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2.8 Archives

An archive (or library) is just another BFD. It has a symbol table, although there's not much a user program will do with it.

The big difference between an archive BFD and an ordinary BFD is that the archive doesn't have sections. Instead it has a chain of BFDs that are considered its contents. These BFDs can be manipulated like any other. The BFDs contained in an archive opened for reading will all be opened for reading. You may put either input or output BFDs into an archive opened for output; they will be handled correctly when the archive is closed.

Use bfd_openr_next_archived_file to step through the contents of an archive opened for input. You don't have to read the entire archive if you don't want to! Read it until you find what you want.

Archive contents of output BFDs are chained through the next pointer in a BFD. The first one is findable through the archive_head slot of the archive. Set it with bfd_set_archive_head (q.v.). A given BFD may be in only one open output archive at a time.

As expected, the BFD archive code is more general than the archive code of any given environment. BFD archives may contain files of different formats (e.g., a.out and coff) and even different architectures. You may even place archives recursively into archives!

This can cause unexpected confusion, since some archive formats are more expressive than others. For instance, Intel COFF archives can preserve long filenames; SunOS a.out archives cannot. If you move a file from the first to the second format and back again, the filename may be truncated. Likewise, different a.out environments have different conventions as to how they truncate filenames, whether they preserve directory names in filenames, etc. When interoperating with native tools, be sure your files are homogeneous.

Beware: most of these formats do not react well to the presence of spaces in filenames. We do the best we can, but can't always handle this case due to restrictions in the format of archives. Many Unix utilities are braindead in regards to spaces and such in filenames anyway, so this shouldn't be much of a restriction.

Archives are supported in BFD in archive.c.

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