Library (computing)

Library (computing)
Illustration of an application which uses libvorbisfile to play an Ogg Vorbis file

In computer science, a library is a collection of resources used to develop software.[disputed ] These may include pre-written code and subroutines, classes, values or type specifications.

Libraries contain code and data that provide services to independent programs. This encourages the sharing and changing of code and data in a modular fashion, and eases the distribution of the code and data. Some executables are both standalone programs and libraries, but most libraries are not executable. Executables and libraries make references known as links to each other through the process known as linking, which is typically done by a linker.

Most compiled languages have a standard library although programmers can also create their own custom libraries. Most modern software systems of 2009 provide libraries that implement the majority of system services. Such libraries have commoditized the services which a modern application requires. As such, most code used by modern applications is provided in these system libraries.

The GPL linking exception allows programs which do not license themselves under GPL to link to libraries licensed under the exception without thereby becoming subject to GPL requirements.

Libraries often contain a jump table of all the methods within it, known as entry points. Calls into the library use this table, looking up the location of the code in memory, then calling it. This introduces overhead in calling into the library, but the delay is so small as to be negligible.



The earliest programming concepts analogous to libraries were intended to separate data definitions from the program implementation. JOVIAL brought the "COMPOOL" (Communication Pool) concept to popular attention in 1959, although it adopted the idea from the large-system SAGE software. Following the computer science principles of separation of concerns and information hiding, "Comm Pool's purpose was to permit the sharing of System Data among many programs by providing a centralized data description."[1]

COBOL also included "primitive capabilities for a library system" in 1959,[2] but Jean Sammet described them as "inadequate library facilities" in retrospect.[3]

Another major contributor to the modern library concept came in the form of the subprogram innovation of FORTRAN. FORTRAN subprograms can be compiled independently of each other, but the compiler lacks a linker. So prior to the introduction of modules in Fortran-90, type checking between subprograms was impossible.[4]

Finally, historians of the concept should remember the influential Simula 67. Simula was the first object-oriented programming language, and its classes are nearly identical to the modern concept as used in Java, C++, and C#. The class concept of Simula was also a progenitor of the package in Ada and the module of Modula-2.[5] Even when developed originally in 1965, Simula classes could be included in library files and added at compile time.[6]


Libraries are important in the program linking or binding process, which resolves references known as links or symbols to library modules. The linking process is usually automatically done by a linker or binder program that searches a set of libraries and other modules in a given order. Usually it is not considered an error if a link target can be found multiple times in a given set of libraries. Linking may be done when an executable file is created, or whenever the program is used at run time.

The references being resolved may be addresses for jumps and other routine calls. They may be in the main program, or in one module depending upon another. They are resolved into fixed or relocatable addresses (from a common base) by allocating runtime memory for the memory segments of each module referenced.

Some programming languages may use a feature called smart linking wherein the linker is aware of or integrated with the compiler, such that the linker knows how external references are used, and code in a library that is never actually used, even though internally referenced, can be discarded from the compiled application. For example, a program that only uses integers for arithmetic, or does no arithmetic operations at all, can exclude floating-point library routines. This smart-linking feature can lead to smaller application file sizes and reduced memory usage.


Some references in a program or library module are stored in a relative or symbolic form which cannot be resolved until all code and libraries are assigned final static addresses. Relocation is the process of adjusting these references, and is done either by the linker or the loader. In general, relocation cannot be done to individual libraries themselves because the addresses in memory may vary depending on the program using them and other libraries they are combined with. Position-independent code avoids references to absolute addresses and therefore does not require relocation.

Static libraries

When linking is done during the creation of an executable or another object file, it is known as static linking or early binding. In this case, the linking is usually done by a linker, but may also be done by the compiler. A static library, also known as an archive, is one intended to be statically linked. Originally, only static libraries existed. Static linking must be performed when any modules are recompiled.

All of the modules required by a program are sometimes statically linked and copied into the executable file. This process, and the resulting stand-alone file, is known as a static build of the program. A static build may not need any further relocation if virtual memory is used and no address space layout randomization is desired.

Shared libraries

A shared library or shared object is a file that is intended to be shared by executable files and further shared objects files. Modules used by a program are loaded from individual shared objects into memory at load time or run time, rather than being copied by a linker when it creates a single monolithic executable file for the program.

