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.
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
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
2.8.1 Archive functions
symindex bfd_get_next_mapent (bfd *abfd, symindex previous, carsym **sym);
Step through archive abfd's symbol table (if it has one). Successively update sym with the next symbol's information, returning that symbol's (internal) index into the symbol table.
BFD_NO_MORE_SYMBOLS as the previous entry to get
the first one; returns
BFD_NO_MORE_SYMBOLS when you've already
got the last one.
carsym is a canonical archive symbol. The only
user-visible element is its name, a null-terminated string.
bfd_boolean bfd_set_archive_head (bfd *output, bfd *new_head);
Set the head of the chain of BFDs contained in the archive output to new_head.
bfd *bfd_openr_next_archived_file (bfd *archive, bfd *previous);
Provided a BFD, archive, containing an archive and NULL, open an input BFD on the first contained element and returns that. Subsequent calls should pass the archive and the previous return value to return a created BFD to the next contained element. NULL is returned when there are no more.