python what - Is it feasible to compile Python to machine code?

6 Answers

Try ShedSkin Python-to-C++ compiler, but it is far from perfect. Also there is Psyco - Python JIT if only speedup is needed. But IMHO this is not worth the effort. For speed-critical parts of code best solution would be to write them as C/C++ extensions.

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How feasible would it be to compile Python (possibly via an intermediate C representation) into machine code?

Presumably it would need to link to a Python runtime library, and any parts of the Python standard library which were Python themselves would need to be compiled (and linked in) too.

Also, you would need to bundle the Python interpreter if you wanted to do dynamic evaluation of expressions, but perhaps a subset of Python that didn't allow this would still be useful.

Would it provide any speed and/or memory usage advantages? Presumably the startup time of the Python interpreter would be eliminated (although shared libraries would still need loading at startup).

Nuitka is a Python to C++ compiler that links against libpython. It appears to be a relatively new project. The author claims a speed improvement over CPython on the pystone benchmark.

This might seem reasonable at first glance, however there are a lot of ordinary things in Python that aren't directly mappable to to a C representation without carrying over a lot of the Python runtime support. For example, duck typing comes to mind. Many functions in Python that read input can take a file or file-like object, as long as it supports certain operations, eg. read() or readline(). If you think about what it would take to map this type of support to C, you begin to imagine exactly the sorts of things that the Python runtime system already does.

There are utilities such as py2exe that will bundle a Python program and runtime into a single executable (as far as possible).

Psyco is a kind of just-in-time (JIT) compiler: dynamic compiler for Python, runs code 2-100 times faster, but it needs much memory.

In short: it run your existing Python software much faster, with no change in your source but it doesn't compile to object code the same way a C compiler would.

The answer is "Yes, it is possible". You could take Python code and attempt to compile it into the equivalent C code using the CPython API. In fact, there used to be a Python2C project that did just that, but I haven't heard about it in many years (back in the Python 1.5 days is when I last saw it.)

You could attempt to translate the Python code into native C as much as possible, and fall back to the CPython API when you need actual Python features. I've been toying with that idea myself the last month or two. It is, however, an awful lot of work, and an enormous amount of Python features are very hard to translate into C: nested functions, generators, anything but simple classes with simple methods, anything involving modifying module globals from outside the module, etc, etc.


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