Application binary interface
In computer software, an application binary interface (ABI) is the interface between two program modules, one of which is often a library or operating system, at the level of machine code. An ABI determines such details as how functions are called and in which binary format information should be passed from one program component to the next, or to the operating system in the case of a system call.
Adhering to ABIs (which may or may not be officially standardized) is usually the job of the compiler, OS or library writer, but application programmers may have to deal with ABIs directly when writing programs in a mix of programming languages, using foreign function call interfaces between them.
ABIs cover details such as:
- the sizes, layout, and alignment of data types
- the calling convention, which controls how functions' arguments are passed and return values retrieved; for example, whether all parameters are passed on the stack or some are passed in registers, which registers are used for which function parameters, and whether the first function parameter passed on the stack is pushed first or last onto the stack
- how an application should make system calls to the operating system and, if the ABI specifies direct system calls rather than procedure calls to system call stubs, the system call numbers
- and in the case of a complete operating system ABI, the binary format of object files, program libraries and so on.
A complete ABI, such as the Intel Binary Compatibility Standard (iBCS), allows a program from one operating system supporting that ABI to run without modifications on any other such system, provided that necessary shared libraries are present, and similar prerequisites are fulfilled.
Other ABIs standardize details such as the C++ name mangling, exception propagation, and calling convention between compilers on the same platform, but do not require cross-platform compatibility.
An embedded-application binary interface (EABI) specifies standard conventions for file formats, data types, register usage, stack frame organization, and function parameter passing of an embedded software program.
Compilers that support the EABI create object code that is compatible with code generated by other such compilers, allowing developers to link libraries generated with one compiler with object code generated with another compiler. Developers writing their own assembly language code may also use the EABI to interface with assembly generated by a compliant compiler.
The main differences between an EABI and an ABI for general-purpose operating systems are that privileged instructions are allowed in application code, dynamic linking is not required (sometimes it is completely disallowed), and a more compact stack frame organization is used to save memory. The choice of EABI can affect performance.
- Intel Binary Compatibility Standard (iBCS)
- Itanium C++ ABI (compatible with multiple architectures)
- Itanium C++ ABI: Exception Handling (compatible with multiple architectures)
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- "PowerPC Embedded Processors Application Note"
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- KDE Techbase Policies – a compendium of development rules of thumb (with some examples) for not breaking binary compatibility between library releases
- ABI Analysis Tools – a set of open-source tools for analysis of ABI and backward binary compatibility implementing KDE Techbase Policies
- Mac OS X ABI Function Call Guide
- Debian ARM EABI port
- µClib: Motorola 8/16-bit embedded ABI
- AMD64 (x86-64) Application Binary Interface
- Application Binary Interface (ABI) for the ARM Architecture
- MIPS EABI documentation
- Sun Studio 10 Compilers and the AMD64 ABI – a summary and comparison of some popular ABIs
- M•CORE Applications Binary Interface Standards Manual for the Freescale M·CORE processors