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Difference between Object code and Source code

In this article, you will learn about the difference between Object and Source code. But before discussing the differences, you must know about Object and Source code.

What is Object Code?

Object code is code that computers and other devices can understand. It is generated from a program's source code after a procedure known as compilation or translation. Consider it a modified version of the original code that computers can run instantly.

You utilize source code, a human-readable language, to create computer programs. However, this source code is not immediately understood by computers. The original code must instead be transformed into a form that computers can understand and use. A specific program known as a compiler or translator performs this conversion.

The result of this conversion is the object code. It is formatted so that the Central Processing Unit (CPU) of the computer's processor can read and understand. The object code comprises a series of instructions that specify to the CPU what steps or operations to take.

Object code is typically stored in a file known as an object file. Some examples of object file formats are Common Object File Format (COFF), COM files, and ".exe" files. These files contain the machine-readable instructions that the computer can execute.

Unlike source code, object code is not easily understandable by humans. It is written in a binary format, consisting of ones and zeros, which is not readily readable as plain text. While we can read and understand source code, object code is intended for the computer's consumption rather than human comprehension.

What is Source Code?

The "original recipe" for a computer program is its source code. It is a software program written by programmers in a human-readable language such as Python, Java, or C++.

Consider you want to make a robot. The set of instructions you write to inform the robot what to do and how to accomplish it is similar to the source code. It is the computer code that programmers create in a human-understandable programming language by combining words, numbers, and special commands.

The magic is in the source code. It includes the rules, formulas, and instructions that specify how the program works. Developers create this code to address certain issues or complete particular tasks. It's similar to creating a comprehensive blueprint or plan for the robot.

The flexibility of source code allows for customization and modification. Developers can alter the source code to add new features, correct faults, or improve the performance of a program, as you can edit and modify the robot's instructions to carry out various jobs.

With the help of a text editor or an Integrated Development Environment (IDE), source code is normally created in plain text format. It is made up of lines of code that contain declarations, variables, functions, and other parts that make up the logic of the program.

Although source code is understandable by humans, computers cannot directly execute it. It needs to be translated into a machine-readable format called object code which the computer's processor can execute.

Head-to-head comparison Object code and Source code:

Here's a comparison table explaining the difference between object code and source code in a more accessible format:

Object Code Source Code
Machine-readable format Human-readable format
Generated from source code after compilation or translation The original version of the program
Consists of instructions in a format that computers can directly execute Consists of instructions written in a programming language that humans can understand
Contains binary code (0s and 1s) Written in plain text format using words, numbers, and special commands
Not easily understandable by humans Readable and comprehensible by humans
Stored in object files, such as COFF, COM, or .exe files Stored in source code files with extensions like .py, .java, or .cpp
Result of the transformation process from source code to machine code The starting point for developing and modifying a program
Requires an interpreter or linker to convert it into executable code Does not require any additional processing to be understood
Used for execution and running of the program Used for understanding, modifying, and maintaining the program

This table provides a simplified comparison between object code and source code, highlighting the key differences in their formats, understandability, generation processes, storage, and usage.

Main Differences between Source code and Object code

The following are some major differences between source code and object code:

  • Readability: Source code is like a book written in a language that humans can understand. It is readable and makes sense to programmers. On the other hand, object code is like a coded message that is only understood by computers. It is not something humans can easily read or understand.
  • Editability: Source code is like a document that you can freely edit and modify. Programmers can make changes add new features, or fix bugs by working with the source code. However, object code is like a fixed result that comes from the source code. Once the source code is transformed into object code, it is challenging to change it directly.
  • Portability: Source code is like a versatile recipe that can be adapted for different kitchens or cooking methods. Programmers can compile or translate the source code for different platforms or computer architectures, allowing it to run on various systems. In contrast, object code is more specific. It's like a dish that's prepared and ready to serve for a particular type of kitchen or cooking method. It's tied to a specific platform or architecture, limiting its portability.
  • Size: Source code is typically larger compared to object code. It contains additional information like comments, white spaces, and meaningful variable names that make it easier for humans to understand. However, Object code is optimized for execution. It removes unnecessary details and is in a compact binary format, resulting in smaller file sizes.
  • Debugging: Debugging source code is like solving a puzzle with clear instructions. Programmers can easily trace through the code, understand what's happening, and identify and fix issues. On the other hand, debugging object code requires specialized tools and techniques. It's like trying to solve a puzzle with a complex cipher where the underlying meaning is not readily visible.
  • Security: Source code is vulnerable to unauthorized access and theft, as it's in a human-readable format. It's like having a recipe book that someone could copy or steal. On the other hand, object code is more secure because it is written in a binary format. It's like a secret code that is difficult for unauthorized individuals to understand or reverse-engineer.

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