Compilers for Building Firefox on Windows
The general choices for building Firefox (and Thunderbird, SeaMonkey,
etc.) on Windows are the Intel C Compiler (ICC), Microsoft Visual C++
and the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC).
Note that the comments below are for 32-bit Windows unless otherwise indicated.
Intel C Compiler
I've read that the Intel C Compiler produces the best code but you have
to pay for the compiler. I did a search and found a listing for a
little over $300 though I think that list price is quite a bit higher.
They do have a free trial available if you want to play around with it.
The anecdotal evidence that I've heard from other builders is that
Microsoft's Compilers produce faster code for building Mozilla products
compared to ICC.
GNU Compiler Collection
GCC has the advantages of being free and Open Source and you can
usually get a hold of the bleeding edge stuff. But going with GCC means
that you can't use Java and maybe other plugins. GCC is nice in that it
provides much more in the way of processor support compiler
optimization. This is nice for those with SSE3, 3DNow and older
non-Intel processors if you can live without Java.
I've done a few Windows GCC builds in the past.
Microsoft's C Compilers
Most people use Microsoft's Compilers to build Mozilla products.
Microsoft's Compilers come in free, inexpensive and expensive versions.
The free versions usually have names like "Toolkit" and "Express
Edition". The inexpensive versions, usually around $100, are aimed at
non-professionals. The expensive versions that sometimes have names
like "Professional", "Enterprise Edition", "Team Edition" are for
professional developers and are very expensive though I'd guess that
most people that have them get them paid for by their companies.
This section just says a few things about some the various options
right now. Note that sometimes other pieces like the Microsoft
Platform SDK are required for building Mozilla products with some
editions of the compiler kit that you get.
Microsoft Visual C++ Toolkit 2003 (free)
The webpage for this is at http://msdn.microsoft.com/visualc/vctoolkit2003/
and they provide a free download. The top of the page tells you what
you're getting with the Toolkit and there have been builders, notably
MOOX, that have produced large numbers of Firefox kits using the free
toolkit. In general, the toolkit provides command-line tools but no
One note is that the Toolkit doesn't provide the -GL option. The -GL
option is for Global Optimization which builders generally prefer to
do. The option generally increases build time and sometimes code size
but is generally considered to be quite beneficial.
There are discussion threads and web pages with instructions on
building with the Free Toolkit and I will try to add links here to
those pages in the future.
Microsoft Visual C++ 2005 Express Edition (free)
The webpage for this is at http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/express/visualC/default.aspx and they provide a free download.
This kit provides the development GUI in addition to the command-line
tools and you may find that the GUI is nice for other development that
you do. The GUI isn't used for Building Firefox but it might be helpful
Some builders have reported success in building Firefox with this package and there's a discussion on this at the How to build Firefox with Visual Studio 2005 Express Edition
topic in the Third-Party/Unofficial Builders forum. I was able to
build Firefox with this package but wasn't able to get it to run. I
will try this again at some future point when I have more time.
There are some builders that used Beta editions of MSVC++ 2005 EE that
produced better code than VS2003. The Betas generally a bit more
functionality than the release edition like x64 support.
Microsoft Visual Studio .NET Professional 2003
This product used to cost over $1,000 but it looks like the price has
come down quite a bit since the last time I looked. I'd guess that this
is due to VS2005 being released.
In the past, this software listed at over $1,000 though there was a
student version for about $100 that you could get at some Academic web
sites. I think that homeschooling and many other classes of people were
elegible for the lower prices. I'm not clear on whether or not the
Academic versions provided all of the functionality of the regular
Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition
This product runs a little over $1,000 from my checking on a few web
sites and is probably ideal for building Firefox. My experience with
the Beta was that 2005 generates better code than 2003 in addition to
providing x64 tools. I've heard that it also provides for a feature
called Program Guided Optimization which means that you can build an
instrumented image, have your users run it for a while, gather the
statistics and then build a new image that's tuned for what the users
actually did. I've read that ICC and GCC provide this feature too.
I have no experience with the Released version but Microsoft will be
coming out with a Trial Version in December 2005 so I may give it a try
I think that there may have been a person or two that used an MSDN
version of VS2005 in the VS2005 Express Edition thread mentioned above
which may be comparable to this version.
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Updated November 24, 2005. For comments and questions, send email to Vector.x64 @ gmail.com (without the spaces).