Shared libraries can be statically linked, meaning that references to the library modules are resolved and the modules are allocated memory when the executable file is created. But often linking of shared libraries is postponed until they are loaded.

Most modern operating systems can have shared library files of the same format as the executable files. This offers two main advantages: first, it requires making only one loader for both of them, rather than two (having the single loader is considered well worth its added complexity). Secondly, it allows the executables also to be used as shared libraries, if they have a symbol table. Typical combined executable and shared library formats are ELF and Mach-O (both in Unix) and PE (Windows). In Windows, the concept was taken one step further, with even system resources such as fonts being bundled in the PE format. The same is true under OpenStep, where the universal "bundle" format is used for almost all system resources.[citation needed]

Memory sharing

Library code may be shared in memory by multiple processes as well as on disk. If virtual memory is used, processes execute the same physical page of RAM, mapped into the different address spaces of each process. This has advantages. For instance on the OpenStep system, applications were often only a few hundred kilobytes in size and loaded quickly; the majority of their code was located in libraries that had already been loaded for other purposes by the operating system.[citation needed] There is a cost, however; shared code must be specifically written to run in a multitasking environment. In some older environments such as 16-bit Windows or MPE for the HP 3000, only stack based data (local) was allowed, or other significant restrictions were placed on writing a shared library.

Programs can accomplish RAM sharing by using position independent code as in Unix, which leads to a complex but flexible architecture, or by using common virtual addresses as in Windows and OS/2. These systems make sure, by various tricks like pre-mapping the address space and reserving slots for each shared library, that code has a great probability of being shared. A third alternative is single-level store, as used by the IBM System/38 and its successors. This allows position-dependent code but places no significant restrictions on where code can be placed or how it can be shared.

In some cases different versions of shared libraries can cause problems, especially when libraries of different versions have the same file name, and different applications installed on a system each require a specific version. Such a scenario is known as DLL hell, named after the Windows and OS/2 DLL file. Most modern operating systems after 2001, have clean-up methods to eliminate such situations.

Dynamic linking

Dynamic linking or late binding refers to linking performed every time a program is executed, at load time or run time, rather than when the executable file is created. A dynamically linked library (dynamic-link library or DLL under Windows and OS/2; dynamic shared object or DSO under Unix-like systems) is a library intended for dynamic linking. Only a minimum amount of work is done by the linker when the executable file is created; it only records what library routines the program needs and the index names or numbers of the routines in the library. The majority of the work of linking is done at the time the application is loaded (load time) or during execution (run time). The necessary linking program, called a dynamic linker or linking loader, is actually part of the underlying operating system.

Programmers originally developed dynamic linking in the Multics operating system, starting in 1964, and the MTS (Michigan Terminal System), built in the late 1960s.[7]


Since shared libraries on most systems do not change often, systems can compute a likely load address for each shared library on the system before it is needed, and store that information in the libraries and executables. If every shared library that is loaded has undergone this process, then each will load at its predetermined address, which speeds up the process of dynamic linking. This optimization is known as prebinding in Mac OS X and prelinking in Linux. Disadvantages of this technique include the time required to precompute these addresses every time the shared libraries change, the inability to use address space layout randomization, and the requirement of sufficient virtual address space for use (a problem that will be alleviated by the adoption of 64-bit architectures, at least for the time being).

Locating libraries at run time

Loaders for shared libraries vary widely in functionality. Some depend on the executable storing explicit paths to the libraries. Any change to the library naming or layout of the file system will cause these systems to fail. More commonly, only the name of the library (and not the path) is stored in the executable, with the operating system supplying a method to find the library on-disk based on some algorithm.

If a shared library that an executable depends on is deleted, moved, or renamed, or if an incompatible version of the library is copied to a place that is earlier in the search, the executable would fail to load. On Windows this is commonly known as DLL hell.


AmigaOS stores generic system libraries in a directory defined by the LIBS: path assignment. Application-specific libraries can go in the same directory as the application's executable. AmigaOS will search these locations when an executable attempts to launch a shared library. An application may also supply an explicit path when attempting to launch a library.

