please dont rip this site

Chapter 8

Sharing Data and Procedures Among Modules and Libraries

To use symbols and procedures in more than one module, the assembler must be able to recognize the shared data as global to all the modules where they are used. MASM provides techniques to simplify data-sharing and give a high-level interface to multiple-module programming. With these techniques, you can place shared symbols in include files. This makes the data declarations in the file available to all modules that use the include file.

This chapter explains the two data-sharing methods MASM 6.1 offers. The first method simplifies data sharing between modules with include files. The second does not involve include files. Instead, this method allows modules to share procedures and data items using the PUBLIC and EXTERN directives.

The last section of this chapter explains how to create program libraries and access their routines.

Selecting Data-Sharing Methods

If data defined in one module is to be used in other modules of a program, you must declare the data public and external. MASM provides several ways to do this:

Declare a symbol public with the PUBLIC directive in the module where it is defined. This makes the symbol available to other modules. You must also place an EXTERN statement for that symbol in all other modules that refer to the public symbol. This statement informs the assembler that the symbol is external - that is, defined in another module.

Declare the data communal with the COMM directive. However, communal variables have limitations. You cannot depend on their location in memory because they are allocated by the linker, and they cannot be initialized.

The EXTERNDEF directive declares a symbol either public or external, as appropriate. EXTERNDEF simplifies the declarations for global (public and external) variables and encourages the use of include files.

The next section provides further details on using include files. For more information on PUBLIC and EXTERN, see "Using Alternatives to Include Files," page 219.

Sharing Symbols with Include Files

Include files can contain any valid MASM statement, but typically consist of type and symbol declarations. The assembler inserts the contents of the include file into a module at the location of the INCLUDE directive. Include files are optional, but can simplify project organization by eliminating the need to insert common declarations into all modules of a program. An alternative to using include files is described in "Using Alternatives to Include Files," page 219.

This section explains how to organize symbol definitions and the declarations that make them global (available to all modules); how to make both variables and procedures public with EXTERNDEF, PROTO, and COMM.; and where to place these directives in the modules and include files.

Organizing Modules

This section summarizes the organization of declarations and definitions in modules and include files and the use of the INCLUDE directive.

Include Files

Type declarations that need to be identical in every module should be placed in an include file. This ensures consistency and saves time when you update programs. Include files should contain only symbol declarations and any other declarations that are resolved at assembly time. (For a list of assembly-time operations, see "Generating and Running Executable Programs" in Chapter 1.)

If more than one module accesses the include file, the file cannot contain statements that define and allocate memory for symbols. Otherwise, the assembler would attempt to allocate the same symbol more than once.



An include file used in two or more modules should not allocate data variables.



An INCLUDE statement is usually placed before data and code segments in your modules. When the assembler encounters an INCLUDE directive, it opens the specified file and assembles all its statements. The assembler then returns to the original module and continues the assembly.


The INCLUDE directive takes the form:

INCLUDE filename

where filename is the full name of the include file. For example, the following declaration inserts the contents of the include file SCREEN.INC in your program:


The filename in the INCLUDE directive must be fully specified; no extensions are assumed. If a full pathname is not given, the assembler first searches the directory of the source file containing the INCLUDE directive.

If the include file is not in the source file directory, the assembler searches the paths specified in the assembler’s command-line option /I, or in PWB’s Include Paths field in the MASM Option dialog box (accessed from the Option menu). The /I option takes this form:

/I path

You can include more than one /I option on the command line. The assembler then searches for include files within each specified path in the order given. If none of these directories contains the include file, the assembler finally searches in the paths specified in the INCLUDE environment variable. If the include file still cannot be found, an assembly error occurs. (The /x command-line option tells the assembler to ignore the INCLUDE environment variable when searching for include files.)

An include file may specify another include file. The assembler processes the second include file before returning to the first. Your program can nest include files this way as deeply as the amount of free memory allows.

Include Files or Modules

You can use the EQU directive to create named constants that cannot be redefined in your program. (For information about the EQU directive, see "Integer Constants and Constant Expressions," page 11.) Placing a constant defined with EQU in an include file makes it available to all modules that use that include file.

Placing TYPEDEF, STRUCT, UNION, and RECORD definitions in an include file guarantees consistency in type definitions. If required, the variable instances derived from these definitions can be made public among the modules with EXTERNDEF declarations (see the next section). Macros, including macros defined with TEXTEQU, must be placed in include files to make them visible in other modules.

If you elect to use full segment definitions with, or instead of, simplified definitions, you can force a consistent segment order in all files by defining segments in an include file. This technique is explained in "Controlling the Segment Order,"
page 47.

