Free BASIC Compilers and Interpreters

Free Compilers/Interpreters for the BASIC Programming Language


Free BASIC Compilers and Interpreters

The term BASIC, an acronym for Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, actually describes a whole plethora of computer languages, not all of which are actually compatible with each other. On many home computers, the earliest implementations of the BASIC language was as a very simple line oriented interpreter. The simplicity of the original language made it easy for beginners to learn programming, giving rise to a whole generation of programmers who cut their teeth on this language (although it must be said that the language's simplicity also led to a host of bad programming practices as programmers tried to work around the language's limitations). Today, however, the language has grown very large and is split into a number of different dialects (many of which bear little resemblance to the original BASIC language) and includes support for many modern programming paradigms like structured programming (using functions or procedures) and object-oriented programming, etc.

Listed on this page are some free BASIC compilers, interpreters, Visual Basic clones (and Visual Basic itself), and development environments (IDEs) which you can use to develop programs using the BASIC programming language. If you are looking for documentation or tutorials on learning or using the BASIC language, you may wish to check out the selection of books on BASIC programming available at Amazon.com.

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Free BASIC Compilers and Interpreters

Classic PowerBasic for Windows, Classic PowerBasic Console Compiler New

The older versions of the commercial PowerBasic compilers, namely the Classic PowerBasic for Windows (version 9.07) and Classic PowerBasic Console Compiler (version 5.07), along with Classic PowerBASIC Forms (a rapid application GUI designer for PowerBasic), are available for free at the time of this writing. It is listed as $0 in their catalogue, and if you order only the free items, you will not be asked for your credit card number, although you will still need to give your name, address and email address. The Windows compiler comes with an IDE and debugger and lets you create Windows GUI programs. The console compiler creates console-based Windows programs. Both compilers support numerous extensions to the Basic language, inline assembly language, and the ability to interface with Visual C runtime libraries. The compiler is a true compiler, generating native code, and producing small and fast executable programs (supposedly vastly smaller and faster than Visual Basic). Note that I'm not sure how long the free versions will be available, since the company is in the process of being sold to someone else. (Let me know if things change and I'll update or delete this entry.)

Microsoft Visual Studio Community 2015

For an individual or hobbyist programmer, Microsoft Visual Studio Community 2015 appears to include most of the important tools of its commercial cousins. Assuming the list comparing the various versions is complete, you get the IDE, debugger, optimizing compiler of the full version, minus a few things in the editor, debugging and profiling facilities. With this suite, you can develop programs for the desktop and mobile versions of Windows as well as Android. The software also comes with support for building programs with Visual Basic, C, C++, C#, F# and Python. At the time I wrote this, the site states that Visual Studio Community 2015 is "free for individual developers, open source projects, academic research, education and small professional teams".

BaCon BASIC (Linux, Mac OS X, *BSD)

BaCon BASIC is a BASIC to C translator for Unix-based systems (like Linux, FreeBSD, Mac OS X, etc), which means that it takes your BASIC code and changes it into C source code. You will then need a C compiler to compile that code. At this time, the converter appears to be implemented using shell scripts, and you will need either the BASH or Korn shell to run it. (Note: if you are using Linux, chances are that you already have BASH somewhere on your system. I'm not sure about the other systems, though.)

Vintage BASIC (Windows, Linux)

Vintage BASIC is an interpreter with a language that is close to Microsoft's BASIC version 2 as found in the Commodore 64. It is "informed by (but [does] not always stick to) the ANSI Minimal BASIC standard (ANSI X.360-1978)" (as noted in its user guide). You can enter your program using a normal programmer's / text editor. If you are nostalgic for the old BASIC interpreters of bygone days, or simply want to learn to program in BASIC without having to master the event-driven, object-oriented and window/form-based programming metaphors present in many compilers today, this BASIC interpreter may interest you. The program works on Windows and Linux, and is open source.

