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3.1 Which Languages to Use

When you want to use a language that gets compiled and runs at high speed, the best language to use is C. Using another language is like using a non-standard feature: it will cause trouble for users. Even if GCC supports the other language, users may find it inconvenient to have to install the compiler for that other language in order to build your program. For example, if you write your program in C++, people will have to install the GNU C++ compiler in order to compile your program.

C has one other advantage over C++ and other compiled languages: more people know C, so more people will find it easy to read and modify the program if it is written in C.

So in general it is much better to use C, rather than the comparable alternatives.

But there are two exceptions to that conclusion:

Many programs are designed to be extensible: they include an interpreter for a language that is higher level than C. Often much of the program is written in that language, too. The Emacs editor pioneered this technique.

The standard extensibility interpreter for GNU software is GUILE (, which implements the language Scheme (an especially clean and simple dialect of Lisp). We don't reject programs written in other “scripting languages” such as Perl and Python, but using GUILE is very important for the overall consistency of the GNU system.

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