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft Windows will check the registry to determine the proper place to find an ActiveX DLL, but for other DLLs it will check the directory from where it loaded the program; the current working directory; any directories set by calling the SetDllDirectory() function; the System32, System, and Windows directories; and finally the directories specified by the PATH environment variable.[8] Applications written for the .NET Framework framework (since 2002), also check the Global Assembly Cache as the primary store of shared dll files to remove the issue of DLL hell.


OpenStep used a more flexible system, collecting a list of libraries from a number of known locations (similar to the PATH concept) when the system first starts. Moving libraries around causes no problems at all, although users incur a time cost when first starting the system.

Unix-like systems

Most Unix-like systems have a "search path" specifying file system directories in which to look for dynamic libraries. Some systems specify the default path in a configuration file; others hard-code it into the dynamic loader. Some executable file formats can specify additional directories in which to search for libraries for a particular program. This can usually be overridden with an environment variable, although it is disabled for setuid and setgid programs, so that a user can't force such a program to run arbitrary code with root permissions. Developers of libraries are encouraged to place their dynamic libraries in places in the default search path. On the downside, this can make installation of new libraries problematic, and these "known" locations quickly become home to an increasing number of library files, making management more complex.

Dynamic loading

Dynamic loading, a subset of dynamic linking, involves a dynamically linked library loading and unloading at run time on request. Such a request may be made implicitly at compile time or explicitly at run time. Implicit requests are made at compile time when a linker adds library references that include file paths or simply file names. Explicit requests are made when applications make direct calls to an operating system's API at run time.

Most operating systems that support dynamically linked libraries also support dynamically loading such libraries via a run-time linker API. For instance, Microsoft Windows uses the API functions LoadLibrary, LoadLibraryEx, FreeLibrary and GetProcAddress with Microsoft Dynamic Link Libraries; POSIX based systems, including most UNIX and UNIX-like systems, use dlopen, dlclose and dlsym. Some development systems automate this process.

Object and class libraries

Although originally pioneered in the 1960s, dynamic linking did not reach operating systems used by consumers until the late 1980s. It was generally available in some form in most operating systems by the early 1990s. During this same period, object-oriented programming (OOP) was becoming a significant part of the programming landscape. OOP with runtime binding requires additional information that traditional libraries don't supply. In addition to the names and entry points of the code located within, they also require a list of the objects on which they depend. This is a side-effect of one of OOP's main advantages, inheritance, which means that parts of the complete definition of any method may be in different places. This is more than simply listing that one library requires the services of another: in a true OOP system, the libraries themselves may not be known at compile time, and vary from system to system.

At the same time many developers worked on the idea of multi-tier programs, in which a "display" running on a desktop computer would use the services of a mainframe or minicomputer for data storage or processing. For instance, a program on a GUI-based computer would send messages to a minicomputer to return small samples of a huge dataset for display. Remote procedure calls already handled these tasks, but there was no standard RPC system.

Soon the majority of the minicomputer and mainframe vendors instigated projects to combine the two, producing an OOP library format that could be used anywhere. Such systems were known as object libraries, or distributed objects, if they supported remote access (not all did). Microsoft's COM is an example of such a system for local use, DCOM a modified version that supports remote access.

For some time object libraries held the status of the "next big thing" in the programming world. There were a number of efforts to create systems that would run across platforms, and companies competed to try to get developers locked into their own system. Examples include IBM's System Object Model (SOM/DSOM), Sun Microsystems' Distributed Objects Everywhere (DOE), NeXT's Portable Distributed Objects (PDO), Digital's ObjectBroker, Microsoft's Component Object Model (COM/DCOM), and any number of CORBA-based systems.

After the inevitable cooling of marketing hype, object libraries continue to be used in both object-oriented programming and distributed information systems. Class libraries are the rough OOP equivalent of older types of code libraries. They contain classes, which describe characteristics and define actions (methods) that involve objects. Class libraries are used to create instances, or objects with their characteristics set to specific values. In some OOP languages, like Java, the distinction is clear, with the classes often contained in library files (like Java's JAR file format) and the instantiated objects residing only in memory (although potentially able to be made persistent in separate files). In others, like Smalltalk, the class libraries are merely the starting point for a system image that includes the entire state of the environment, classes and all instantiated objects.

