Saturday 5 September 2015

Tools of the trade

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As programmer we need different tools to develop a program. These tools are needed for the life cycle of programs


First of all we need a tool for writing the code of a program. For this purpose we used Editors in which we write our code. We can use word processor too for this, but word processors have many other features like bold the text, italic, coloring the text etc, so when we save a file written in a word processor, lot of other information including the text is saved on the disk. For programming purposes we don’t need these things we only need simple text. Text editors are such editors which save only the text which we type. So for programming we will be using a text editor

Compiler and Interpreter

As we write the code in English and we know that computers can understand only 0s and 1s. So we need a translator which translates the code of our program into machine language. There are two kinds of translators which are known as Interpreter and Compilers. These translators translate our program which is written in C-Language into Machine language. Interpreters translates the program line by line meaning it reads one line of program and translates it, then it reads second line, translate it and so on. The benefit of it is that we get the errors as we go along and it is very easy to correct the errors. The drawback of the interpreter is that the program executes slowly as the interpreter translates the program line by line. Another drawback is that as interpreters are reading the program line by line so they cannot get the overall picture of the program hence cannot optimize the program making it efficient.

Compilers also translate the English like language (Code written in C) into a language (Machine language) which computers can understand. The Compiler read the whole program and translates it into machine language completely. The difference between interpreter and compiler is that compiler will stop translating if it finds an error and there will be no executable code generated whereas Interpreter will execute all the lines before error and will stop at the line which contains the error. So Compiler needs syntactically correct program to produce an executable code.


Another important tool is Debugger. Every programmer should be familiar with it. Debugger is used to debug the program i.e. to correct the logical errors. Using debugger we can control our program while it is running. We can stop the execution of our program at some point and can check the values in different variables, can change these values etc. In this way we can trace the logical errors in our program and can see whether our program is producing the correct results. This tool is very powerful, so it is complex too.


Most of the time our program is using different routines and functions that are located in different files, hence it needs the executable code of those routines/functions. Linker is a tool which performs this job, it checks our program and includes all those routines or functions which we are using in our program to make a standalone executable code and this process is called Linking.


After a executable program is linked and saved on the disk and it is ready for execution. We need another process which loads the program into memory and then instruct the processor to start the execution of the program from the first instruction (the starting point of every C program is from the main function). This processor is known as loader. Linker and loaders are the part of development environment. These are part of system software.

The following figure represents a graphical explanation of all the steps involved in writing and executing a program.

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