An implementation of Unix dc and POSIX bc with GNU and BSD extensions. Finished, but well-maintained.
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Gavin Howard e9b9224694
Combine the gitignore files
1 year ago
benchmarks Fix benchmarks 1 year ago
gen Update documentation for the new features 1 year ago
include Increment the version and update the NEWS 1 year ago
locales Add the check for binary files back in 1 year ago
manuals Fix a problem in the bcl manual 1 year ago
scripts Reactivate debug builds in scripts/ 1 year ago
src Add leading zeroes to bcl 1 year ago
tests Fix memory leaks in the bcl test 1 year ago
vs Combine the gitignore files 1 year ago
.gitattributes Fix .gitattributes 1 year ago
.gitignore Combine the gitignore files 1 year ago Add ministat and change to be useful for ministat 1 year ago Parallelize error tests and unparallelize all tests 1 year ago Increment the version and update the NEWS 1 year ago Update copyright to 2021 2 years ago Tweak the README 1 year ago
configure Add a configure symlink to 3 years ago Parallelize error tests and unparallelize all tests 1 year ago


WARNING: This project has moved to for these reasons, though GitHub will remain a mirror.

This is an implementation of the POSIX bc calculator that implements GNU bc extensions, as well as the period (.) extension for the BSD flavor of bc.

For more information, see this bc's full manual.

This bc also includes an implementation of dc in the same binary, accessible via a symbolic link, which implements all FreeBSD and GNU extensions. (If a standalone dc binary is desired, bc can be copied and renamed to dc.) The ! command is omitted; I believe this poses security concerns and that such functionality is unnecessary.

For more information, see the dc's full manual.

This bc also provides bc's math as a library with C bindings, called bcl.

For more information, see the full manual for bcl.


This bc is Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). It is offered under the BSD 2-clause License. Full license text may be found in the file.


This bc only requires either:

  1. Windows 10 or later, or
  2. A C99-compatible compiler and a (mostly) POSIX 2008-compatible system with the XSI (X/Open System Interfaces) option group.

Since POSIX 2008 with XSI requires the existence of a C99 compiler as c99, any POSIX and XSI-compatible system will have everything needed.

POSIX-compatible systems that are known to work:

  • Linux
  • FreeBSD
  • OpenBSD
  • NetBSD
  • Mac OSX
  • Solaris* (as long as the Solaris version supports POSIX 2008)
  • AIX
  • HP-UX* (except for history)

In addition, there is compatibility code to make this bc work on Windows.

Please submit bug reports if this bc does not build out of the box on any system.


This bc should build unmodified on any POSIX-compliant system or on Windows starting with Windows 10 (though earlier versions may work).

For more complex build requirements than the ones below, see the build manual.


There is no guarantee that this bc will work on any version of Windows earlier than Windows 10 (I cannot test on earlier versions), but it is guaranteed to work on Windows 10 at least.

Also, if building with MSBuild, the MSBuild bundled with Visual Studio is required.

Note: Unlike the POSIX-compatible platforms, only one build configuration is supported on Windows: extra math and prompt enabled, history and NLS (locale support) disabled, with both calculators built.


To build bc, you can open the bc.sln file in Visual Studio, select the configuration, and build.

You can also build using MSBuild with the following from the root directory:

msbuild -property:Configuration=<config> bc.sln

where <config> is either one of Debug or Release.

bcl (Library)

To build the library, you can open the bcl.sln file in Visual Studio, select the configuration, and build.

You can also build using MSBuild with the following from the root directory:

msbuild -property:Configuration=<config> bcl.sln

where <config> is either one of Debug or Release.

POSIX-Compatible Systems

On POSIX-compatible systems, bc is built as bin/bc and dc is built as bin/dc by default. On Windows, they are built as Release/bc/bc.exe and Release/bc/dc.exe.

Note: On Windows, dc.exe is just copied from bc.exe; it is not linked. Patches are welcome for a way to do that.


For the default build with optimization, use the following commands in the root directory:

./ -O3

One Calculator

To only build bc, use the following commands:

./ --disable-dc

To only build dc, use the following commands:

./ --disable-bc


For debug builds, use the following commands in the root directory:

./ -g


To install, use the following command:

make install

By default, bc and dc will be installed in /usr/local. For installing in other locations, use the PREFIX environment variable when running or pass the --prefix=<prefix> option to See the build manual, or run ./ --help, for more details.


This bc does provide a way to build a math library with C bindings. This is done by the -a or --library options to

./ -a

When building the library, the executables are not built. For more information, see the build manual.

The library API can be found in manuals/ or man bcl once the library is installed.

The library is built as bin/libbcl.a on POSIX-compatible systems or as Release/bcl/bcl.lib on Windows.

Package and Distro Maintainers

When I ran benchmarks with my bc compiled under clang, it performed much better than when compiled under gcc. I recommend compiling this bc with clang.

I also recommend building this bc with C11 if you can because bc will detect a C11 compiler and add _Noreturn to any relevant function(s).

I wrote this bc with Separation of Concerns, which means that there are many small functions that could be inlined. However, they are often called across file boundaries, and the default optimizer can only look at the current file, which means that they are not inlined.

Thus, because of the way this bc is built, it will automatically be slower than other bc implementations when running scripts with no math. (My bc's math is much faster, so any non-trivial script should run faster in my bc.)

Some, or all, of the difference can be made up with the right optimizations. The optimizations I recommend are:

  1. -O3
  2. -flto (link-time optimization)

in that order.

