Executable and Linkable Format

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The Executable and Linkable Format (ELF) is a file format for binary executable files, object code, shared libraries, and core dumps (diagnostic snapshots of running software). It is a multi-section file format and can therefore be readily extended with additional information, such as IR for Link Time Optimization or debugging data. ELF is used across many different operating systems on a range of software platforms.


ELF files are used by the kernel and many programs (as, ld, and so forth). These utility tools are additionally useful in working with ELF files:

  • objdump - displays information from ELF object files
  • readelf - displays information about an ELF file
  • gdb - GNU debugger
  • elfedit - alters ELF header information
  • addr2line - converts a memory address into the corresponding filename and line number (for debugging)
  • strip - removes symbols (including those generated by the -g compiler option)