Group: Software/research/ProgrammingLanguages

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The goal of this page is to understand the status of various programming languages and toolchains. It can help people deciding on a programming language to choose or to learn, or enable people to understand where distributions need contributions to support well a language.

It could also contain information on what language works where or if we can target specific operating systems with free software or not.

Toolchain status

Compilers features and languages

Language Autoconf Automake Libtool[1] GCC 13 support[2] Other free compilers Shared libraries[3] Microcontrollers[4] Strict specifications[5]
Ada Yes[6] Yes GCC[7] Yes[8]
C Yes Yes Yes Yes[6] defaults to shared libraries GCC, SDCC Drafts are available gratis, probably not under free licenses.[9]
C++ Yes Yes Yes Yes[6] defaults to shared libraries GCC, other? ?
D Yes[6] ?
Erlang Yes No[6] ?
Fortran Fortran 77, Fortran 90, Fortran 95 Fortran 77, Fortran 9x Fortran, Fortran 77 Yes[6] ?
GNU C Yes Yes Yes Yes[6] defaults to shared libraries GCC Documented under the GFDL.[11]
Go basic support for gccgo no[12] Yes Yes[6] ?
Java with CGJ with CGJ No[6][13] ?
Objective-C Yes Yes Yes[6] ?
Objective-C++ Yes Yes Yes[6] ?
Rust No No No Work in progress[6] No[14]
Unified Parallel C. partial No[6] ?
Vala partial valac uses GCC depends on glib ?

Compilers bootstraping

Compiler Languages Dependencies
  • Ada
Depends on gcc-ada
  • nim
nim depends on itself but translated C files are provided by upstream
  • vala
valac depends on itself but translated C files are provided by upstream

Interpreters features and languages

Language Interpreter Dependencies Microcontrollers[4] Strict specifications[5]
Perl Perl C, some C libraries No No[15]
Python CPython C, some C libraries No ?
MicroPython C, some C libraries Yes

Build system status

Build system Cross compilation Easy to support in distributions Targets
Autotools Yes Yes
  • Most Posix-like systems[16].
  • Windows support possible, but it requires special care[17]. ? Yes

Didstributions status

Guix status

Guix is the most strict FSDG compliant distribution with regard to languages support: it requires the bootstrap process to be reproducible.

While there are still binary compilers being used in the bootstrap process for some languages, other languages are completely bootstrapped from source.

Language Toolchain GNU/Hurd i586 GNU/Linux armv7h GNU/Linux aarch64 GNU/Linux i686 GNU/Linux mips64el GNU/Linux powerpc GNU/Linux powerpc64le GNU/Linux riscv64 GNU/Linux x86_64 Mingw i686 Mingw x86_64
Ada No
C gcc-toolchain Yes Yes Yes Bootstraped from source with a 25 MiB Guile binary.[18] Yes Yes Yes Yes Bootstraped from source with a 25 MiB Guile binary[18] Yes Yes
C# No
Haskell ghc No No No Bootstrapped from generated C code[19] No No No No Bootstrapped from generated C code[19] No No
Java openjdk ? ? ? bootstraped from source[20] ? ? ? ? bootstraped from source[20] ? ?
nim ? ? ? Bootstrapped from generated C code[21] ? ? ? ? Bootstrapped from generated C code[21] ? ?
Rust rustc No[22] No[22] Bootstrapped from source with mrustc[22] No[22] No[22] No[22] No[22] Bootstrapped from source with mrustc[22] Bootstrapped from source with mrustc[22] No[22] No[22]
vala valac ? ? ? Bootstrapped from generated C code[23] ? ? ? ? Bootstrapped from generated C code[23] ? ?

Parabola status

Parabola has a policy which requires all the packages to be built from source. But it doesn't have a policy to reduce the size of the bootstrap binaries, so there can be circular dependencies.

Language Toolchain GNU/Linux armv7h GNU/Linux i686 GNU/Linux x86_64
Ada gcc-ada No Yes Yes
C gcc-toolchain Yes Yes Yes
C# mono Yes Yes Yes
Haskell ghc No Yes Yes
Java openjdk Yes Yes Yes
nim Yes Yes Yes
Ruby Broken due to missing rubygems
Rust rustc Yes Yes Yes
Vala valac Yes Yes Yes

Trisquel 11 (aramo)

Language Toolchain amd64 arm64 armhf ppc64el
Ada gcc-ada Yes Yes Yes Yes
C# mono Yes[24] Yes[24] Yes[24] Yes[24]
Haskell ghc Yes Yes Yes Yes

