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Learn about compilers for computer programming. Take online compiler courses on edX to boost your computer science knowledge!
What is a compiler?
Compilers are like translators. They take lines of code written in one programming language and translate them to another. This allows for efficient optimization, often translating from a high-level language to a low-level language for an executable program.
Different types of compilers do different things. When a compiler can run on a different operating system than its target language, it's a cross-compiler. A decompiler translates from a low level to a high-level language. A bootstrap compiler is written in the same language as the one it will compile. Source-to-source compilers perform straight compilations from source code to text.
A compiler handles a variety of tasks, including lexical analysis, preprocessing, parsing, and semantic analysis. It performs these tasks efficiently and ensures correct transformations of source input to target output.
Understanding compilers can improve skills for developers and lead to a deeper understanding of these processes. Compiler technology spans several disciplines in the field, including language theory, semantics and syntax, computer architecture, and data structures/algorithms.
Learn about compilers
The edX.org platform offers students the opportunity to explore topics such as compilers through online courses created by experts in the field of computer science. Many courses are free for personal development, but students may also choose to pursue official credit, certification, and even degrees for a fee.
Students learn with a global cohort of participants and study on their own time to complete requirements. Courses are available frequently, and some happen on demand.
Stanford Online offers an introduction to compilers, designed to cover a wide range of topics within the discipline. This self-paced course includes instruction in programming language compilers, syntax-directed translation, dataflow analysis, and code generation, as well as processes like abstract syntax trees and runtime systems.
Students can also study these programming languages themselves, from Java to Python. C programming courses offer introductions to things like C compilers, or students may study the principles behind data analyzers.
The necessity of compilers
Whether students work in Linux or want a deeper understanding of tools like LLVM, edX offers courses designed to unravel the process of compiling once in for all. These courses provide introductions to compiler designs and allow students to build projects for front-end and back-end development.
Compilation is only one part of the equation -- assemblers for machine language are another piece, for example -- but mastering these skills with edX helps students take charge of their careers and goals in software engineering.