Chipmunk BASIC Interpreter (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)

Chipmunk BASIC is a BASIC interpreter for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows. There is also an older version for Mac OS 9 Classic. The interpreter provides you a traditional BASIC command line interface where you can enter programs directly and execute them, although you can also use a text editor to write your program before passing it to the interpreter.

Microsoft SmallBasic (Windows)

Microsoft Small Basic (no relation to the other "Small Basic" listed elsewhere on this Free Basic Compilers page) is a small language with about 15 or so keywords designed to making it easy and "fun" for people learning to write computer programs. It uses and creates programs for the .NET framework and works on Windows Vista and XP. (In case you think it is something like the old BASIC interpreters that you grew up with in the days of DOS, CP/M and Apple II, it's not.) It comes with an IDE with what Microsoft calls Intellisense (an autocomplete facility that gives suggestions how you can complete your keywords/function calls as you type) and context sensitive help. They also have an incomplete (at the time I write this review) "Getting Started" guide that is written for the newcomer to programming. (It's incomplete in the sense that they haven't finished writing it — there are whole sections that are just placeholders. But the portions that are currently ready look promising.)

QB64 (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)

This BASIC compiler aims to be 100% compatible with the QuickBasic 4.5 compiler and the QBasic interpreter, but being able to create executable files that will run on modern Windows, Mac OS X and Linux systems. The language has also been extended to provide support for handling TCP/IP (internet) connections and email, displaying graphic files, playing stereo sound and music files, using animation, displaying True Type fonts, handling mouse and game controller input, integrating with C++, SDL and Windows API DLLs, etc. The compiler comes with its own IDE, although you can of course use some other editor if you prefer.

ThinBasic Basic Interpreter (Windows)

ThinBasic is a BASIC interpreter for Windows that can be used to create and run BASIC applications on Windows as well as CGI scripts for a web server running in Windows. It supports the addition of DLLs (called modules here) that provide additional functionality, such as the Crypto module which adds cryptographic functions which you can call from your application, the SMTP, FTP, TCP modules which Internet-enables your applications, sound-playing modules, and so on.

Gambas - Gambas Almost Means Basic (Linux, *BSD)

Gambas is a Basic development environment supporting the Basic programming language with object extensions. It includes an IDE, a BASIC compiler, an interpreter, an archiver and a graphical user interface component. The archiver combines all the files in your project into a single executable file. Although not intended to be a Visual Basic clone, it has a visual rapid application development interface like VB. Supported operating systems include Linux and FreeBSD, OpenBSD.

Decimal BASIC (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)

Decimal BASIC supports the syntax and most of the core modules and the graphics module of the ANSI/ISO standard for Full BASIC. This BASIC interpreter includes a debugger that lets you step/trace through your program, set breakpoints and examine the values held in your variables when it hits a breakpoint. Versions are available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. There is also a BASIC to Object Pascal translator that runs on those systems.

TNT Basic (Mac OS X, Mac OS 9)

TNT Basic is a BASIC interpreter for the Macintosh. It is geared towards programmers who are creating games for the Macintosh. The development environment makes it easy for you to create and edit your code, add graphics and sprites to your program, sounds, music, maps, and define inputs for your game. TNT Basic works on Mac OS 8.6 and above (PowerPC Mac). At the time this brief review was written, a beta version for Mac OS X support is also available.

GLBCC - GNU / Liberty Basic Compiler Collection (Windows, Linux)

The GNU Liberty Basic Compiler Collection allows Windows and Linux users to compile Liberty Basic code on those platforms. Unlike the original Liberty Basic, this compiler creates standalone native executables that do not rely on an external interpreter. GNU / LibertyBasic is open source and licensed under the GNU GPL and the GNU LGPL.

