Compiling Source Code

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Compiling your own source code from NP++

This guide will explain how to use NppExec to compile sources with associated compilers

As a Notepad++ user, did you ever think about ability to compile your source file with its associated compiler in a single action? You may use the NppExec plugin to perform certain actions on your files, but what about the automatization? What if you want your .c files to be compiled with tcc, .cpp files to be compiled with g++ and .awk files to be interpretted with gawk automatically, without explicit call to required compiler or interpretter? Is it possible? Yes, NppExec ALREADY allows you to do this. All you need is some imagination and several things to do. And I'm about to tell what is needed.

Let's begin with several theoretical questions. At first, how can NppExec understand which compiler/interpretter is required by your current source file? NppExec is not a compiler, it does not have any information about your file and does not know what to do with it. Moreover, Notepad++ itself is not such IDE as Visual C++ Express or Dev-C++, it does not include any compiler and also does not know what to do with your source file. So, the only way to compile your source file with required compiler is to tell Notepad++ (to tell NppExec in our case) which compiler to use and how to use it. This is the solution which you may use already - explicit usage of certain compiler/interpretter with certain source file. For example, you may want to compile and run your .c source file with tcc. A simple NppExec's script can be created for this purpose:

"C:\tools\tcc\tcc.exe" "$(FULL_CURRENT_PATH)" -run

The full path "C:\tools\tcc\tcc.exe" specifies a path to required compiler; Notepad++'es environment variable "$(FULL_CURRENT_PATH)" specifies full path name to your current source file; and "-run" in tcc's command line means "run compiled source". The full path was given in quotes, because, in general, it can contain spaces. Now, we are talking about NppExec's script. It assumes the script has been created and saved with some name which identified that script. If you are not sure about NppExec's script creation & saving, let me guide you.

To create & save some NppExec's script, do the following:

  1. Open NppExec's "Execute..." window: press the hotkey (F6 by default), or select Plugins -> NppExec -> Execute...
  2. Type the text of your script in the "Execute..." window. For example:

    "C:\tools\tcc\tcc.exe" "$(FULL_CURRENT_PATH)" -run

  3. Save this new script: press the "Save..." button, type your script name

(for example, type "run@.c") and press Save.

Now you can compile & run any single .c file opened in Notepad++. To do it, press F6 (default hotkey for the "Execute..." window), select "run@.c" in the combo-box and press OK. You can press Ctrl+F6 (by default) to execute the same script again without showing the "Execute..." window.

As you can see, currently you have to call the "run@.c" script explicitly in order to compile & run your .c source file. Thus, to compile & run another source file (.cpp, .asm, .php, .lua, ...) you also have to call corresponding script explicitly. [The last sentence assumes you have created separate scripts for every language you use (.cpp, .asm, .php, .lua, ...)] However, we don't want to call required script explicitly. We want NppExec to call the "run@.c" script for a .c file and call different script required for different (.cpp, .asm, .php, .lua, ...) file automatically. So, a question: how can we do it? The first part of the answer is in your source file's extension. There is such environment varible as $(EXT_PART) which contains the extension of current file opened in Notepad++. The second part of the answer is in NppExec's internal command NPP_EXEC. As you probably know already, this command expects an existing script name or a script file name as its first argument. The purpose of this command is to execute specified NppExec's script. Thus, if you use NPP_EXEC command, and its first argument (a script to be executed) depends on current file's extension, you can call different scripts for different file types from one starting script! Let's examine it in more detail.

We are about to create a general NppExec's script which would allow us to call different scripts for different source files depending on their extension. In other words, we use the NPP_EXEC command to call required script, and the script name depends on current file's extension. The name of the script above, "run@.c", consists of two parts: the prefix "run@" and the extension ".c". As the file's extension can be got from Notepad++, we can write general form of this script's name: "run@$(EXT_PART)". It's not hard to understand that this script's name transforms to "run@.cpp" for .cpp source file, "run@.lua" for .lua source file and so on. So, let's create our general compile-or-run script which will be called each time you want compile or run ANY source file:

// save current file
// construct the script name to be called
SET Compiler = run@$(EXT_PART)
// call the script
NPP_EXEC "$(Compiler)"