Remote libraries

Another solution to the library issue comes from using completely separate executables (often in some lightweight form) and calling them using a remote procedure call (RPC) over a network to another computer. This approach maximizes operating system re-use: the code needed to support the library is the same code being used to provide application support and security for every other program. Additionally, such systems do not require the library to exist on the same machine, but can forward the requests over the network.

However, such an approach means that every library call requires a considerable amount of overhead. RPC calls are much more expensive than calling a shared library that has already been loaded on the same machine. This approach is commonly used in a distributed architecture that makes heavy use of such remote calls, notably client-server systems and application servers such as Enterprise JavaBeans.

Code generation libraries

Code generation libraries are high-level APIs that can generate or transform byte code for Java. They are used by aspect-oriented programming, some data access frameworks, and for testing to generate dynamic proxy objects. They also are used to intercept field access.[9]

File naming

The system identifies libraries with a ".library" suffix (for example: mathieeedoubtrans.library). These are separate files (shared libraries) that are invoked by the program that is running, and are dynamically-loaded but are not dynamically linked. Once the library has been invoked usually it could not deallocate memory and resources it asked for. Users can force a "flushlibs" option by using AmigaDOS command Avail (that checks free memory in the system and has the option Avail flush that frees memory from libraries left open by programs). Since AmigaOS 4.0 July 2007 First Update, support for shared objects and dynamic linking has been introduced. Now ".so" objects can exist also on Amiga, together with ".library files".
The system stores libfoo.a and files in directories such as /lib, /usr/lib or /usr/local/lib. The filenames always start with lib, and end with .a (archive, static library) or .so (shared object, dynamically linked library). Some systems might have multiple names for the dynamically linked library, with most of the names being names for symbolic links to the remaining name; those names might include the major version of the library, or the full version number; for example, on some systems would be the filename for the second major interface revision of the dynamically linked library libfoo. The .la files sometimes found in the library directories are libtool archives, not usable by the system as such.
The system inherits static library conventions from BSD, with the library stored in a .a file, and can use .so-style dynamically-linked libraries (with the .dylib suffix instead). Most libraries in Mac OS X, however, consist of "frameworks", placed inside special directories called "bundles" which wrap the library's required files and metadata. For example, a framework called MyFramework would be implemented in a bundle called MyFramework.framework, with MyFramework.framework/MyFramework being either the dynamically linked library file or being a symlink to the dynamically linked library file in MyFramework.framework/Versions/Current/MyFramework.
Dynamically linkable libraries usually have the suffix *.DLL, although other file name extensions may be used for specific purpose dynamically-linked libraries, e.g. *.OCX for OLE libraries. The interface revisions are either encoded in the file names, or abstracted away using COM-object interfaces. Depending on how they are compiled, *.LIB files can be either static libraries or representations of dynamically linkable libraries needed only during compilation, known as "Import Libraries". Unlike in the UNIX world, where different file extensions are used, when linking against .LIB file in Windows one must first know if it is a regular static library or an import library. In the latter case, a .DLL file must be present at run time.



# openbsd 4.9
# gcc 4.2.1
echo "hello world! ;)" > hello.txt;
gcc -c fmgmt.c;
gcc -g -shared libmyio.c -o;
gcc fmgmt.o -L ./ -lmyio -o fmgmt;
./fmgmt hello.txt;
rm hello.txt;


#include <stdio.h>
opens stream
@param fpath, omode - path to file, file open mode
@return fp or NULL
FILE *sopen(char *fpath, char *omode);
copy file to file, stream to stream
@param fp, stream
@return 0
int s2s(FILE *fp, FILE *stream);
get info from FILE struct, prints it to stdout
@param FILE *fp
@return 0;
int _sinf_(FILE *fp);


#include "myio.h"
FILE *sopen(char *fpath, char *omode)
        FILE *fp;
        if(fp = fopen(fpath, omode)){
                return fp;
                return NULL;
int s2s(FILE *fp, FILE *stream)
        int c;
        while((c = fgetc(fp)) != EOF){
                putc(c, stream);
        return 0;
int _sinf_(FILE *fp)
        printf("_r:%d\n", fp->_r);
        printf("_w:%d\n", fp->_w);
        printf("_flags:%x\n", fp->_flags);
        printf("_file:%x\n", fp->_file);
        printf("_lbfsize:%x\n", fp->_lbfsize);
        printf("_blksize:%d\n", fp->_blksize);
        printf("_offset:%d\n", fp->_offset);
        return 0;