Declaring Symbols Public and External

It is sometimes useful to make certain procedures and variables (such as status flags) global to all program modules. Global variables are freely accessible within all routines; you do not have to explicitly pass them to the routines that need them. This section describes how to make variables and procedures global using the EXTERNDEF, PROTO, or COMM declarations within include files.

When a procedure is defined in one module and called in another module, it must be declared public in the defining module and external in the calling module(s). MASM offers three ways to declare a procedure public and external:

Use the PUBLIC directive in the defining module and EXTERN in all other modules that reference the procedure. The PUBLIC and EXTERN directives are explained on page 220.

Declare the procedure with EXTERNDEF.

Prototype the procedure with the PROTO directive.


MASM treats EXTERNDEF as a public declaration in the defining module, and as an external declaration in the referencing module(s). You can use the EXTERNDEF statement in your include file to make a variable common to two or more modules. EXTERNDEF works with all types of variables, including arrays, structures, unions, and records. It also works with procedures.

As a result, a single include file can contain an EXTERNDEF declaration that works in both the defining module and any referencing module. It is ignored in modules that neither define nor reference the variable. Therefore, an include file for a library which is used in multiple .EXE files does not force the definition of a symbol as EXTERN does.

The EXTERNDEF statement takes this form:

EXTERNDEF [[langtype]] name:qualifiedtype

The name is the variable’s identifier. The qualifiedtype is explained in detail in "Data Types," page 14.

The optional langtype specifier sets the naming conventions for the name it precedes. It overrides any language specified in the .MODEL directive. The specifier can be C, SYSCALL, STDCALL, PASCAL, FORTRAN, or BASIC. For information on selecting the appropriate langtype type, see "Naming and Calling Conventions," page 308.


The following diagram shows the statements that declare an array, make it public, and use it in another module.

Figure 8.21 Using EXTERNDEF for Variables

The file position of EXTERNDEF directives is important. For more information, see "Positioning External Declarations," following.

You can also make procedures visible by using EXTERNDEF without PROTO inside an include file. This method treats the procedure name as a simple identifier, without the parameter list, so you forgo the assembler’s ability to check for the correct parameters during assembly. Use EXTERNDEF with procedures in the same way as variables:

EXTERNDEF MyProc:FAR ; Declare far procedure external

You can also use EXTERNDEF to make a code label global between modules so that one module can reference a label in another module. Give the label global scope with the double colon operator, like this:


Another module can reference codelabel like this:

jmp codelabel


This section describes how to prototype a procedure with the PROTO directive. PROTO automatically issues an EXTERNDEF for the procedure unless the PROC statement declares the procedure PRIVATE. Defining a prototype enables type-checking for the procedure arguments.

Follow these steps to create an interface for a procedure defined in one module and called from other modules:

1. Place the PROTO declaration in the include file.

2. Define the procedure with PROC in one module. The PROC directive declares the procedure PUBLIC by default.

3. Call the procedure with the INVOKE statement (or with CALL). Make sure that all calling modules access the include file.


For descriptions, syntax, and examples of PROTO, PROC, and INVOKE, see Chapter 7, "Controlling Program Flow."

The following example illustrates these three steps. In the example, a PROTO statement defines the far procedure CopyFile, which uses the C parameter-passing and naming conventions, and takes the arguments filename and numberlines. The diagram following the example shows the file placement for these statements.

This definition goes into the include file:

CopyFile PROTO FAR C filename:BYTE, numberlines:WORD

The procedure definition for CopyFile is:

CopyFile PROC FAR C USES cx, filename:BYTE, numberlines:WORD

To call the CopyFile procedure, you can use this INVOKE statement:

INVOKE CopyFile, NameVar, 200


Figure 8.22 Using PROTO and INVOKE

Using COMM

Another way to share variables among modules is to add the COMM (communal) declaration to your include file. Since communal variables are allocated by the linker and cannot be initialized, you cannot depend on their location or sequence.

Communal variables are supported by MASM primarily for compatibility with communal variables in Microsoft C. Communal variables are not used in any other Microsoft language, and they are not compatible with C++ and some other languages.

COMM declares a data variable external and instructs the linker to allocate the variable if it has not been explicitly defined in a module. The memory space for communal variables may not be assigned until load time, so using communal variables may reduce the size of your executable file.

The COMM declaration has the syntax:

COMM [[langtype]] [[NEAR | FAR]] label:type[[:count]]

The label is the name of the variable. The langtype sets the naming conventions for the name it precedes. It overrides any language specified in the .MODEL directive.


