12.3 Arrays of Fixed-Length Strings in Binary Tables

CFITSIO supports 2 ways to specify that a character column in a binary table contains an array of fixed-length strings. The first way, which is officially supported by the FITS Standard document, uses the TDIMn keyword. For example, if TFORMn = '60A' and TDIMn = '(12,5)' then that column will be interpreted as containing an array of 5 strings, each 12 characters long.

CFITSIO also supports a local convention for the format of the TFORMn keyword value of the form 'rAw' where 'r' is an integer specifying the total width in characters of the column, and 'w' is an integer specifying the (fixed) length of an individual unit string within the vector. For example, TFORM1 = '120A10' would indicate that the binary table column is 120 characters wide and consists of 12 10-character length strings. This convention is recognized by the CFITSIO routines that read or write strings in binary tables. The Binary Table definition document specifies that other optional characters may follow the data type code in the TFORM keyword, so this local convention is in compliance with the FITS standard although other FITS readers may not recognize this convention.