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Mac OS X 10.3 Developer Tools Release Notes:
GCC 3.3

These notes describe GCC 3.3, which is based on version 3.3 of the Free Software Foundation's GCC compiler suite. GCC 3.3 will be the default compiler on Mac OS X for C, C++, Objective-C, and Objective-C++ source code after this package is installed. GCC 3.1, which was the default compiler in the Mac OS X 10.2 Development Tools, continues to be provided for backward compatibility. GCC 2.95 is also still provided for backwards compatibility.

These release notes are not comprehensive. For a complete list of compiler changes, please also consult the release notes for the compiler in the Mac OS X Developer Tools 10.1 release.

Switching to GCC 3.3

The Development Tools package provides three compilers: GCC 2, based on version 2.95 of the Free Software Foundation's GCC compiler suite, GCC 3 (also called GCC 3.1), based on version 3.1 of the Free Software Foundation's GCC compiler suite, and GCC 3.3, which is based on version 3.3 of the Free Software Foundation's GCC compiler suite.

Here are some important things to keep in mind before you switch from GCC 2 or GCC 3.1 to GCC 3.3:

Switching between compilers

All three compilers may coexist on the same system. GCC 3.3 is always available as /usr/bin/gcc-3.3, GCC 3.1 is always available as /usr/bin/gcc-3.1 and /usr/bin/gcc3, and GCC 2 is always available as /usr/bin/gcc2. In addition, there are symbolic links at /usr/bin/cc and /usr/bin/gcc that point to the selected compiler. By default, the selected compiler is GCC 3.3.

However, if you have a lot of make files and shell scripts that refer to /usr/bin/cc or /usr/bin/gcc, changing all those references to your compiler of choice may be impractical. In that case, use the gcc_select command to change the selected compiler.

To use GCC 2 as the selected compiler:

To use GCC 3.1 as the selected compiler:

To use GCC 3.3 as the selected compiler:

To see which compiler version you are using, enter gcc -v. For more help on gcc_select, enter /usr/sbin/gcc_select -h.

To switch between compiler versions in Project Builder: to be written


Documentation for the 3.3 compiler is available in /Developer/Documentation/DeveloperTools/gcc-3.3. Documentation for the 3.1 compiler is available in /Developer/Documentation/DeveloperTools/gcc-3.1.

Compiler option compatibility issues

All of this is just a sketch of what we need to say. It needs to be filled in.

Source code compatibility issues

Some source code will need to be changed when moving to GCC 3.3 because the new compiler adheres more closely to the rules of the relevant language standards. Here are some specific areas where you may notice a difference:

Precompiled headers

Apple's 3.3 compilers support a new form of precompiled headers. The new form is used automatically by Project Builder if you specify a prefix header; if you're using some other build system, such as make, see /Developer/Documentation/DeveloperTools/gcc-3.3/gcc/Precompiled-Headers.html.

cpp-precomp is no longer supported in the 3.3 compilers; use precompiled headers instead. Do we need more detail here?

GCC 3.1's form of precompiled headers, "PFE", is no longer supported in GCC 3.3; use the new form instead. Do we need to say something about how the PCH usage model differs from PFE, and how to adapt PFE makefiles?

New language features

ObjC/ObjC++ exception and synchronization support

The Objective-C language now offers syntactic support for structured exception handling that is similar to what is offered by C++ and Java. To enable the new syntax, you must pass the '-fobjc-exceptions' options to the ObjC/ObjC++ compiler, and/or set the MACOSX_DEPLOYMENT_TARGET environment variable to "10.3".

   @try {
          @throw expr;
    @catch (AnObjCClass *exc) {
         @throw expr;
     @catch (AnotherClass *exc) {
     @catch (id allOthers) {
     @finally {

The @throw statement may appear anywhere in an Objective-C program; when used inside of a @catch block, the @throw may appear without an argument (as show above), in which case the object caught by the @catch will be rethrown.

Note that only (pointers to) Objective-C objects may be thrown and caught using this scheme. When an object is thrown, it will be caught by the nearest @catch clause capable of handling objects of that type, just as is the case in C++ and Java. A @catch(id) clause (as shown above) may also be provided to catch any and all Objective-C exceptions not caught by previous @catch clauses.

The @finally clause, if present, will be executed upon exit from the immediately preceding @try-@catch section. This will happen regardless of whether any exceptions are thrown, caught or rethrown inside the @try-@catch section, just as is the case in Java.

There are several caveats to using the new exception mechanism:

The '-fobjc-exceptions' switch also enables the use of synchronization blocks for thread-safe execution:

   @synchronized (ObjCClass *lock) {

CodeWarrior-style inline assembly

Compilation speed

We've improved compilation speed in general. Additionally, we need to say something about the usage model of these new features:

Major bugs fixed in this release


GCC 3.3 has greatly improved code optimization, especially for Altivec code. If you've turned off optimization before, particularly if you are switching from GCC2, it's recommended that you turn it on now. Many bugs and inefficiencies have been fixed.

Project Builder automatically chooses the recommended optimization level for you. Just be sure to build with the pbxbuild tool or to choose the Deployment build style before building your final product.

For deployment builds, the recommended setting is -Os, which produces the smallest possible binary size. Generally, a binary that's smaller is also faster. That's because a large application spends much of its time paging its binary code in and out of memory. The smaller the binary, the less the application needs to page. For example, say a binary uses aggressive function inlining. That binary saves time with fewer function calls, but it could easily spend far more time paging the binary code containing those inlined functions in and out of memory.

For debugging versions, the recommended optimization level is -O0.

Here are the different levels for C, C++, Objective-C and Objective-C++:

When performing function inlining, GCC 3 inlines forward-referenced functions in addition to the functions it inlined before. A function is inlined if it's smaller than the inlining limit. The default limit is 600 internal GCC instructions. To raise the limit, add -finline-limit=number to the command line. Raising this limit too high can slow down compiling, increase the size of your executables with too much inlining, and lower execution speed.

Here are some interesting optimizations that aren't included by -O2 or -O3:

Optimizes code for Altivec. Code built with this flag might not run on G3 processors.

-mtune=7400 -mtune=7450 -mtune=750 -mtune=970
or alternatively:
-mtune=G3 -mtune=G4 -mtune=G5
Optimizes for speed on the indicated chip (750 is G3, 7400 is G4, 7450 is G4+, 970 is G5). The default is close to 7400, but produces slightly smaller and slower code. Code built with these flags will still run on any processor; if you only want code that runs on one processor, you may use -mcpu=7400 and similar.

Produces better code for references to static and global data. Generally, you should use this option when building an executable. Do not use it when building shared libraries or plug-ins because the produced code is not valid for them.

Unrolls loops. Unrolling makes the code larger, but may make it faster by reducing the number of branches executed.

Enables some floating point optimizations that are not IEEE754-compliant, but which usually work. Programs which require strict IEEE compliance may not work with this option.

Optimize code by making more aggressive assumptions about whether pointers can point to the same objects as other pointers. Programs which use pointers a lot may benefit from this, but programs that don't strictly follow the ISO C rules about the type with which an object may be accessed may behave unexpectedly.

How to build the compiler yourself

We need to say where to get the source. Do we know?

Areas where we differ from gcc on other platforms

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