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Re: ld-auto-import documentation update

Additional modifications to Ralf's improved documentation.

2002-12-18  Charles Wilson  <>

	* ld.texinfo: clarify and extend the documentation
	in the Machine Dependent, WIN32 section.

Index: ld.texinfo
RCS file: /cvs/src/src/ld/ld.texinfo,v
retrieving revision 1.78
diff -u -r1.78 ld.texinfo
--- ld.texinfo	18 Dec 2002 16:25:02 -0000	1.78
+++ ld.texinfo	18 Dec 2002 21:33:51 -0000
@@ -4453,52 +4453,110 @@
 @table @emph
 @cindex import libraries 
 @item import libraries 
-The standard Windows linker creates and uses so called import
+The standard Windows linker creates and uses so-called import
 libraries, which contains information for linking to dll's.  They are
-regular static archives and could be handled as any other static
-archive.  The cygwin and mingw ports of @command{ld} has specific
+regular static archives and are handled as any other static
+archive.  The cygwin and mingw ports of @command{ld} have specific
 support for creating such libraries provided with the
 @samp{--out-implib} command line option.
 @cindex automatic data imports
 @item automatic data imports
 The standard Windows dll format supports data imports from dlls only
-by adding special decorations (dllimport/dllexport), which lets the
+by adding special decorations (dllimport/dllexport), which let the
 compiler produce specific assembler instructions to deal with this
-issue.  This increase the needed porting efforts, especially for big
+issue.  This increases the effort necessary to port existing Un*x 
+code to these platforms, especially for large
 c++ libraries and applications.  The auto-import feature, which was
-initially provided by Paul Sokolovsky, allows this decoration to be
-skipped, archiving a behavior more like @command{ld} on other
-platforms.  This feature is enabled with the @samp{--enable-auto-import} 
-command line option.
+initially provided by Paul Sokolovsky, allows one to omit the 
+decorations to archieve a behavior that conforms to that on POSIX/Un*x
+platforms. This feature is enabled with the @samp{--enable-auto-import} 
+command-line option, although it is enabled by default on cygwin/mingw.
+The @samp{--enable-auto-import} option itself now serves mainly to
+suppress any warnings that are ordinarily emitted when linked objects
+trigger the feature's use.
+auto-import of variables does not always work flawlessly without 
+additional assistance.  Sometimes, you will see this message
+"variable '<var>' can't be auto-imported. Please read the 
+documentation for ld's @code{--enable-auto-import} for details."
+The @samp{--enable-auto-import} documentation explains why this error 
+occurs, and several methods that can be used to overcome this difficulty.  
+One of these methods is the @emph{runtime pseudo-relocs} feature, described 
+@cindex runtime pseudo-relocation
+For complex variables imported from DLLs (such as structs or classes), 
+object files typically contain a base address for the variable and an 
+offset (@emph{addend}) within the variable--to specify a particular 
+field or public member, for instance.  Unfortunately, the runtime loader used 
+in win32 environments is incapable of fixing these references at runtime 
+without the additional information supplied by dllimport/dllexport decorations.
+The standard auto-import feature described above is unable to resolve these 
+The @samp{--enable-runtime-pseudo-relocs} switch allows these references to 
+be resolved without error, while leaving the task of adjusting the references 
+themselves (with their non-zero addends) to specialized code provided by the 
+runtime environment.  Recent versions of the cygwin and mingw environments and 
+compilers provide this runtime support; older versions do not.  However, the 
+support is only necessary on the developer's platform; the compiled result will 
+run without error on an older system.
+@samp{--enable-runtime-pseudo-relocs} is not the default; it must be explicitly 
+enabled as needed. 
 @cindex direct linking to a dll
 @item direct linking to a dll
 The cygwin/mingw ports of @command{ld} support the direct linking,
 including data symbols, to a dll without the usage of any import
-libraries.  Using this feature can save a lot of linking time and
-memory, especially in case of bigger libraries or applications.  This
-is because bigger libraries can have very large import libraries.  (The
-author has seen import libraries about 10 MB size).
-Linking directly to a dll can done with the standard command line
-options @samp{-L} and @samp{-l}.  This is because @command{ld} has
-built in support for several dll names, as shown below.  In this list
