Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Conditional Compilation of the The C Preprocessor in C programming language

We can, if we want, have the compiler skip over part of a source code by inserting the preprocessing commands #ifdef and #endif, which have the general form:
#ifdef macroname
statement 1 ;
statement 2 ;
statement 3 ;
#endif
If macroname has been #defined, the block of code will be processed as usual; otherwise not.
Where would #ifdef be useful? When would you like to compile only a part of your program? In three cases:

(a) To “comment out” obsolete lines of code. It often happens that a program is changed at the last minute to satisfy a client. This involves rewriting some part of source code to the client’s satisfaction and deleting the old code. But veteran programmers are familiar with the clients who change their mind and want the old code back again just the way it was.Now you would definitely not like to retype the deleted code again.
One solution in such a situation is to put the old code within a pair of /* */ combination. But we might have already written a comment in the code that we are about to “comment out”. This would mean we end up with nested comments. Obviously, this solution won’t work since we can’t nest comments in C.
Therefore the solution is to use conditional compilation as shown below.
main( )
{
#ifdef OKAY
statement 1 ;
statement 2 ; /* detects virus */
statement 3 ;
statement 4 ; /* specific to stone virus */
#endif
statement 5 ;
statement 6 ;
statement 7 ;
}
Here, statements 1, 2, 3 and 4 would get compiled only if the macro OKAY has been defined, and we have purposefully omitted the definition of the macro OKAY. At a later date, if we want that these statements should also get compiled all that we are required to do is to delete the #ifdef and #endif statements.
(b) A more sophisticated use of #ifdef has to do with making the programs portable, i.e. to make them work on two totally different computers. Suppose an organization has two different types of computers and you are expected to write a program that works on both the machines. You can do so by isolating the lines of code that must be different for each machine by marking them off with #ifdef. For example:
main( )
{
#ifdef INTEL
code suitable for a Intel PC
#else
code suitable for a Motorola PC
#endif
code common to both the computers
}
When you compile this program it would compile only the code suitable for a Intel PC and the common code. This is because the macro INTEL has not been defined. Note that the working of #ifdef - #else - #endif is similar to the ordinary if - else control instruction of C.
If you want to run your program on a Motorola PC, just add a statement at the top saying,
#define INTEL
Sometimes, instead of #ifdef the #ifndef directive is used. The #ifndef (which means ‘if not defined’) works exactly opposite to #ifdef. The above example if written using #ifndef, would look like this:
main( )
{
#ifndef INTEL
code suitable for a Intel PC
#else
code suitable for a Motorola PC
code common to both the computers
}

(c) Suppose a function myfunc( ) is defined in a file ‘myfile.h’ which is #included in a file ‘myfile1.h’. Now in your program file if you #include both ‘myfile.h’ and ‘myfile1.h’ the compiler flashes an error ‘Multiple declaration for myfunc’. This is because the same file ‘myfile.h’ gets included twice. To avoid this we can write following code in the header file.
/* myfile.h */
#ifndef __myfile_h
#define __myfile_h
myfunc( )
{
/* some code */
}
#endif
First time the file ‘myfile.h’ gets included the preprocessor checks whether a macro called __myfile_h has been defined or not. If it has not been then it gets defined and the rest of the code gets included. Next time we attempt to include the same file, the inclusion is prevented since __myfile_h already stands defined. Note that there is nothing special about __myfile_h. In its place we can use any other macro as well.

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