Pithikos Pithikos - 2 months ago 6
C Question

What's an object file in C?

I am reading about libraries in C but I have not yet found an explanation on what an object file is. What's the real difference between any other compiled file and an object file?

I would be glad if someone could explain in human language.


An object file is the real output from the compilation phase. It's mostly machine code, but has info that allows a linker to see what symbols are in it as well as symbols it requires in order to work. (For reference, "symbols" are basically names of global objects, functions, etc.)

A linker takes all these object files and combines them to form one executable (assuming that it can, ie: that there aren't any duplicate or undefined symbols). A lot of compilers will do this for you (read: they run the linker on their own) if you don't tell them to "just compile" using command-line options. (-c is a common "just compile; don't link" option.)