Build executable from Python

We often use executables from Python with data transfer via:

  • stdin/stdout (small transfers, less than a megabyte)
  • temporary files (arbitrarily large data)

This provides a language-agnostic interface that we can use from other scripted languages like Matlab or Julia, future-proofing our efforts at the price of some runtime efficiency due to the out-of-core data transfer.

Here is a snipping we use to compile a single C code executable from Python (from GeoRINEX program):

save this in say src/mypkg/
then from the code that needs the output executable, say "myprog.bin":

from .build import build
exe = "myprog.bin"
if not exe.is_file():
# code that passes data via stdin/stdout and/or files using

import subprocess
import shutil
from pathlib import Path

def build(src: Path, cc: str = None) -> int:


    src: pathlib.Path
        path to single C source file.
    cc: str, optional
        desired compiler path or name


    ret: int
        return code from compiler (0 is success)
    if cc:
        return do_compile(cc, src)

    compilers = ["cc", "gcc", "clang", "icc", "icl", "cl", "clang-cl"]
    ret = 1
    for cc in compilers:
        if shutil.which(cc):
            ret = do_compile(cc, src)
            if ret == 0:

    return ret

def do_compile(cc: str, src: Path) -> int:
    if not src.is_file():
        raise FileNotFoundError(src)

    if cc.endswith("cl"):  # msvc-like
        cmd = [cc, str(src), f"/Fe:{src.parent}"]
        cmd = [cc, str(src), "-O2", f"-o{src.with_suffix('.bin')}"]

    ret =

    return ret