Bflat Save

C# as you know it but with Go-inspired tooling (small, selfcontained, and native executables)

Project README

bflat

C# as you know it but with Go-inspired tooling that produces small, selfcontained, and native executables out of the box.

$ echo 'System.Console.WriteLine("Hello World");' > hello.cs
$ bflat build hello.cs
$ ./hello
Hello World
$ bflat build hello.cs --os:windows
$ file ./hello.exe
hello.exe: PE32+ executable (console) x86-64, for MS Windows

🎻 What exactly is bflat

bflat is a concoction of Roslyn - the "official" C# compiler that produces .NET executables - and NativeAOT (née CoreRT) - the ahead of time compiler for .NET based on CoreCLR. Thanks to this, you get access to the latest C# features using the high performance CoreCLR GC and native code generator (RyuJIT).

bflat merges the two components together into a single ahead of time crosscompiler and runtime for C#.

bflat can currently target:

  • x64 glibc-based Linux
  • x64 Windows

Support for ARM64 and musl-based Linux is in the works.

bflat can either produce native executables, or native shared libraries that can be called from other languages through FFI.

🥁 Where to get bflat

Look at the Releases tab of this repo and download a compiler that matches your host system. These are all crosscompilers and can target any of the supported OSes/architectures.

Unzip the archive to a convenient location and add the root to your PATH. You're all set. See the samples directory for a couple samples.

🎷 I don't see dotnet, MSBuild, or NuGet

That's the point. bflat is to dotnet as VS Code is to VS.

🎙 Where is the source code

The source code is split between this repo and bflattened/runtime. The bflattened/runtime repo is a regularly updated fork of the dotnet/runtime repo that contains non-upstreamable bflat-specific changes. The bflattened/runtime repo produces compiler and runtime binaries that this repo consumes.

📻 How to stay up-to-date on bflat?

Follow me on Twitter.

🎺 Optimizing output for size

By default, bflat produces executables that are between 2 MB and 3 MB in size, even for the simplest apps. There are multiple reasons for this:

  • bflat includes stack trace data about all compiled methods so that it can print pretty exception stack traces
  • even the simplest apps might end up calling into reflection (to e.g. get the name of the OutOfMemoryException class), globalization, etc.
  • method bodies are aligned at 16-byte boundaries to optimize CPU cache line utilization
  • (Doesn't apply to Windows) DWARF debug information is included in the executable

The "bigger" defaults are chosen for friendliness and convenience. To get an experience that more closely matches low level programming languages, specify --no-reflection, --no-stacktrace-data, --no-globalization, and --no-exception-messages arguments to bflat build.

Best to show an example. Following program:

using System.Diagnostics;
using static System.Console;

WriteLine($"NullReferenceException message is: {new NullReferenceException().Message}");
WriteLine($"The runtime type of int is named: {typeof(int)}");
WriteLine($"Type of boxed integer is{(123.GetType() == typeof(int) ? "" : " not")} equal to typeof(int)");
WriteLine($"Type of boxed integer is{(123.GetType() == typeof(byte) ? "" : " not")} equal to typeof(byte)");
WriteLine($"Upper case of 'Вторник' is '{"Вторник".ToUpper()}'");
WriteLine($"Current stack frame is {new StackTrace().GetFrame(0)}");

will print this by default:

NullReferenceException message is: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.
The runtime type of int is named: System.Int32
Type of boxed integer is equal to typeof(int)
Type of boxed integer is not equal to typeof(byte)
Upper case of 'Вторник' is 'ВТОРНИК'
Current stack frame is <Program>$.<Main>$(String[]) + 0x154 at offset 340 in file:line:column <filename unknown>:0:0

But it will print this with all above arguments specified:

NullReferenceException message is: Arg_NullReferenceException
The runtime type of int is named: EETypeRva:0x00048BD0
Type of boxed integer is equal to typeof(int)
Type of boxed integer is not equal to typeof(byte)
Upper case of 'Вторник' is 'Вторник'
Current stack frame is ms!<BaseAddress>+0xb82d4 at offset 340 in file:line:column <filename unknown>:0:0

With all options turned on, one can comfortably fit useful programs under 1 MB. The above program is 735 kB on Windows at the time of writing this. The output executables are executables like any other. You can use a tool like UPX to compress them further (to ~300 kB range).

If you're on a Unix-like system, you might want to run strip tool to remove debug information from the executable. Windows places the debug information in a separate PDB file and strip is not needed.

🎸 Preprocessor definitions

Besides the preprocessor definitions provided at the command line, bflat defines several other symbols: BFLAT (defined always), DEBUG (defined when not optimizing), WINDOWS/LINUX/MACOS (when the corresponding operating system is the target), X86/X64/ARM/ARM64 (when the corresponding architecture is targeted).

🎹 Debugging bflat apps

Apps compiled with bflat debug same as any other native code. Launch the produced executable under your favorite debugger (gdb or lldb on Linux, or Visual Studio or WinDbg on Windows) and you'll be able to set breakpoints, step, and see local variables.

Open Source Agenda is not affiliated with "Bflat" Project. README Source: bflattened/bflat
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