Difference between Compiler and Interpreter

We all have used computers at some point in our life. At times, we must have wondered how a computer accepts our language and gives command with an immediate output. But the fact is that the computer does not understand our textual language i.e. high-level language.

A high-level language is understandable only by us i.e. humans. It is called source code. Programming languages like C, C++, Java, etc. use high-level languages and they are very near to the English language.

On the contrary, the computer system understands only the low-level language. They are very close to the hardware. Low-level language generally means the binary 0’s and 1’s which is called machine code. Now let us see what is the concept of the Program.

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Difference between C and Java

A computer program is a set of instructions written by the user that the computer executes to perform a specific task given to the CPU. This was the technical definition. Let us see the actual meaning of a program in computer language. We are giving stress to this definition because it is very important for us to know the concept of the program to hold the grip in this article.

The program can be any software that runs on the computer. For example, it can be any video game, editing software, web browsers for surfing, or any system utilities.

Now coming back to our point: We have seen in the upper paragraph that a particular program first needs to be converted from high-level language to low-level language for our computer to understand.

For the above-said task, we need the compiler and interpreter for converting the program code into machine code. Both Compiler and interpreter perform the same task of conversion; still, there are some differences. Let us see the pointwise difference between compiler and interpreter.

Compiler vs Interpreter

The difference between compiler and interpreter is summarised in the following table.

Compiler Interpreter
Compiler scans the whole program and converts it into machine code. The interpreter converts one statement at a time.
The compiler takes a large amount of time to analyze the source code. An interpreter takes less amount of time to analyze the source code.
User cannot change the program without going back to the source code. Interpreted programs can run on your computer if you have the concerned interpreter.
It is based on linking – loading model It is based on the Interpretation model
It saves machine language as machine code. It does not save machine language as machine code at all.
Execution of the program is different from the compilation process. The program gets executed only and only after the entire output code is compiled. Execution of the program is a part of the interpretation process. So the program gets executed line by line during the process of interpretation.
The compiler creates intermediate machine code. Interpreter never creates an intermediate machine code.
The compiler flashes all the errors and warnings at the time of compilation. Hence the user cannot run the program without solving the errors. While on the contrary, the Interpreter takes one statement at a time and shows the error if any. The user needs to correct the error and then interpret the next line.
Use of compiler is best suited for Production Environment Use of interpreter is best suited for Development Environment
Programming languages like C, C++, Java, Scala uses Compiler. Programming languages like Python, Ruby, Perl, PHP uses Interpreter.

What is compiler?

We, humans, are comfortable in a language that seems easy to understand. We can perform our tasks well if we are instructed in an easy and compatible language. Similarly, the computer system is comfortable with machine-level language or low-level language. It can perform the instructions very well and speedily with the binary digits i.e. with 0’s and 1’s.

Compilers are very heavy programs. Some compilers convert the high-level language into the intermediate assembly language and it is then converted (assembled) into the machine level language. Also, some compilers convert directly without the assistance of assembly code. It reads the source code and gives output for the executable code. Compilers convert the whole program at a time and hence finding errors becomes a hectic task for the users. This process of compilation is eventually a bit complicated and takes a lot of time in analyzing the process.

What is Interpreter?

We all have a satisfactory grasp of the concept of compilation. Not the same is the condition for an interpreter. An interpreter is a computer program that converts each high-level program statement into machine-level code. This includes source code, pre-compiled code, and scripts. Interpreters convert code into machine-level code when the program is run.

Unlike compiler, the interpreter converts line by line code, and hence finding errors is relatively easy compared to the compiler. The interpreter allows evaluation and modification of the program while it is been executed. Time taken for executing the program is relatively slow as compared to the compiler. Perl, Ruby, Python uses interpreter.

Now, we are almost clear with the differences between compiler and interpreter.

Shraddha Changune
SVKM’s Institute of Technology, Dhule

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