If NEAR or FAR is not specified, the variable determines the default from the current memory model (NEAR for TINY, SMALL, COMPACT, and FLAT; FAR for MEDIUM, LARGE, and HUGE). If you do not provide a memory model with the .MODEL directive, you must specify a distance when accessing a communal variable, like this:

mov ax, NEAR PTR CommNear
mov bx, FAR PTR CommFar

The type can be a constant expression, but it is usually a type such as BYTE, WORD, or DWORD, or a structure, union, or record. If you first declare the type with TYPEDEF, CodeView can provide type information. The count is the number of elements. If no count is given, one element is assumed.

The following example creates the on far variable DataBlock, which is a 1,024-element array of uninitialized signed doublewords:

COMM FAR DataBlock:SDWORD:1024



C variables declared outside functions (except static variables) are communal unless explicitly initialized; they are the same as assembly-language communal variables. If you are writing assembly-language modules for C, you can declare the same communal variables in both C and MASM include files. However, communal variables in C do not have to be declared communal in assembler. The linker will match the EXTERN, PUBLIC, and COMM statements for the variable.


EXTERNDEF (explained in the previous section) is more flexible than COMM because you can initialize variables defined with it, and your code can rely on the position and sequence of the defined data.

Positioning External Declarations

Although LINK determines the actual address of an external symbol, the assembler assumes a default segment for the symbol, based on the location of the external directive in the source code. You should therefore position EXTERN and
EXTERNDEF directives according to these rules:

If you know which segment defines an external symbol, put the EXTERN statement in that segment.


If you know the group but not the segment, position the EXTERN statement outside any segment and reference the variable with the group name. For example, if var1 is in DGROUP, reference the variable as

mov DGROUP:var1, 10

If you know nothing about the location of an external variable, put the EXTERN statement outside any segment. You can use the SEG directive to access the external variable like this:

mov ax, SEG var1
mov es, ax
mov ax, es:var1

If the symbol is an absolute symbol or a far code label, you can declare it external anywhere in the source code.


Always close any segments opened in include files so that external declarations following an include statement are not incorrectly placed inside a segment. If you want to be certain an external definition lies outside a segment, you can use @CurSeg. The @CurSeg predefined symbol returns a blank if the definition is not in a segment. For example,

@CurSeg ENDS ; Close segment

For information about predefined symbols such as @CurSeg, see "Predefined Symbols," page 10.

Using Alternatives to Include Files

If your project uses only two modules (or if it is written with a version of MASM prior to 6.0), you may want to continue using PUBLIC in the defining module and EXTERN in the referencing module, and not create an include file for the project. The EXTERN directive can be used in an include file, but the include file containing EXTERN cannot be added to the module that contains the corresponding PUBLIC directive for that symbol. This section assumes that you are not using include files.



The PUBLIC and EXTERN directives are less flexible than EXTERNDEF and PROTO because they are module-specific: PUBLIC must appear in the defining module and EXTERN must appear in the calling modules. This section shows how to use PUBLIC and EXTERN. Information on where to place the external declarations in your file is in "Positioning External Declarations," previous.

The PUBLIC directive makes a name visible outside the module in which it is defined. This gives other program modules access to that identifier.

The EXTERN directive performs the complementary function. It tells the assembler that a name referenced within a particular module is actually defined and declared public in another module that will be specified at link time.

A PUBLIC directive can appear anywhere in a file. Its syntax is:

PUBLIC [[langtype]] name[[, [[langtype]] name]]...

The name must be the name of an identifier defined within the current source file. Only code labels, data labels, procedures, and numeric equates can be declared public.

If you specify the langtype field here, it overrides the language specified by .MODEL. The langtype field can be C, SYSCALL, STDCALL, PASCAL, FORTRAN, or BASIC. For more information on specifying langtype types, see "Declaring Parameters with the PROC Directive," page 184, and "Naming and Calling Conventions," page 308.

The EXTERN directive tells the assembler that an identifier is external - defined in some other module that will be supplied at link time. Its syntax is:

EXTERN [[langtype]] name:{ABS | qualifiedtype}

"Data Types," page 14, describes qualifiedtype. You can use the ABS (absolute) keyword only with external numeric constants. ABS causes the identifier to be imported as a relocatable unsized constant. This identifier can then be used anywhere a constant can be used. If the identifier is not found in another module at link time, the linker generates an error.


In the following example, the procedure BuildTable and the variable Var are declared public. The procedure uses the Pascal naming and data-passing conventions:

Figure 8.23 Using PUBLIC and EXTERN

Other Alternatives

You can also use the directives discussed earlier (EXTERNDEF, PROTO, and COMM) without the include file. In this case, place the declarations to make a symbol global in the same module where the symbol is defined. You might want to use this technique if you are linking only a few modules that have very little data in common.

