’t print with sprintf, but a question mark is printed instead of the expected number.
Cause of the float Printing Problem
The problem occurs because Atmel Studio 7 uses the minimal version of the function that all the printf family of functions rely on. Using the minimal function reduces code size of the printf family of functions which is desirable when using microcontrollers, especially the smaller 8-bit AVR microcontrollers that have small amounts of memory. Floating point numbers are not supported by the minimal function, causing the question mark to be printed instead of the floating point number.
Printing float Numbers with sprintf using AVRs and Atmel Studio
To fix the floating point printing problem, the full function that the printf family uses must be linked into the program instead of the minimal function. The article on how to print floating point numbers in AVR C code with Atmel Studio 7 shows how to include the full function by changing linker settings in Atmel Studio.
After changing setting in Atmel Studio, the sprintf function works properly and prints the floating point number to the terminal as shown in the image below.