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Chapter 5  The IDL compiler

omniORBpy’s IDL compiler is called omniidl. It consists of a generic front-end parser written in C++, and a number of back-ends written in Python. omniidl is very strict about IDL validity, so you may find that it reports errors in IDL which compiles fine with other IDL compilers.

The general form of an omniidl command line is:

omniidl [options] -b<back-end> [back-end options] <file 1>

5.1  Common options

The following options are common to all back-ends:

-bback-end Run the specified back-end. For omniORBpy, use -bpython.
-Dname[=value] Define name for the preprocessor.
-Uname Undefine name for the preprocessor.
-Idir Include dir in the preprocessor search path.
-E Only run the preprocessor, sending its output to stdout.
-Ycmd Use cmd as the preprocessor, rather than the normal C preprocessor.
-N Do not run the preprocessor.
-T Use a temporary file, not a pipe, for preprocessor output.
-Wparg[,arg…] Send arguments to the preprocessor.
-Wbarg[,arg…] Send arguments to the back-end.
-nf Do not warn about unresolved forward declarations.
-k Keep comments after declarations, to be used by some back-ends.
-K Keep comments before declarations, to be used by some back-ends.
-Cdir Change directory to dir before writing output files.
-d Dump the parsed IDL then exit, without running a back-end.
-pdir Use dir as a path to find omniidl back-ends.
-V Print version information then exit.
-u Print usage information.
-v Verbose: trace compilation stages.

Most of these options are self explanatory, but some are not so obvious.

5.1.1  Preprocessor interactions

IDL is processed by the C preprocessor before omniidl parses it. omniidl always uses the GNU C preprocessor (which it builds with the name omnicpp). The -D, -U, and -I options are just sent to the preprocessor. Note that the current directory is not on the include search path by default—use ‘-I.’ for that. The -Y option can be used to specify a different preprocessor to omnicpp. Beware that line directives inserted by other preprocessors are likely to confuse omniidl.  Windows 9x

The output from the C preprocessor is normally fed to the omniidl parser through a pipe. On some Windows 98 machines (but not all!) the pipe does not work, and the preprocessor output is echoed to the screen. When this happens, the omniidl parser sees an empty file, and produces useless stub files with strange long names. To avoid the problem, use the ‘-T’ option to create a temporary file between the two stages.

5.1.2  Forward-declared interfaces

If you have an IDL file like:

interface I; interface J { attribute I the_I; };

then omniidl will normally issue a warning:

  test.idl:1: Warning: Forward declared interface `I' was never
  fully defined

It is illegal to declare such IDL in isolation, but it is valid to define interface I in a separate file. If you have a lot of IDL with this sort of construct, you will drown under the warning messages. Use the -nf option to suppress them.


By default, omniidl discards comments in the input IDL. However, with the -k and -K options, it preserves the comments for use by the back-ends. The Python back-end ignores this information, but it is relatively easy to write new back-ends which do make use of comments.

The two different options relate to how comments are attached to declarations within the IDL. Given IDL like:

interface I { void op1(); // A comment void op2(); };

the -k flag will attach the comment to op1(); the -K flag will attach it to op2().

5.2  Python back-end options

When you specify the Python back-end (with -bpython), the following -Wb options become available. Note that the -Wb options must be specified after the -bpython option, so omniidl knows which back-end to give the arguments to.

-Wbinline Output stubs for #included files in line with the main file.
-Wbstdout Send the generated stubs to standard output, rather than to a file.
-Wbglobal=g Use g as the name for the global IDL scope (default _GlobalIDL).
-Wbpackage=p Put both Python modules and stub files in package p.
-Wbmodules=p Put Python modules in package p.
-Wbstubs=p Put stub files in package p.
-Wbami Generate AMI types and operations.

5.2.1  Inclusion options

When you compile an IDL file which #includes other IDL files, omniidl normally only generates code for the main file, assuming that code for the included files will be generated separately. Instead, you can use the -Wbinline option to generate code for the main IDL file and all included files in a single stub file.

5.2.2  Output options

The -Wbstdout option is not really useful if you are invoking omniidl yourself. It is used by omniORB.importIDL(), described in section 4.9.

Definitions declared at IDL global scope are normally placed in a Python module named ‘_GlobalIDL’. The -Wbglobal allows you to change that.

As explained in section 2.2, when you compile an IDL file like:

// example_echo.idl module Example { interface Echo { string echoString(in string mesg); }; };

omniidl generates directories named Example and Example__POA, which provide the standard Python mapping modules, and also the file which contains the actual definitions. The latter file contains code which inserts the definitions in the standard modules. This arrangement means that it is not possible to move all of the generated code into a Python package by simply placing the files in a suitably named directory. You may wish to do this to avoid clashes with names in use elsewhere in your software.

You can place all generated code in a package using the -Wbpackage command line option. For example,

omniidl -bpython -Wbpackage=generated echo_example.idl

creates a directory named ‘generated’, containing the generated code. The stub module is now called ‘generated.Example’, and the actual stub definitions are in ‘generated.example_echo_idl’. If you wish to split the modules and the stub definitions into different Python packages, you can use the -Wbmodules and -Wbstubs options.

Note that if you use these options to change the module package, the interface to the generated code is not strictly-speaking CORBA compliant. You may have to change your code if you ever use a Python ORB other than omniORBpy.

5.2.3  Asynchronous Method Invocation

Generate asynchronous invocation operations and the various types required by AMI by specifying -Wbami. See chapter 11 for details.

5.3  Examples

Generate the Python stubs for a file a.idl:

omniidl -bpython a.idl

As above, but put the stubs in a package called ‘stubs’:

omniidl -bpython -Wbstubs=stubs a.idl

Generate both Python and C++ stubs for two IDL files:

omniidl -bpython -bcxx a.idl b.idl

Just check the IDL files for validity, generating no output:

omniidl a.idl b.idl

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