Blogs (1) >>
ICSE 2019
Sat 25 - Fri 31 May 2019 Montreal, QC, Canada

Highly-configurable systems written in C form our most critical computing infrastructure. The preprocessor is integral to C, because conditional compilation enables such systems to produce efficient object code. However, the preprocessor makes code harder to reason about for both humans and tools. Previous approaches to this challenge developed new program analyses for unpreprocessed source code or developed new languages and constructs to replace the preprocessor. But having special-purpose analyses means maintaining a new toolchain, while new languages face adoption challenges and do not help with existing software. We propose the best of worlds: eliminate the preprocessor but preserve its benefits. Our design replaces preprocessor usage with C itself, augmented with syntax-preserving, backwards-compatible dependent types. We discuss automated conditional compilation to replicate preprocessor performance. Our approach opens new directions for research into new compiler optimizations, dependent types for configurable software, and automated translation away from preprocessor use.