#include "myio.h"
// usage: [./fmgmt hello.txt]
int main(int argc, char **argv, char **environ)
        FILE *fp;
        char *mode = "r";
                printf("%s\n", "usage: [./fmgmt hello.txt]");
                return 1;
                if(fp = sopen(argv[1], mode)){
                        //printf("%s %s\n", argv[1], "opened!");
                        s2s(fp, stdout);
                        printf("%s %s\n", argv[1], "failed!");
                        return 2;

chmod 700

See also


  1. ^ Wexelblat, Richard (1981). History of Programming Languages. ACM Monograph Series. New York, NY: Academic Press (A subsidiary of Harcourt Brace). p. 369. ISBN 0-12-745040-8 
  2. ^ Wexelblat, op. cit., p. 274
  3. ^ Wexelblat, op. cit., p. 258
  4. ^ Wilson, Leslie B.; Clark, Robert G. (1988). Comparative Programming Languages. Wokingham, England: Addison-Wesley. p. 126. ISBN 0-201-18483-4 
  5. ^ Wilson and Clark, op. cit., p. 52
  6. ^ Wexelblat, op. cit., p. 716
  7. ^ "A History of MTS". Information Technology Digest 5 (5). 
  8. ^ "Dynamic-Link Library Search Order". Microsoft Developer Network Library. Microsoft. 2007-10-04. Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  9. ^ "Code Generation Library". Source Forge. Retrieved 2010-03-03. "Byte Code Generation Library is high level API to generate and transform JAVA byte code. It is used by AOP, testing, data access frameworks to generate dynamic proxy objects and intercept field access." 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем решить контрольную работу

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Library (disambiguation) — Library may refer to: * Library, a collection of books or an institution lending books and providing information * Library (computing), a collection of subprograms used to develop software ** Runtime library * Library (electronics), a collection… …   Wikipedia

  • library — ► NOUN (pl. libraries) 1) a building or room containing a collection of books and periodicals for use by the public or the members of an institution. 2) a private collection of books. 3) a collection of films, recorded music, etc., organized… …   English terms dictionary

  • library — noun (plural libraries) 1》 a building or room containing a collection of books and periodicals for use by the public or the members of an institution.     ↘a collection of books held in a library.     ↘an organized collection of films, recorded… …   English new terms dictionary

  • Library 2.0 — is a loosely defined model for a modernized form of library service that reflects a transition within the library world in the way that services are delivered to users. The focus is on user centered change and participation in the creation of… …   Wikipedia

  • Computing — For the formal concept of computation, see computation. For the magazine, see Computing (magazine). For the scientific journal, see Computing (journal). A difference engine: computing the solution to a polynomial function …   Wikipedia

  • Computing Community Consortium — The Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is an organization whose goal is to catalyze and empower the U.S. computing research community to pursue audacious, high impact research. Established in 2006 through a cooperative agreement between the… …   Wikipedia

  • library — /luy brer ee, breuh ree, bree/, n., pl. libraries. 1. a place set apart to contain books, periodicals, and other material for reading, viewing, listening, study, or reference, as a room, set of rooms, or building where books may be read or… …   Universalium

  • Library of Congress Classification — The Library of Congress Classification (LCC) is a system of library classification developed by the Library of Congress. It is used by most research and academic libraries in the U.S. and several other countries; for example, Australia[1][2] and… …   Wikipedia

  • library */*/*/ — UK [ˈlaɪbrərɪ] / US [ˈlaɪˌbrerɪ] noun [countable] Word forms library : singular library plural libraries 1) a place where books, documents, CDs etc are available for you to look at or borrow You can borrow a copy from any public library. the… …   English dictionary

  • Dynamic-link library — This article is about the OS/2 and Windows implementation. For dynamic linking of libraries in general, see Dynamic linker. Dynamic link library Filename extension .dll Internet media type application/x msd …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”