Standalone toolchains

Programming languages Distributor Release Host Target Source code review
  • Ada
Adacore 2021[25] GNU/Linux (i686?) ARM ELF 32bit
Source[26] License[27]
binutils-2.33.50s-2021-20210518-19EF2-src.tar.gz GPL 3+
expat-2.2.6.tar.bz2 Expat
gcc-10-2021-20210519-19A74-src.tar.gz GPL 3+
gdb-10-2021-20210518-19C88-src.tar.gz GPL 3+
gmp-6.1.2.tar.bz2 LGPL 3+
libantlr3c-3.4.tar.gz Modified BSD
libffi-3.2.1-patched.tar.gz Expat
libiconv-1.15.tar.gz LGPL 3+
mpc-1.0.3.tar.gz LGPL 3+
mpfr-3.1.5.tar.bz2 LGPL 3+
opam-ocaml-4-11-1-2021-20210518-19D84-src.tar.gz LGPL 3, It's a package manager for OCaml, so its repository may need to be reviewed as well.
xmlada-2021-20210518-19D50-src.tar.gz LGPL 2.1
xz-5.2.2.tar.gz GPL 2+, LGPL 2.1+
z3-2021-20210518-1A000-src.tar.gz Expat
zlib-1.2.6.tar.gz Zlib
GNU/Linux i686
GNU/Linux x86_64 RISCV ELF 32bit
GNU/Linux x86_64 RISCV ELF 64bit
GNU/Linux x86_64


  1. libtool is part of the autotools and it abstracts linking to make it work on a lot of operating systems. The status of the programming languages other than C and C++ can be found here:
  2. Compared with other compilers like LLVM and rustc, GCC supports many CPU architectures and it's quite well integrated with various other software (gdb, gprof, build systems, etc). It also has long term support in mind as it continues to support other programming language standards. It also has good documentation that explain how it handles C code for instance. In addition it's a GNU project, so it has users freedom in mind. In addition Guix has made GCC bootstrapable from a binary that is less than 1KB, and it doesn't require huge resources to build or bootstrap.
  3. Shared libraries systems enable way better performances on older computers as it uses way less RAM.
  4. 4.04.1 Can we compile and/or run code for/on microcontrollers, if so which compilers/interpreters are used / necessary for that.
  5. 5.05.1 Having a standard or something similar to refer to enables people to write code that can still be used without requiring too much maintenance to adapt to newer compiler versions.
  7. At the FOSDEM 2023 I was told at the Ada table that it worked fine on microcontrollers with 16k of RAM, and that it was widely used in microcontrollers. The table also had several microcontroller boards.
  8. The ISO standard specification can be found here. It is provided by the ARG (Ada Rapporteur Group) free of charge and the license allows for modifications and reproductions while requiring the license to be reproduced.
  9. Ideally the specifications should be available under free licenses.
  12. While automake isn't supported, it's still possible to use it if we add a rule to handle .go files in our For some reasons we then also need to add link rules for every program/library we create. I've created a autotools-go-hello-world project to show how to use autoconf and automake together with go. Note that I didn't look if that scaled well or the limitations in more complex projects. For instance I'm unsure how to handle shared libraries, how to link to dependencies, etc.
  13. The last GCC version supporting GCJ seems to be 6.5.0:
  14. See one of the two talks on rust in GNU cauldron 2022.
  15. From Wikipedia article on perl: "No written specification or standard for the Perl language exists for Perl versions through Perl 5"
  16. Autotools contains *a lot* of information and/or workarounds on how to support most Posix-like systems, including less well known systems. See the [1] and automake manuals for more details.
  18. 18.018.1
  19. 19.019.1
  20. 20.020.1 In gnu/packages/java.scm icedtea-7 depends on jamvm which depends on jamvm-1-bootstrap which is built from source. The source bootstrap is not architecture specific.
  21. 21.021.1 Both the Guix package and the official build instructions use the script that compiles code (in the c_code directory) that has been generated with the nim compiler.
  22. 22.0022.0122.0222.0322.0422.0522.0622.0722.0822.0922.10 See supported-systems in the rust 1.54 package definition
  23. 23.023.1 The vala source code contains C files generated from vala source code that is also present in that source code. Since the Guix package and the included in the vala source code require a C compiler but not a vala compiler to compile vala, the C code is then used to build it.
  24. mono-mcs is architecture independent. It depends on packages like mono-runtime which works on amd64, arm64, armhf, ppc64el.
  25. This release also had additional hosts like Windows and darwin, and additional targets too like "Raspberry Pi 2 Linux (32bits)" but I didn't look into them.
  26. Here we used GNU/Linux x86_64 host and target source code for the review. I hope that all the host/target combination have the same source but I didn't check.
  27. So far I used 'guix package --show=<package-name>' to find the license. I also didn't check license compatibilities.