Build Environment

This section deals with how you can transform your plugin source code into .dll files which it turn can be used in your favourite DAW. Most people will recommend that you use Microsoft visual C++ as a compiler for VST plugin development. However, on this site I will show you how to make VST plugins using the free (beer and speech) and very powerful GNU C++ compiler instead. Why you ask? . . . . .

Well, this goes back to when I started trying to learn C++ again a while back. I went and downloaded the (massive) free express edition of Microsoft visual C++ (MSVC) so that I could implement some of the tutorials out of the book I was using at the time. I was daunted by all of the masses of features in the IDE, and once I had finally built my simple “hello world” app, the output folder was full of project files and all kinds of stuff which just seemed unnecessary. I was trying to learn about all the compiler specific and IDE specific stuff without just focusing on the code. At this point I discovered MinGW, the minimal gnu compiler collection for windows which includes the legendary GNU c compiler (gcc). A breath of fresh air for the beginner! Just write your source in notepad or similar and compile with a simple command from the command line. The only outputs to disk are the object files generated from your source code and an executable. I found this a nice simple and non-distracting way to learn (If you’ve never used C++ then I recommend you go download and install MinGW and the look at some gcc hello world type tutorials to get you of on the right foot). After a while I started to learn the compiler flags for gcc, and how to link libraries, and do all kinds of other stuff to the point where I have no reason to use MSVC at the moment. I’m not an open source warrior, nor a Microsoft basher. This site focusses on gcc only because I know my way around it a bit, and it is more than capable enough to do everything we need for some simple tutorials.

The original build tutorials on this site showed you how to use SCons as a build tool. SCons is similar to “Make” which you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever used Linux. SCons runs python scripts which make the build process a bit easier from the command line and only recompiles the files you’ve modified since the last build. If this is your first visit to this site then I recommend you at least scan read through the pages in the following section to get an idea of the source files which go into a VST plugin. If you want an easier ride then skip on to the section on building plugins from within an IDE.

Building VST plugs from the command line

Using a bunch of separate tools is fine, however, I have more recently adopted the code::blocks IDE due to some neat features which make life a bit easier. Code::blocks still uses the GNU C compiler, but just wraps it up into a more user friendly bundle. See the following page for links to set up your VST development environment using code::blocks.

Building VST plugs from an IDE

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