-@samp{xxx} means the basic library name like "png" for the png
+libraries.  This is much faster and uses much less memory than does the
+traditional import library method, expecially when linking large
+libraries or applications.  When @command{ld} creates an import lib, each 
+function or variable exported from the dll is stored in its own bfd, even 
+though a single bfd could contain many exports.  The overhead involved in 
+storing, loading, and processing so many bfd's is quite large, and explains the
+tremendous time, memory, and storage needed to link against particularly 
+large or complex libraries when using import libs.
+Linking directly to a dll uses no extra command-line switches other than 
+@samp{-L} and @samp{-l}, because @command{ld} already searches for a number
+of names to match each library.  All that is needed from the developer's 
+perspective is an understanding of this search, in order to force ld to
+select the dll instead of an import library.
+For instance, when ld is called with the argument @samp{-lxxx} it will attempt
+to find, in the first directory of its search path,
+cygxxx.dll (*)
 @end example
+before moving on to the next directory in the search path.
+(*) Actually, this is not @samp{cygxxx.dll} but in fact is @samp{<prefix>xxx.dll}, 
+where @samp{<prefix>} is set by the @command{ld} option 
+@samp{--dll-search-prefix=<prefix>}. In the case of cygwin, the standard gcc spec 
+file includes @samp{--dll-search-prefix=cyg}, so in effect we actually search for 
+Other win32-based unix environments, such as mingw or pw32, may use other 
+@samp{<prefix>}es, although at present only cygwin makes use of this feature.  It 
+was originally intended to help avoid name conflicts among dll's built for the
+various win32/un*x environments, so that (for example) two versions of a zlib dll
+could coexist on the same machine.
 The generic cygwin/mingw path layout uses a @samp{bin} directory for
 applications and dll's and a @samp{lib} directory for the import
+libraries (using cygwin nomenclature):
@@ -4508,13 +4566,19 @@
 	libxxx.a       (in case of static archive) 
 @end example
-Linking to a dll can be done by two ways: 
+Linking directly to a dll without using the import library can be 
+done two ways: 
 1. Use the dll directly by adding the @samp{bin} path to the link line
 gcc -Wl,-verbose  -o a.exe -L../bin/ -lxxx
 @end example 
+However, as the dll's often have version numbers appended to their names
+(@samp{cygncurses-5.dll}) this will often fail, unless one specifies
+@samp{-L../bin -lncurses-5} to include the version.  Import libs are generally
+not versioned, and do not have this difficulty.
 2. Create a symbolic link from the dll to a file in the @samp{lib}
 directory according to the above mentioned search pattern.  This
 should be used to avoid unwanted changes in the tools needed for
@@ -4529,6 +4593,46 @@
 gcc -Wl,-verbose  -o a.exe -L../lib/ -lxxx
 @end example 
+This technique also avoids the version number problems, because the following is
+perfectly legal
+	cygxxx-5.dll
+	libxxx.dll.a -> ../bin/cygxxx-5.dll 
+@end example
+Linking directly to a dll without using an import lib will work 
+even when auto-import features are exercised, and even when
+@samp{--enable-runtime-pseudo-relocs} is used.
+Given the improvements in speed and memory usage, one might justifiably
+wonder why import libraries are used at all.  There are three reasons:
+1. Until recently, the link-directly-to-dll functionality did @emph{not}
+work with auto-imported data.
+2. Sometimes, it is useful to rename exports.  For instance, the cygwin
+kernel does this regularly: a symbol @samp{_foo} will be exported as 
+@samp{_foo}, but also as @samp{foo} by using special directives in the
+DEF file when creating the import library.  This ability is not
+present without import libs.
+3. Also, it's sometimes necessary to include pure static objects 
+within the import library (which otherwise contains only bfd's for
+indirection symbols that point to the exports of a dll).  Again, 
+the import lib for the cygwin kernel makes use of this ability, and
+it is not possible to do this without an import lib.
+So, import libs are not going away.  But the ability to replace
+true import libs with a simple symbolic link to (or a copy of) 
+a dll, in most cases, is a useful addition to the suite of tools 
+binutils makes available to the win32 developer.  Given the 
+massive improvements in memory requirements during linking, storage
+requirements, and linking speed, we expect that many developers
+will soon begin to use this feature whenever possible.
 @end table
 @ifclear GENERIC

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