Mono's VisualBasic.NET Compiler (Mono Visual Basic Compiler) (Linux, Windows)

Mono is an open source cross-platform implementation of Microsoft's .NET Development Framework. It includes a VB compiler (VB.NET compiler/Visual Basic compiler that generates .NET virtual machine code, not native code) that was still under development at the time of this writing, a runtime for CLR (the Common Language Infrastructure) and a set of libraries. You can embed the runtime into your applications. Mono currently works on Linux (both x86 and PPC), Windows, S390, with work being carried on for Strong/ARM and SPARC.

FreeBASIC (Windows, Linux, DOS)

FreeBASIC is an open source (GNU GPL) BASIC compiler that is syntax compatible with QuickBASIC, QBASIC, PDS and Visual Basic for DOS. It generates 32-bit executables that run under Windows and DOS. At the time this was written, the compiler is still very new, and has little documentation.

Just BASIC (Windows)

Just BASIC creates standalone programs from your BASIC source code. (I think it compiles to intermediate code which is then executed by an interpreter.) It supports functions, subprograms, control structures like DO/LOOP and SELECT/CASE, has a GUI builder, supports sprite animation, sound and music, and comes with a source level debugger.

Basic4GL (Windows)

Basic4GL is a BASIC compiler for Windows with built-in OpenGL 1.1 support. It automatically handles things like initialising OpenGL, opening an OpenGL window, etc, allowing you to get straight into writing OpenGL code. The language also has built-in support for vectors and matrices and you can perform mathematical operations on them (add, multiply) using vector and matrix notation algebra. Other features in Basic4GL include a 2D tile and sprite engine. The compiler generates intermediate code which is run by a virtual machine. The IDE comes with an integrated editor and debugger.

wxBasic (Windows, Linux)

wxBasic is a BASIC interpreter licensed under the GNU LGPL that runs on Windows and Linux. wxBasic code "looks a lot like QBasic". It has OpenGL support, among other things. This interpreter does not appear to be maintained any more.

SmallBASIC (Windows, Linux, N770/N800, PalmOS, eBookMan)

SmallBASIC is a simple language "somewhere between QBASIC and GWBASIC" (from their website), designed to handle mathematics and graphics. It was designed to work on PalmOS, but also works on Linux, Windows, Nokia N770/N800 and eBookMan. It is released under the GNU GPL.

Bas BASIC Interpreter (Unix)

Bas is a Unix-based BASIC interpreter that first tokenises your source code internally, resolving references to variables and jump targets, before running it. It supports certain BBC BASIC extensions like procedures, local variables and "better exception handling". It is probably no longer being maintained any more.

MoonRock Compiler (DOS)

This Basic-like language with extensions produces executables (binaries) for MSDOS real-mode or DPMI protected mode. It comes with the ArrowSoft assembler, documentation and sample programs. It does not seem like it's being maintained any more.

Mole BASIC Interpreter (Linux, AIX, Sun, BSD)

Mole Basic, or Merty's Own Language Extension Basic, runs on Linux, AIX, Sun and BSD and comes in (C?) source code form which you can modify to extend the language. Binaries for Linux is also provided.

XBASIC BASIC Compiler (Windows, Linux)

This is a free BASIC compiler, integrated development environment, and debugger that runs on Windows, as well as Linux. You can actually write graphics and GUI programs that can be compiled by both the Windows and Linux versions without changing your source code.

Bywater BASIC Interpreter (source only)

This is a free BASIC interpreter that compiles and runs on Unix systems. It supports subsets of the ANSI Standard for Minimal BASIC and the ANSI Standard for Full BASIC. It has been re-released under the GNU GPL (I think it was in the public domain before) and supports MSDOS and POSIX systems (eg Unix, Linux, etc).

BCX BASIC Compiler (Windows)

BCX is a Win32 console mode program that translates a BASIC source file into C source code which can be compiled using LCC-Win32 (see our Free C/C++ Compilers page for more information about this free C compiler). It accepts a subset of modern BASIC, as well as extensions like user-defined functions and inline C code.

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