Developing Libraries

As you create reusable procedures, you can place them in a library file for convenient access. Although you can put any routine into a library, each library file, recognizable by its .LIB extension, usually contains related routines. For example, you might place string-manipulation functions in one library, matrix calculations in another, and port communications in another. Do not place communal variables (defined with the COMM directive) in a library.

A library consists of combined object modules, each created from a single source file. The object module is the smallest independent unit in a library. If you link with one symbol in a module, the linker adds the entire module to your program, but not the entire library.

Associating Libraries with Modules

You can choose either of two methods for associating your libraries with the modules that use them: you can use the INCLUDELIB directive inside your source files, or link the modules from the command line.

To associate a specified library with your object code, use INCLUDELIB. You can add this directive to the source file to specify the libraries you want linked, rather than specifying them in the LINK command line. The INCLUDELIB
syntax is:

INCLUDELIB libraryname

The libraryname can be a file name or a complete path specification. If you do not specify an extension, .LIB is assumed. The libraryname is placed in the comment record of the object file. LINK reads this record and links with the specified library file.

For example, the statement INCLUDELIB GRAPHICS passes a message from the assembler to the linker telling LINK to use library routines from the file GRAPHICS.LIB. If you place this statement in the source file DRAW.ASM and GRAPHICS.LIB is in the same directory, you can assemble and link the program with the following command:


Without the INCLUDELIB directive, you must link the program DRAW.ASM with either of the following commands:


If you want to assemble and link separately, type


If you do not specify a complete path in the INCLUDELIB statement or at the command line, LINK searches for the library file in the following order:

1. In the current directory.

2. In any directories in the library field of the LINK command line.

3. In any directories specified by the LIB environment variable.


The LIB.EXE utility helps you create, organize, and maintain run-time libraries. Refer to Environment and Tools for instructions on LIB.EXE.

Using EXTERN with Library Routines

In some cases, EXTERN helps you limit the size of your executable file by specifying in the syntax an alternative name for a procedure. You would use this form of the EXTERN directive when declaring a procedure or symbol that may not need to be used.

The syntax looks like this:

EXTERN [[langtype]] name [[ (altname) ]] :qualifiedtype

The addition of the altname to the syntax provides the name of an alternate procedure that the linker uses to resolve the external reference if the procedure given by name is not needed. Both name and altname must have the same qualifiedtype.

When the linker encounters an external definition for a procedure that gives an altname, the linker finishes processing that module before it links the object module that contains the procedure given by name. If the program does not reference any symbols in the name file’s object from any of the linked modules, the linker uses altname to satisfy the external reference. This saves space because the library object module is not brought in.

For example, assume that the contents of STARTUP.ASM include these statements:

EXTERN init(dummy):PROC
dummy PROC
. ; A procedure definition containing no
ret ; executable code

dummy ENDP
call init ; Defined in FLOAT.OBJ

In this example, the reference to the routine init (defined in FLOAT.OBJ) does not force the module FLOAT.OBJ to be linked into the executable file. If another reference causes FLOAT.OBJ to be linked into the executable file, then init will refer to the init label in FLOAT.OBJ. If there are no references that force linkage with FLOAT.OBJ, the linker will use the alternate name for init(dummy).



See also:

file: /Techref/language/masm/masmc08.htm, 46KB, , updated: 2005/10/13 11:52, local time: 2018/2/20 07:25,

 ©2018 These pages are served without commercial sponsorship. (No popup ads, etc...).Bandwidth abuse increases hosting cost forcing sponsorship or shutdown. This server aggressively defends against automated copying for any reason including offline viewing, duplication, etc... Please respect this requirement and DO NOT RIP THIS SITE. Questions?
Please DO link to this page! Digg it! / MAKE! / 


After you find an appropriate page, you are invited to your to this massmind site! (posts will be visible only to you before review) Just type in the box and press the Post button. (HTML welcomed, but not the <A tag: Instead, use the link box to link to another page. A tutorial is available Members can login to post directly, become page editors, and be credited for their posts.

Link? Put it here: 
if you want a response, please enter your email address: 
Attn spammers: All posts are reviewed before being made visible to anyone other than the poster.
Did you find what you needed?

  PICList 2018 contributors:
o List host: MIT, Site host, Top posters @20180220 RussellMc, Sean Breheny, Van Horn, David, Darron Black, Harold Hallikainen, Isaac M. Bavaresco, David C Brown, Mario, alan.b.pearce, Bob Blick,
* Page Editors: James Newton, David Cary, and YOU!
* Roman Black of Black Robotics donates from sales of Linistep stepper controller kits.
* Ashley Roll of Digital Nemesis donates from sales of RCL-1 RS232 to TTL converters.
* Monthly Subscribers: Gregg Rew. on-going support is MOST appreciated!
* Contributors: Richard Seriani, Sr.

Welcome to!