Link-time optimization, in particular, speeds up the bc a lot. This is because when link-time optimization is turned on, the optimizer can look across files and inline much more heavily.

However, I recommend NOT using -march=native. Doing so will reduce this bc's performance, at least when building with link-time optimization. See the benchmarks for more details.

Stripping Binaries

By default, non-debug binaries are stripped, but stripping can be disabled with the -T option to

Using This bc as an Alternative

If this bc is packaged as an alternative to an already existing bc package, it is possible to rename it in the build to prevent name collision. To prepend to the name, just run the following:

EXECPREFIX=<some_prefix> ./

To append to the name, just run the following:

EXECSUFFIX=<some_suffix> ./

If a package maintainer wishes to add both a prefix and a suffix, that is allowed.

Note: The suggested name (and package name) when bc is not available is bc-gh.

Karatsuba Number

Package and distro maintainers have one tool at their disposal to build this bc in the optimal configuration: scripts/

This script is not a compile-time or runtime prerequisite; it is for package and distro maintainers to run once when a package is being created. It finds the optimal Karatsuba number (see the algorithms manual for more information) for the machine that it is running on.

The easiest way to run this script is with make karatsuba.

If desired, maintainers can also skip running this script because there is a sane default for the Karatsuba number.


This bc is robust.

It is well-tested, fuzzed, and fully standards-compliant (though not certified) with POSIX bc. The math has been tested with 40+ million random problems, so it is as correct as I can make it.

This bc can be used as a drop-in replacement for any existing bc. This bc is also compatible with MinGW toolchains, though history is not supported on Windows.

In addition, this bc is considered complete; i.e., there will be no more releases with additional features. However, it is actively maintained, so if any bugs are found, they will be fixed in new releases. Also, additional translations will also be added as they are provided.


If I (Gavin D. Howard) get hit by a bus and future programmers need to handle work themselves, the best place to start is the Development manual.

Vim Syntax

I have developed (using other people's code to start) vim syntax files for this bc and dc, including the extensions.

bc Libs

I have gathered some excellent bc and dc libraries. These libraries may prove useful to any serious users.

Comparison to GNU bc

This bc compares favorably to GNU bc.

  • This bc builds natively on Windows.
  • It has more extensions, which make this bc more useful for scripting.
  • This bc is a bit more POSIX compliant.
  • It has a much less buggy parser. The GNU bc will give parse errors for what is actually valid bc code, or should be. For example, putting an else on a new line after a brace can cause GNU bc to give a parse error.
  • This bc has fewer crashes.
  • GNU bc calculates the wrong number of significant digits for length(x).
  • GNU bc will sometimes print numbers incorrectly. For example, when running it on the file tests/bc/power.txt in this repo, GNU bc gets all the right answers, but it fails to wrap the numbers at the proper place when outputting to a file.
  • This bc is faster. (See Performance.)


Because this bc packs more than 1 decimal digit per hardware integer, this bc is faster than GNU bc and can be much faster. Full benchmarks can be found at manuals/

There is one instance where this bc is slower: if scripts are light on math. This is because this bc's intepreter is slightly slower than GNU bc, but that is because it is more robust. See the benchmarks.


To see what algorithms this bc uses, see the algorithms manual.


Currently, there is no locale support on Windows.

Additionally, this bc only has support for English (and US English), French, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Polish, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese locales. Patches are welcome for translations; use the existing *.msg files in locales/ as a starting point.

In addition, patches for improvements are welcome; the last two messages in Portuguese were made with Google Translate, and the Dutch, Polish, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese locales were all generated with DeepL.

The message files provided assume that locales apply to all regions where a language is used, but this might not be true for, e.g., fr_CA and fr_CH. Any corrections or a confirmation that the current texts are acceptable for those regions would be appreciated, too.

Other Projects

Other projects based on this bc are:

  • busybox bc. The busybox maintainers have made their own changes, so any bugs in the busybox bc should be reported to them.

  • toybox bc. The maintainer has also made his own changes, so bugs in the toybox bc should be reported there.

  • FreeBSD bc. While the bc in FreeBSD is kept up-to-date, it is better to report bugs there, as well as submit patches, and the maintainers of the package will contact me if necessary.


This bc is written in pure ISO C99, using POSIX 2008 APIs with custom Windows compatibility code.

Commit Messages

This bc uses the commit message guidelines laid out in this blog post.

Semantic Versioning

This bc uses semantic versioning.


Items labeled with (maintainer use only) are not included in release source tarballs.


.gitignore           The git ignore file (maintainer use only).
.gitattributes       The git attributes file (maintainer use only).
bc.sln               The Visual Studio solution file for bc.
bc.vcxproj           The Visual Studio project file for bc.
bc.vcxproj.filters   The Visual Studio filters file for bc.
bcl.sln              The Visual Studio solution file for bcl.
bcl.vcxproj          The Visual Studio project file for bcl.
bcl.vcxproj.filters  The Visual Studio filters file for bcl.
configure            A symlink to to make packaging easier.         The configure script.           A Markdown form of the BSD 2-clause License.          The Makefile template.            List of contributors and copyright owners.           A checklist for making a release (maintainer use only).


gen      The bc math library, help texts, and code to generate C source.
include  All header files.
locales  Locale files, in .msg format. Patches welcome for translations.
manuals  Manuals for both programs.
src      All source code.
scripts  A bunch of shell scripts to help with development and building.
tests    All tests.