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Command line tools

The MCI provides a single command line application to access all command line tools. On most normal installations, this tool is simply called mci.

By running mci -h, you'll get an overview of the tools and parameters that are supported by the command line interface. This is only a short overview, though, and doesn't explain exactly how each tool is to be used. This page will shed some light on that.

General syntax

As running just mci suggests, the command line interface itself has only two options: -h|--help and -s|--silent. Generally, the short forms of the options are preferred, so those will be used in the rest of this document. The -h option simply displays the help overview and exits. The -s option makes the command line interface silent, i.e. it won't output anything to stdout and stderr. This is mostly useful if you're running a program in an execution engine and don't want the 'noise' that the command line interface normally outputs.

To run a tool, you simply pass its name and arguments to mci. So, for example, mci asm foo.ial -o bar.mci. This runs the assembler which parses foo.ial and generates a binary bar.mci which can be executed. In order to suppress output, you could also say mci -s asm foo.ial -o bar.mci.

Exit codes

The following primary exit codes can occur:

Value Description
0 No errors.
1 A tool-specific error occurred.
2 Some part of command line processing failed.

Any other exit code is possible too; in particular, the execution engine tools will return the exit code of the hosted application. The above exit codes are just the ones that the command line interface is guaranteed to be able to return.


This section details the usage of the specific tools the command line interface supports. Note that all tool parameters are optional unless stated otherwise.

AOT compiler

Tool name

IAL assembler

Tool name

This tool assemblies IAL source files into an executable module. Other than the parameters it takes, all arguments are assumed to be IAL source file names. All IAL source files must end with the extension .ial.

The -o parameter specifies which file to write the resulting module to. The output file name must end in .mci. This defaults to out.mci.

The -d parameter specifies a dump file for the parsed ASTs. This is mostly useful for debugging, and not really for general usage.

Soft debugger

Tool name

This tool runs an interactive soft debugger client on the command line. It allows you to connect to an execution engine with a running debugger server and interact with the program being executed.

IAL disassembler

Tool name

Disassembles an assembled module to an IAL source file. It accepts one module file name only (must end in .mci). In general, this can be used to round-trip arbitrary IAL code.

The -o parameter specifies the output file. It must end in .ial. This defaults to out.ial.

Graph generator

Tool name

Generates a Graphviz control flow graph for a function. Takes as input exactly one module file name (must end in .mci) and one function name. This tool is mostly interesting if you are debugging internals of the MCI.

The -o parameter specifies the output file name. It must end in .dot. This defaults to


Tool name

Executes a given module with the IAL interpreter. Accepts exactly one module file name (must end in .mci). The module must have a valid entry point function.

The -c parameter specifies which garbage collector should be used. See mci -h for possible values.

If the hosted program is started correctly, returns whatever exit code that program specified.

JIT compiler

Tool name

IAL linker

Tool name

Links a set of modules into one module. Accepts a set of module file names as input (must end in .mci). If there are function or type name clashes, the selected resolution strategy is used to resolve them.

The -r parameter specifies which resolution strategy to use. See mci -h for possible values.


Tool name

Performs various static analyses for correctness on a set of modules. Accepts as input a set of module file names (must end in .mci).

These analyses are generally not very smart, and can easily give false positives. They are primarily meant to help spot common errors in emitted IAL code. Note also that this tool only analyzes SSA functions.


Tool name

Optimizes a set of modules in place. Accepts as input a set of module file names (must end in .mci).

The -p option specifies an optimization pass to run. See mci -h for possible passes.

The -1 parameter applies all fast optimization passes.

The -2 parameter applies all moderate optimization passes.

The -3 parameter applies all slow optimization passes.

Fast, moderate, and slow refer to the time it takes to run the passes.

Note that none of the parameters above imply any others, so passing e.g. -2 does not imply -1.

The -4 parameter applies all unsafe optimization passes. This allows some unsafe optimizations to happen which might change the actual semantics of the program. You should most likely not be using this.

Passes are applied in the exact order they are given on the command line (duplicate passes are OK and will be run repeatedly in the given order).

IAL verifier

Tool name

Verifies a set of modules for ISA and type system validity. Accepts as input a set of module file names (must end in .mci).

Note that a module must pass these verification passes in order for it to be executable in an execution engine.


Tool name

Outputs statistics about a set of modules to stdout. Takes as input the file names of those modules (must end in .mci).

The -f parameter causes a list of functions to be printed.

The -t parameter causes a list of types to be printed.

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