Compiler vs. Interpreter: What’s the Difference?

Both compilers and interpreters are programs that process computer code, usually written in a high-level language, into machine language that computers can understand. There are many similarities between the two processes, but there are also significant differences and important implications for developers in choosing one over the other.

This article describes some of the significant differences between compilers and interpreters and helps you make an informed decision about which to use in your next project.

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What is a Compiler?

A compiler is a computer program that translates computer code written in one programming language into another language. This is usually done so that the code can be run on a different type of computer or device. A compiler converts the entire program into machine code before it is run, which makes it faster. However, it can also make debugging difficult because you cannot step through the code line by line.

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What is an Interpreter?

An interpreter is a computer program that directly executes or runs instructions written in a programming or scripting language without compiling them into a machine language program. An interpreter generally uses two techniques to interpret program code: read and execute code line by line or convert code to some intermediate form before executing it.

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Key Differences Between Compiler and Interpreter?

A compiler takes a program written in some language and turns it into machine code. An interpreter reads the instructions in a program and executes them.

  • Compilers are faster than interpreters because compilers have been optimized over time, they’re generally much faster than interpreters.
  • Compilers are more accessible to writing than interpreters because Interpreted languages require programmers to understand how the computer works at a low level. A compiler translates the high-level programming language directly into machine code.
  • Compilers are more complex to debug than interpreters because when a bug occurs in a compiled program, it’s often difficult to find where the problem lies. In contrast, debugging an interpreted program is relatively straightforward.
  • Compilers are less flexible than interpreters because an interpreter can run any kind of program, while a compiler can only compile programs written in its language.
  • Compilers are more secure than interpreters because if a hacker gains access to the source code of a program, he may be able to modify it before compiling it. However, if he gains access to the binary code of a program, it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to change anything.
  • Compilers are more portable than interpreters because Interpreters work on just one operating system, whereas compilers can be ported to many different platforms.

Source Language: Compiler vs. Interpreter

A programming language is a formal constructed language designed to communicate instructions to a machine, particularly a computer. Programming languages can be used to create programs that will control the behavior of a machine and/or express algorithms.

Object Language: Compiler vs. Interpreter

In computer science, a programming language is an artificial language designed to communicate instructions to a machine, particularly a computer. Programming languages can be used to create programs that will control the behavior of a machine and/or express algorithms.

There are two main types of programming languages: compiled and interpreted. A compiled language is one where the program is converted into machine code before it is run. An interpreted language is one where an interpreter runs the program in real-time.

Intermediate Language: Compiler vs. Interpreter

A compiler converts source code into an intermediate language, which is then converted into machine code by a separate program called a linker. An interpreter, on the other hand, directly executes the source code.

Output Language: Compiler vs. Interpreter

A compiler translates source code written in a programming or scripting language into a lower-level language, machine, or assembly code. On the other hand, an interpreter reads and executes code line by line, meaning it doesn’t need to produce a separate file.

This can make debugging easier since you can see your code’s actions as it runs. However, interpreters can also be slower than compilers since they have to do more work at runtime.

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Conclusion

In a nutshell, a compiler converts code into machine language that can be read and executed by a computer. On the other hand, an interpreter reads and executes code line by line. Compilers are generally faster and more efficient than interpreters, but interpreters can be more flexible since they don’t need to generate an entire executable file all at once.