GCC vs Clang

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In this article, we have explored the differences between GCC and Clang both of which are leading compilers for Programming Languages like C, C++ and others.

Table of contents:

  1. Differences between GCC and Clang
  2. Summary Table: GCC vs Clang
  3. Conclusion

Differences between GCC and Clang

Differences between GCC and Clang are as follows:

  • GGC support 7 Programming Languages namely C, C++, Objective C, Fortran, Ada, Go and D. On the other hand, Clang support only 3 major Programming Languages natively namely C, C++ and Objective C.
  • The first version of GCC was released on 22nd March 1987 while Clang was first released on 26th September 2007 that is 20 years after GCC.
  • It was developed by Richard Stallman initially and is currently, managed and produced by GNU Project and Free Software Foundation (FSF). GCC is an open-source project (under GNU GPL license v3) and free tool. On the other hand, Clang is a part of LLVM project and is also, an open-source (under Apache License v2) and free tool. Clang was originally developed by Apple.
  • GCC does not have any plan to support Windows but one can use GCC on Windows using MinGW. On the other hand, Clang supports Windows natively.
  • During Compilation, Clang produces an Intermediate Representation that is same for all Programming Languages. GCC does not have a similar feature. This feature is useful if one plans to reuse optimizations of the compiler to support a new Programming Language. So, it is easier to add a new Programming Language in Clang compared to GCC.
  • In terms of Parsing frontend support, GCC used Bison based LR parser originally but moved to Recursive Descent Parser while Clang has been using Recursive Descent Parser with Backtracking.
  • In terms of Linker (for linking libraries), GCC use ld with ld-gold while Clang uses lld. lld performs better than ld and hence, gives Clang a performance boost compared to GCC.
  • In terms of Build tool, GCC natively supports Make and Autotools while Clang supports CMake. CMake can be used with Make so GCC can be used with CMake. CMake helps in making the build process portable.
  • In terms of debugging, GCC uses GDB as the main debugger while Clang uses LLDB for debugging which is common for all LLVM projects. GDB is considered to be one of the strongest debugging tool.
  • Though GCC is widely used today and is a major dominantor in the Compiler market, Clang is widely supported by Software Companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Intel and others. The Clang support is mainly attributed to the popularity and community support of LLVM (parent project of Clang) along with the backing of Apple.

Summary Table: GCC vs Clang

Following table summarize the differences between GCC and Clang:

GCC vs Clang
Differences between GCC and Clang
Prepared by iq.OpenGenus.org
PointGCCClang
Supported languages73
Released in22 March 198726 September 2007
DeveloperRichard Stallman / FSFApple
Windows supportNoYes
Intermediate
Representation
NoYes
Parsing frontendRecursive Descent ParserRecursive Descent Parser
with Backtracking
Linkerld + ld-goldlld
Build toolMake, AutotoolsCMake
debugginggdblldb
Supported byGNU, FSFGoogle, Microsoft,
Apple, Intel
and others

Conclusion

If you want a flexible compiler and plan to extend it to support new programming languages/ representations with support for all systems, Clang is the first choice.

If your codebase is in C and C++ and aim to support specific architectures only (not portable) with optimal performance, GCC is the best choice.

With this article at OpenGenus, you must have the complete idea of differences between GCC and Clang and when to choose one.