For record subtypes, GNAT permits the specification of the
attribute. The specification may either correspond to the default bit
order for the target, in which case the specification has no effect and
places no additional restrictions, or it may be for the non-standard
setting (that is the opposite of the default).
In the case where the non-standard value is specified, the effect is to renumber bits within each byte, but the ordering of bytes is not affected. There are certain restrictions placed on component clauses as follows:
These are unrestricted, and the effect is merely to renumber bits. For
example if we are on a little-endian machine with
being the default, then the following two declarations have exactly
the same effect:
type R1 is record A : Boolean; B : Integer range 1 .. 120; end record; for R1 use record A at 0 range 0 .. 0; B at 0 range 1 .. 7; end record; type R2 is record A : Boolean; B : Integer range 1 .. 120; end record; for R2'Bit_Order use High_Order_First; for R2 use record A at 0 range 7 .. 7; B at 0 range 0 .. 6; end record;
The useful application here is to write the second declaration with the
Bit_Order attribute definition clause, and know that it will be treated
the same, regardless of whether the target is little-endian or big-endian.
These are components that exactly fit in two or more bytes. Such component
declarations are allowed, but have no effect, since it is important to realize
Bit_Order specification does not affect the ordering of bytes.
In particular, the following attempt at getting an endian-independent integer
does not work:
type R2 is record A : Integer; end record; for R2'Bit_Order use High_Order_First; for R2 use record A at 0 range 0 .. 31; end record;
This declaration will result in a little-endian integer on a
little-endian machine, and a big-endian integer on a big-endian machine.
If byte flipping is required for interoperability between big- and
little-endian machines, this must be explicitly programmed. This capability
is not provided by
but do not occupy an integral number of bytes. Given that bytes are not reordered, such fields would occupy a non-contiguous sequence of bits in memory, requiring non-trivial code to reassemble. They are for this reason not permitted, and any component clause specifying such a layout will be flagged as illegal by GNAT.
Since the misconception that Bit_Order automatically deals with all
endian-related incompatibilities is a common one, the specification of
a component field that is an integral number of bytes will always
generate a warning. This warning may be suppressed using
pragma Suppress if desired. The following section contains additional
details regarding the issue of byte ordering.