for this:

Clang -ggdb -Wall -Werror hello.c -lcs50 -o hello

if the library (such as cs50 library) is loaded and processed before source code ,then it's as if I didn't write the -lcs50 at all

so why it would like this? why can't i write library before source code?

2 Answers 2


As I understood the concept, in your source code you #include header files that you later link the actual library with the linker in clang. If you list the library before the source code, the library is processed before it ever gets called in your source code; it is done sequentially.


In order to avoid linking code that isn't used, the linker works from left to right, keeping track of functions that are undefined. If a library defines some function that hasn't been used in preceding code, then the function is presumed to be unneeded, so the definition is ignored and not linked into the code.

Thus, in your example,

clang -ggdb -Wall -Werror hello.c -lcs50 -o hello

Let's suppose that get_string is the only CS50 Library function used in hello.c. The linker first sees a compiled version of hello.c with a reference to a function named get_string that hasn't yet been defined. The linker therefore remembers to look for a definition of get_string in subsequent libraries. Then, the linker gets to the -lcs50 part. Here it finds the get_string definition that it was looking for. However, the CS50 Library also contains many other functions that aren't used by hello.c, such as get_int. If get_int isn't going to be used, then there's no point in linking it into the final compiled hello executable. That would just waste space. So, the linker simply forgets about get_int and the other unused functions.

If, on the other hand, we write

clang -ggdb -Wall -Werror -lcs50 hello.c -o hello

…then the first thing the linker sees is the CS50 Library and its various function definitions. But it doesn't know that any of these functions will be used, so it forgets all of them! Then the linker moves on to hello.c. At this point, it sees that get_string is needed. Alas, the previous definition of get_string has already been forgotten. The linker will at this point make a note that it needs a definition for get_string, but since this is the last file that we're linking, we won't find a definition, and the linking process fails.

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