While many believe that programmers or coders interact directly with computers or machines through code, it isn’t entirely true. Computers understand what we refer to as machine language- a set of instructions in binary combinations, the zero’s and ones. On the other hand, we code in one high-level language or another. Therefore, to get the computer to execute our written instructions, our program code, we must pass the source code through a machine language translator, i.e., a compiler. The Windows compiler actions (indeed not just compilers) consist of multiple stages, summarized into; running the pre-processor followed by the compilation phase, the Assembling phase, and the linking phase.
In 1952, Grace Hopper developed the first-ever compiler to convert the A-O programming language to machine language. Since then, we’ve had more high-level languages and even more compilers. Whether you’re looking to get started with a new programming language or you want to build your next application in languages like C++, the anatomy of a great compiler is the best place to start. In this article, we’ll discuss the features of a great compiler.
Table of Contents
Why is Fast Compilation Essential on Windows?
For starters, asides from a perfectly working code, nothing makes a developer happier than productivity. And one major development concern over the years has been compiling a lot of code fast. Many compilers in the market today brag about their compilation speed but offer very little in the end. Practically any decent compiler can compile a few lines of code relatively fast, but when it comes to those large projects with millions of lines of code, the reverse is the case.
Generally, two factors dictate compilation speed;
- Code size; the larger your code, the longer it takes.
- Level of toolchain optimization refers to your complete set of tools, including your compiler.
The first factor and part 1 of the second factor are kind of obvious. Let’s talk about the second factor part b- compiler optimization. A great compiler optimizes or improves the code to make it require less resources to compile, therefore speeding up compilation. A popular compiler known for its fast compilation is the Delphi compiler. According to its Wikipedia page, “Delphi is known for its fast compilation speed, native code, and developer productivity.”
Why Does Small Executable Size Matter?
There are numerous unnecessarily bloated applications out there that many just assume are the norm and have to use larger hard disks. Not to mention the increase in end-user requirement tied to this bloat. In a world where efficiency is the name of the game, you can’t afford to compile large executables and then seek new techniques to reduce its size. In this case, a great compiler should produce small executable sizes, just like Delphi.
Should a Windows Compiler Support Automation?
Automation is taking the world by storm. While the Covid-19 pandemic is credited with accelerating automation trends, this technology was slowly becoming dominant way before the pandemic. Today, automation plays a vital role in increasing developer productivity and efficiency and reducing project completion time. Most programmers today want to automate any process that they have to repeat. Therefore, it is only expected that a great compiler supports automation. Again, our case study for this article, Delphi, supports automation.
Why is Good Error Reporting/Handling Essential?
Error reporting and handling say a lot about how useful a compiler is to a developer or team. While many find it challenging to implement in their compiler design, error reporting and handling must be implemented correctly. This is because the goal here is not just reporting errors but also optimizing code. If you report on an intentional code, you may end up disrupting perfectly good code.
So basically, a good error reporting/handling notifies and helps you handle possible errors, probably something you might not intend, and recommends good coding practices. Moreover, if you compile without error handling, your code will crash when it encounters a bug. Error handling identifies the bug and acts on it before your code has the time to crash. In that case, it is an essential feature for any compiler on Windows.
Why Does a Good Debugger Matter on Windows?
Debugging is the process of finding or locating errors in your code. Almost no developer writes a perfect code at first pass. When anyone achieves such a fit, it’s cause for celebration. Therefore, even the most experienced developers spend time debugging their code. Typically, a compiler can produce extra information which debuggers can read to provide you with meaningful information.
Many developers use two different tools: a compiler and a debugging tool. However, great compilers like Delphi provide you with both functionalities in the same environment. Therefore, helping you maximize time and effort and ultimately increase productivity.
Are you ready to leverage a great windows compiler? You can learn more about super fast Delphi in the video below.
Why not try out RAD Studio’s compiler for yourself? Download a free trial of RAD Studio today.