Save this script as "compile_or_run". Now this is your only starting script which will allow you to compile or run ANY source file. I.e. press F6, select the "compile_or_run" and press OK in order to compile or run ANY source file. However, don't forget that this script requires existing scripts for every source file you want to compile. Thus, "run@.cpp" must exist to compile a .cpp file, "run@.php" must exist to compile a .php file and so on. You can see several examples of such scripts below:

C:\tools\tcc\tcc.exe" "$(FULL_CURRENT_PATH)" -run
SET g++ = C:\Dev-Cpp\bin\g++.exe
"$(g++)" -c "$(FULL_CURRENT_PATH)" -o "$(obj).o"
"$(g++)" "$(obj).o" -o "$(obj).exe"
NPP_RUN "$(obj).exe"
"C:\tools\gawk\gawk.exe" -f "$(FULL_CURRENT_PATH)"

All of these scripts will be started automatically from the "compile_or_run" script for .c, .cpp and .awk files. You can create more "run@..." scripts to support any source file extension you use.

Now, let's return to our "compile_or_run" script. It uses the NPP_EXEC command which supports a script file name as its first argument. What does it mean? It means you can execute NppExec's script from a file. As you can see, current implementation of the "compile_or_run" script requires a lot of additional "run@..." scripts to exist together with other scripts which you may want to call explicitly. In the same time, you do not call the "run@..." scripts explicitly. So, the "run@..." scripts may be undesired in the NppExec's script combo-box (in the "Execute..." window). Thus, you may modify the "compile_or_run" script in order to call script files instead of internal scripts. For example:


SET Compiler = C:\tools\NppExec Scripts\run@$(EXT_PART).txt
NPP_EXEC "$(Compiler)"

Now you must create a directory "C:\tools\NppExec Scripts" which contains the following files: "run@.c.txt", "run@.cpp.txt", "run@.awk.txt" and so on. The text of these files must be exactly the same as in the scripts "run@.c", "run@.cpp" and "run@.awk" above. E.g. the file "C:\tools\NppExec Scripts\run@.awk.txt" must contain

"C:\tools\gawk\gawk.exe" -f "$(FULL_CURRENT_PATH)"

and so on for other file extensions (.c, .cpp, ...). To read more information about the NPP_EXEC command, open the NppExec's Console in Notepad++, and type:

help npp_exec

and press Enter. To get general NppExec's help information, type just


and press Enter.

One more thing regarding NppExec usage. Compiler/interpreter's output is shown in NppExec's Console and can be parsed by NppExec. It means that different error/warning messages can be shown using different colours, and you can jump to corresponding line in the source file by double-clicking on such warning or error message in the NppExec's Console. To enable such parsing, you must tell NppExec what form do these error/warning messages have (i.e. specify the message mask). You can configure it from (main menu) Plugins -> NppExec -> Console Output Filters... -> HighLight. That window contains an example of parsing (highlighting) masks for GCC:

Example 1: %ABSFILE%:%LINE%: warning:* => detects the warning lines from gcc Example 2: %ABSFILE%:%LINE%: error:* => detects the error lines from gcc

I.e. to enable detection (parsing) of GCC errors in NppExec, you must specify the mask of the compiler's error line ("%ABSFILE%:%LINE%: error:*") and, optionally, specify Red, Green and Blue components of the line to be highlighted and, also optionally, this line can be shown using Italic, Bold and/or Underlined font typeface. And, of course, corresponding check-box must be checked to enable this parsing mask. For example, if you want to see GCC's errors as Bold lines with Red colour and GCC's warnings as Italic lines with Blue colour, it will look similar to the following:

[v] [%ABSFILE%:%LINE%: error:* ] 0x80 0x00 0x00 [ ] [v] [ ] [v] [%ABSFILE%:%LINE%: warning:* ] 0x00 0x00 0x80 [v] [ ] [ ]

Well, seems it's time to finish the guide. I hope this guide was usefull for you, because otherwise it was waste of time for both of us: the reader (you) and the writer (me). If you like this guide, I hope it will inspire you to find your own useful application of NppExec's functions, and maybe to share it with us.

The scripts above make ise of facilities which can be used to do many more than compiling stuff. You will find the complete picture at External Programs.