But what is a toolchain?

In software, a toolchain is a set of programming tools that is used to perform a complex software development task or to create a software product, which is typically another computer program or a set of related programs.

Main toolchains:

  • GNU toolchain
  • LLVM toolchain
  • ARM toolchain

The main toolchains in software development are collections of tools used for building and compiling code into executable programs, libraries, and more. These toolchains vary by the programming languages they support, the target platforms they are designed for, and the specific tasks they excel at, such as optimization for performance or size. Here are some of the most prominent toolchains:

GNU Toolchain

  • Components: GCC (GNU Compiler Collection), GNU Binutils, Glibc (GNU C Library), and GDB (GNU Debugger).
  • Target: Wide range of platforms including Linux, Windows (via MinGW or Cygwin), and various Unix-like systems.
  • Languages: Supports C, C++, and other languages.

LLVM Toolchain

  • Components: Clang (compiler), LLVM Core (libraries providing intermediate representations), LLD (linker), and LLDB (debugger).
  • Target: Known for its support for cross-compilation and wide platform support including macOS, Windows, Linux, and various Unix-like systems.
  • Languages: Primarily C, C++, Objective-C, and others through additional front-ends.

Microsoft Visual Studio Toolchain

  • Components: MSVC (Microsoft Visual C++ Compiler), Visual Studio IDE, and various Microsoft libraries and SDKs.
  • Target: Windows primarily, with some support for cross-platform development via .NET and Visual Studio Code.
  • Languages: C, C++, C#, and more within the .NET framework.

ARM Toolchain

  • Components: ARM Compiler, Assembler, Linker, and Libraries optimized for ARM architecture.
  • Target: ARM architecture including Cortex-A, Cortex-R, and Cortex-M series processors.
  • Languages: C, C++, and assembly for ARM.

Android NDK Toolchain

  • Components: Includes a set of toolchains based on LLVM for compiling to Android-native code.
  • Target: Android applications requiring native performance and system libraries.
  • Languages: C, C++ primarily.

Xcode Toolchain

  • Components: Apple LLVM compiler, linker, and various Apple SDKs.
  • Target: macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS development.
  • Languages: C, C++, Objective-C, Swift.

Embedded Toolchains

  • Examples: AVR-GCC for Atmel AVR microcontrollers, MSPGCC for Texas Instruments MSP430, and others.
  • Target: Specific to microcontroller and embedded system development.
  • Languages: C, C++, and assembly specific to microcontrollers.

These toolchains are often selected based on the target platform, performance requirements, language support, and specific features or optimizations they offer. The choice of a toolchain can significantly influence the development process, performance, and capabilities of the software being developed.