Compilation and interpretation are the two main methods for executing code in the field of programming. In order for computers to understand and execute high-level programming languages, compilers and interpreters are essential tools. Although they have this in common, how they go about achieving it and how it affects program performance are very different.
To better understand their respective functions in the software development process, this article will examine the key differences between interpreters and compilers.
What are compilers and interpreters?
The complete source code of a program produced in a high-level programming language is simultaneously translated into machine code (binary code) by a compiler, a specialized tool. There are multiple stages of the compilation process that are typical, including lexical analysis, syntactic analysis, semantic analysis, optimization, and code generation. A standalone executable file produced by a compiler can be executed directly by the operating system.
An interpreter, on the other hand, is a program that reads the source code of a program line by line and executes it immediately without first creating an intermediate machine code file. The interpreter quickly executes each statement after translating it into machine code or intermediate code, rather than translating the entire program at once. This means that when a program is running, the source code is read and translated in real time.
Comparison of compilation and interpretation
The execution process is one of the main differences between interpreters and compilers. Before execution, a compiler converts the complete source code into machine code, creating a self-contained executable file. As a result of completing the conversion in advance, built software often runs faster. But the initial compilation procedure can take some time, especially for large programs.
An interpreter, on the other hand, does not create a standalone executable. Instead, it executes the source code line by line as it reads and executes it at once. As a result, development data can be delivered faster because changes can be tested immediately without having to recompile. However, due to the potential cost of the interpretation process, interpreted programs are usually slower than compiled ones.
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Compiled applications are closely tied to a particular operating system and hardware architecture because compilers produce machine code unique to the target platform. A program compiled for one platform may not be able to run on another without modification or recompilation due to lack of portability.
Instead of creating machine code files, interpreters execute the source code immediately, making them often platform neutral. This makes it simpler to transfer interpreted programs between several systems, provided that the appropriate interpreter is accessible for each target platform.
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The methods used to detect compilation and interpretation errors are also different. Before producing machine code, a compiler thoroughly examines all source code. As a result, it can detect a variety of compile-time errors, including logic flaws, type problems, and syntax errors. The compiler will produce an error message with a list of all errors found in the code, making it easier for the developer to find and fix them.
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An interpreter, on the other hand, stops running when it encounters the first error in the code. As a result, detecting errors with interpreted languages is faster. However, because the interpreter only reports the first error it finds, further problems with the code may not be reported until the initial error is fixed and the code is run again.