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Compiler definition

A compiler is a software tool that translates human-readable programming code (usually written in high-level programming languages like Java or Python) into code that machines can read and execute. Compiling helps developers create software applications. This process involves several stages, including parsing, optimization, and code generation.

See also: binary code analysis

How compilers work

  • First, a programmer writes code in a high-level programming language that humans can understand and work with.
  • The programmer feeds this code into the compiler.
  • The compiler reads the code and breaks it into smaller parts called tokens. It also checks for spelling mistakes and basic errors.
  • The compiler looks at the tokens’ structure to ensure they follow the programming language’s correct grammar.
  • Then, the compiler checks if the code makes sense (e.g., ensuring no variables haven’t been defined).
  • The compiler rearranges and simplifies parts of the code to make it run faster and use less memory.
  • The compiler translates the high-level code into low-level code that the computer can understand. This low-level code is often in the form of binary instructions.
  • If the program uses other external code (like libraries), the compiler links them to create a complete program.
  • The compiler produces an executable file — a program that can be run on a computer.
  • The programmer or user can now run the executable file — and the computer follows the instructions to complete the tasks.

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