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6.5  Precompiled (ECO) Files

6.5.1  Making Precompiled Files

ECLiPSe source files can be compiled into ECLiPSe object files, for subsequent loading. These files have the .eco suffix by default. This facility is mainly intended for module files. To create such a file, call the compiler with the appropriate output-option, e.g.,

?- compile(myprogram, [output:eco]).

This creates a precompiled file from a source file called myprogram.ecl (or If the source file contained include directives, the result will be a single object file containing the compiled code of all included files. In earlier releases of ECLiPSe this was done using the fcompile/1 predicate from the fcompile library, which is still supported for compatibility.

Loading of ECLiPSe object files is significantly faster than compilation from source. In ECLiPSe 6.0, ECLiPSe object files are text files containing a representation of the compiled abstract machine code, and can be used to deploy application code without revealing the source. The precompiled code is hardware and operating system independent. It may however not be portable between different versions of ECLiPSe if details of the abstract machine were modified between releases.

The global flag eclipse_object_suffix determines the file suffix used for ECLiPSe object files.

6.5.2  Restrictions

Currently, the compiler generates the auxiliary predicates for the do iterator using a module-wide counter to name the predicates. Unfortunately this means that if an object file with auxiliary predicates is loaded into a module that already has existing code that contains auxiliary predicates, naming conflict can occur and the old auxiliaries may be replaced. It is thus strongly recommended that object files should not be loaded into an existing module. This will only be a problem if the file does not contain any module declarations that redefine the module (i.e., module/1), as these redefinition will erase the old copy of the module.

One restriction does apply between platforms of different word sizes: integers which fit in the word size of one platform but not the other are represented differently internally in ECLiPSe. Specifically, integers which takes between 32 and 64 bits to represent are treated as normal integers on a 64 bit machine, but as bignums (see section 8.2.1) on 32 bit machines. This difference is normally invisible, but if such numbers occur as constants in the program code (i.e., their values appear textually), they can lead to different low-level compiled abstract code on the different platforms. Avoid using such constants if you want the object code to be portable across different word sizes (they can always be computed at run-time, e.g., writing 2^34 instead of 17179869184).

6.5.3  Loading Precompiled Files

The following predicates either invoke the compiler or load files. If the source specification does not specify the file type, precompiled files are preferred if they can be found in the search path:

This predicate can be used as a shorthand for the compile predicate, usually in the interactive toplevel. It accepts a list of files, which can be source files or precompiled files.
This predicate compiles the specified file if it has not been compiled yet or if it has been modified since the last compilation. It can be used to load application code or system libraries.
A combination of ensure_loaded/1 and import/1.
This predicate is used to ensure that a specified library file is loaded. It is equivalent to ensure_loaded(library(Lib)). If this library is not yet compiled or loaded, the system will look in all directories in the library_path flag for a file with this name, which is either a source file or a precompiled file, and compile or load it.
This predicate recompiles or reloads all files that have been modified since their last compilation or loading.

To implement reloading/recompiling when needed, the system keeps track of when a particular source files was compiled or precompiled file was loaded into memory. This information can be accessed explicitly through current_compiled_file/3.

6.5.4  Using the Compiler with a Makefile

To generate .eco file from source files, the compiler can be run from the command line using the -e option. To invoke it from a makefile, use the following suffix rule

.SUFFIXES:  $(SUFFIXES) .ecl .eco
        eclipse -e "compile(\"$<\",[output:eco])"

or a pattern rule for Gnu make:  %.ecl
        eclipse -e "compile(\"$<\",[output:eco])"

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