9.1 Introduction to gcov
gcov is a test coverage program. Use it in concert with GCC to analyze your programs to help create more efficient, faster running code and to discover untested parts of your program. You can use gcov as a profiling tool to help discover where your optimization efforts will best affect your code. You can also use gcov along with the other profiling tool, gprof, to assess which parts of your code use the greatest amount of computing time.
Profiling tools help you analyze your code's performance. Using a profiler such as gcov or gprof, you can find out some basic performance statistics, such as:
- how often each line of code executes
- what lines of code are actually executed
- how much computing time each section of code uses
Once you know these things about how your code works when compiled, you can look at each module to see which modules should be optimized. gcov helps you determine where to work on optimization.
Software developers also use coverage testing in concert with testsuites, to make sure software is actually good enough for a release. Testsuites can verify that a program works as expected; a coverage program tests to see how much of the program is exercised by the testsuite. Developers can then determine what kinds of test cases need to be added to the testsuites to create both better testing and a better final product.
You should compile your code without optimization if you plan to use gcov because the optimization, by combining some lines of code into one function, may not give you as much information as you need to look for `hot spots' where the code is using a great deal of computer time. Likewise, because gcov accumulates statistics by line (at the lowest resolution), it works best with a programming style that places only one statement on each line. If you use complicated macros that expand to loops or to other control structures, the statistics are less helpful—they only report on the line where the macro call appears. If your complex macros behave like functions, you can replace them with inline functions to solve this problem.
gcov creates a logfile called sourcefile.gcov which indicates how many times each line of a source file sourcefile.c has executed. You can use these logfiles along with gprof to aid in fine-tuning the performance of your programs. gprof gives timing information you can use along with the information you get from gcov.
gcov works only on code compiled with GCC. It is not compatible with any other profiling or test coverage mechanism.