[Python-Dev] Status of C compilers for Python on Windows

Nathaniel Smith njs at pobox.com
Sat Oct 11 20:32:22 CEST 2014

I'm not at all an expert on Fortran ABIs, but I think there are two
distinct issues being conflated here.

The first is that there is no standard way to look at some Fortran source
code and figure out the corresponding C API. When trying to call a Fortran
routine from C, then different Fortran compilers require different sorts of
name mangling, different ways of mapping Fortran concepts like "output
arguments" onto C concepts like "pointers", etc., so your C code needs to
have explicit knowledge of which Fortran compiler is in use. That's what
Sturla was referring to with the differences between g77 versus gfortran
etc. This is all very annoying, but it isn't a *deep* bad - it can be
solved by unilateral action by whatever project wants to link the Fortran

The bigger problem is that getting a usable DLL at all is a serious
challenge. Some of the issues we deal with: (a) the classic, stable mingw
has no 64-bit support, (b) the only portable way to compile fortran (f2c)
only works for the ancient fortran 77, (c) getting even mingw-w64 to use a
msvc-compatible ABI is not trivial (I have no idea why this is the case,
but it is), (d)
dlls normally depend on the mingw runtime dlls. Because these aren't
shipped globally with Python, they have to be either linked statically or
else a separate copy of them has to be placed into every directory that
contains any mingw-compiled extension module.

All the runtime and ABI issues do mean that it would be much easier to use
mingw(-w64) to build extension modules if Python itself were built with
mingw(-w64). Obviously this would in turn make it harder to build
extensions with MSVC, though, which would be a huge transition. I don't
know whether gcc's advantages (support for more modern C, better
cross-platform compatibility, better accessibility to non-windows-experts,
etc.) would outweigh the transition and other costs.

As an intermediate step, there are almost certainly things that could be
done to make it easier to use mingw-w64 to build python extensions, e.g.
teaching setuptools about how to handle the ABI issues. Maybe it would even
be possible to ship the mingw runtimes in some globally available location.

On 11 Oct 2014 17:07, "Steve Dower" <Steve.Dower at microsoft.com> wrote:

>   Is there some reason the Fortran part can't be separated out into a
> DLL? That's the C ABI Antoine was referring to, and most compilers can
> generate import libraries from binaries, even if the original compiler
> produced then in a different format.
> Top-posted from my Windows Phone
>  ------------------------------
> From: Sturla Molden <sturla.molden at gmail.com>
> Sent: ‎10/‎11/‎2014 7:22
> To: python-dev at python.org
> Subject: Re: [Python-Dev] Status of C compilers for Python on Windows
>   Antoine Pitrou <solipsis at pitrou.net> wrote:
> > It sound like whatever MSVC produces should be the defacto standard
> > under Windows.
> Yes, and that is what Clang does on Windows. It is not as usable as MinGW
> yet, but soon it will be. Clang also suffers fronthe lack of a Fortran
> compiler, though.
> Sturla
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