gcc.info: Compatibility

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Binary Compatibility

   Binary compatibility encompasses several related concepts:
"application binary interface (ABI)"
     The set of runtime conventions followed by all of the tools that
     deal with binary representations of a program, including
     compilers, assemblers, linkers, and language runtime support.
     Some ABIs are formal with a written specification, possibly
     designed by multiple interested parties.  Others are simply the
     way things are actually done by a particular set of tools.
"ABI conformance"
     A compiler conforms to an ABI if it generates code that follows
     all of the specifications enumerated by that ABI.  A library
     conforms to an ABI if it is implemented according to that ABI.  An
     application conforms to an ABI if it is built using tools that
     conform to that ABI and does not contain source code that
     specifically changes behavior specified by the ABI.
"calling conventions"
     Calling conventions are a subset of an ABI that specify of how
     arguments are passed and function results are returned.
     Different sets of tools are interoperable if they generate files
     that can be used in the same program.  The set of tools includes
     compilers, assemblers, linkers, libraries, header files, startup
     files, and debuggers.  Binaries produced by different sets of
     tools are not interoperable unless they implement the same ABI.
     This applies to different versions of the same tools as well as
     tools from different vendors.
     Whether a function in a binary built by one set of tools can call a
     function in a binary built by a different set of tools is a subset
     of interoperability.
"implementation-defined features"
     Language standards include lists of implementation-defined
     features whose behavior can vary from one implementation to
     another.  Some of these features are normally covered by a
     platform's ABI and others are not.  The features that are not
     covered by an ABI generally affect how a program behaves, but not
     Conformance to the same ABI and the same behavior of
     implementation-defined features are both relevant for
   The application binary interface implemented by a C or C++ compiler
affects code generation and runtime support for:
   * size and alignment of data types
   * layout of structured types
   * calling conventions
   * register usage conventions
   * interfaces for runtime arithmetic support
   * object file formats
   In addition, the application binary interface implemented by a C++
compiler affects code generation and runtime support for:
   * name mangling
   * exception handling
   * invoking constructors and destructors
   * layout, alignment, and padding of classes
   * layout and alignment of virtual tables
   Some GCC compilation options cause the compiler to generate code that
does not conform to the platform's default ABI.  Other options cause
different program behavior for implementation-defined features that are
not covered by an ABI.  These options are provided for consistency with
other compilers that do not follow the platform's default ABI or the
usual behavior of implementation-defined features for the platform.  Be
very careful about using such options.
   Most platforms have a well-defined ABI that covers C code, but ABIs
that cover C++ functionality are not yet common.
   Starting with GCC 3.2, GCC binary conventions for C++ are based on a
written, vendor-neutral C++ ABI that was designed to be specific to
64-bit Itanium but also includes generic specifications that apply to
any platform.  This C++ ABI is also implemented by other compiler
vendors on some platforms, notably GNU/Linux and BSD systems.  We have
tried hard to provide a stable ABI that will be compatible with future
GCC releases, but it is possible that we will encounter problems that
make this difficult.  Such problems could include different
interpretations of the C++ ABI by different vendors, bugs in the ABI, or
bugs in the implementation of the ABI in different compilers.  GCC's
`-Wabi' switch warns when G++ generates code that is probably not
compatible with the C++ ABI.
   The C++ library used with a C++ compiler includes the Standard C++
Library, with functionality defined in the C++ Standard, plus language
runtime support.  The runtime support is included in a C++ ABI, but
there is no formal ABI for the Standard C++ Library.  Two
implementations of that library are interoperable if one follows the
de-facto ABI of the other and if they are both built with the same
compiler, or with compilers that conform to the same ABI for C++
compiler and runtime support.
   When G++ and another C++ compiler conform to the same C++ ABI, but
the implementations of the Standard C++ Library that they normally use
do not follow the same ABI for the Standard C++ Library, object files
built with those compilers can be used in the same program only if they
use the same C++ library.  This requires specifying the location of the
C++ library header files when invoking the compiler whose usual library
is not being used.  The location of GCC's C++ header files depends on
how the GCC build was configured, but can be seen by using the G++ `-v'
option.  With default configuration options for G++ 3.2 the compile
line for a different C++ compiler needs to include
   Similarly, compiling code with G++ that must use a C++ library other
than the GNU C++ library requires specifying the location of the header
files for that other library.
   The most straightforward way to link a program to use a particular
C++ library is to use a C++ driver that specifies that C++ library by
default.  The `g++' driver, for example, tells the linker where to find
GCC's C++ library (`libstdc++') plus the other libraries and startup
files it needs, in the proper order.
   If a program must use a different C++ library and it's not possible
to do the final link using a C++ driver that uses that library by
default, it is necessary to tell `g++' the location and name of that
library.  It might also be necessary to specify different startup files
and other runtime support libraries, and to suppress the use of GCC's
support libraries with one or more of the options `-nostdlib',
`-nostartfiles', and `-nodefaultlibs'.