Source Code Definition & Meaning

source code

Program instructions in their original form. The word source differentiates code from various other forms that it can have (for example, object code and executable code).

Initially, a programmer writes a program in a particular programming language. This form of the program is called the source program, or more generically, source code. To execute the program, however, the programmer must translate it into machine language, the language that the computer understands. The first step of this translation process is usually performed by a utility called a compiler. The compiler translates the source code into a form called object code. Sometimes the object code is the same as machine code; sometimes it needs to be translated into machine language by a utility called an assembler.

Source code is the only format that is readable by humans. When you purchase programs, you usually receive them in their machine-language format. This means that you can execute them directly, but you cannot read or modify them. Some softwaremanufacturers provide source code, but this is useful only if you are an experienced programmer.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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