Definition

dynamic link library (DLL)

A dynamic link library (DLL) is a collection of small programs, any of which can be called when needed by a larger program that is running in the computer. The small program that lets the larger program communicate with a specific device such as a printer or scanner is often packaged as a DLL program (usually referred to as a DLL file). DLL files that support specific device operation are known as device drivers.

The advantage of DLL files is that, because they don't get loaded into random access memory (RAM) together with the main program, space is saved in RAM. When and if a DLL file is needed, then it is loaded and run. For example, as long as a user of Microsoft Word is editing a document, the printer DLL file does not need to be loaded into RAM. If the user decides to print the document, then the Word application causes the printer DLL file to be loaded and run.

A DLL file is often given a ".dll" file name suffix. DLL files are dynamically linked with the program that uses them during program execution rather than being compiled with the main program. The set of such files (or the DLL) is somewhat comparable to the library routines provided with programming languages such as C and C++.

 

This was last updated in June 2007
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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