Frances: A Tool For Understanding Code Generation
Compiler and programming language implementation courses are integral parts of many computer science curricula. However, the range of topics necessary to teach in such a course are difficult for students to understand and time consuming to cover. In particular, code generation is a confusing topic for students unfamiliar with low level target languages. We present Frances, a tool for helping students understand code generation and low level languages. The key idea is to graphically illustrate the relationships between high level language constructs and low level (assembly) language code. By illustrating these relationships, we take advantage of the students existing understanding of some high level language. We have used Frances in a compiler design course and received highly positive feedback. Students conveyed to us that Frances significantly helped them to understand the concepts necessary to implement code generation in a compiler project.