One of the most used and versatile peripheral in a microcontroller is the GPIO. The GPIO is commonly used to write and read the pin state.

GPIO stands to General Purpose Input Output, and is responsible to control or read the state of a specific pin in the digital world. For example, this peripheral is widely used to create the LED blinking or to read a simple button.


There are some GPIOs with special restrictions, and not all GPIOs are accessible through the developemnt board. For more information about it, see the corresponding board pin layout information.

GPIOs Modes

There are two different modes in the GPIO configuration:

  • Input Mode

In this mode, the GPIO will receive the digital state from a specific device. This device could be a button or a switch.

  • Output Mode

For the output mode, the GPIO will change the GPIO digital state to a specific device. You can drive an LED for example.


Here is the common functions used for the GPIO peripheral.


The pinMode function is used to define the GPIO operation mode for a specific pin.

void pinMode(uint8_t pin, uint8_t mode);
  • pin defines the GPIO pin number.

  • mode sets operation mode.

The following modes are supported for the basic input and output:

  • INPUT sets the GPIO as input without pullup or pulldown (high impedance).

  • OUTPUT sets the GPIO as output/read mode.

  • INPUT_PULLDOWN sets the GPIO as input with the internal pulldown.

  • INPUT_PULLUP sets the GPIO as input with the internal pullup.

Internal Pullup and Pulldown

The ESP32 SoC families supports the internal pullup and pulldown through a 45kR resistor, that can be enabled when configuring the GPIO mode as INPUT mode. If the pullup or pulldown mode is not defined, the pin will stay in the high impedance mode.


The function digitalWrite sets the state of the selected GPIO to HIGH or LOW. This function is only used if the pinMode was configured as OUTPUT.

void digitalWrite(uint8_t pin, uint8_t val);
  • pin defines the GPIO pin number.

  • val set the output digital state to HIGH or LOW.


To read the state of a given pin configured as INPUT, the function digitalRead is used.

int digitalRead(uint8_t pin);
  • pin select GPIO

This function will return the logical state of the selected pin as HIGH or LOW.


The GPIO peripheral on the ESP32 supports interruptions.


The function attachInterrupt is used to attach the interrupt to the defined pin.

attachInterrupt(uint8_t pin, voidFuncPtr handler, int mode);
  • pin defines the GPIO pin number.

  • handler set the handler function.

  • mode set the interrupt mode.

Here are the supported interrupt modes:










The function attachInterruptArg is used to attach the interrupt to the defined pin using arguments.

attachInterruptArg(uint8_t pin, voidFuncPtrArg handler, void * arg, int mode);
  • pin defines the GPIO pin number.

  • handler set the handler function.

  • arg pointer to the interrupt arguments.

  • mode set the interrupt mode.


To detach the interruption from a specific pin, use the detachInterrupt function giving the GPIO to be detached.

detachInterrupt(uint8_t pin);
  • pin defines the GPIO pin number.

Example Code

GPIO Input and Output Modes

#define LED    12
#define BUTTON 2

uint8_t stateLED = 0;

  void setup() {
      pinMode(LED, OUTPUT);

  void loop() {

       stateLED = stateLED^1;

GPIO Interrupt

#include <Arduino.h>

struct Button {
  const uint8_t PIN;
  uint32_t numberKeyPresses;
  bool pressed;

Button button1 = {23, 0, false};
Button button2 = {18, 0, false};

void ARDUINO_ISR_ATTR isr(void *arg) {
  Button *s = static_cast<Button *>(arg);
  s->numberKeyPresses += 1;
  s->pressed = true;

void ARDUINO_ISR_ATTR isr() {
  button2.numberKeyPresses += 1;
  button2.pressed = true;

void setup() {
  pinMode(button1.PIN, INPUT_PULLUP);
  attachInterruptArg(button1.PIN, isr, &button1, FALLING);
  pinMode(button2.PIN, INPUT_PULLUP);
  attachInterrupt(button2.PIN, isr, FALLING);

void loop() {
  if (button1.pressed) {
    Serial.printf("Button 1 has been pressed %lu times\n", button1.numberKeyPresses);
    button1.pressed = false;
  if (button2.pressed) {
    Serial.printf("Button 2 has been pressed %lu times\n", button2.numberKeyPresses);
    button2.pressed = false;
  static uint32_t lastMillis = 0;
  if (millis() - lastMillis > 10000) {
    lastMillis = millis();