Last updated: 14 July 2014

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VFX Forth
Performance through simplicity

Other compiler versions....

Lite cross compilers

Lite compilers are for Windows only; they run well under Wine and other Windows emulators.

Lite compilers are free of charge and are for non-commercial use only. If you want to commercialise your project just upgrade to a compatible Stamp, Standard or Professional compiler with more features.

Lite compilers are available for ARM Cortex-Mx and MSP430 targets. The target source code is for a small target Forth kernel that compiles directly to target Flash. Compiling on-board directly to Flash allows direct programming on the hardware itself, which is fun, ideal for experimentation and for educational use. The programs can become turnkey applications.

The Lite target is not fully compatible with the PowerForth target supplied with the other compiler editions. The Lite target has changes to reduce code size and for compilation to Flash. It may also change as we have to cope with an increasing range of chips.

In order to support both cross development and on-board programming, the Lite compiler includes the AIDE compiler front end which includes a terminal emulator and an editor, the cross compiler itself, and all source code for the target.

AIDE front endt

Compiler and target IDE

Despite their small size, the Lite targets are capable of real applications. Duncan Louttit reports:

Attached is a photo of the robot that I used at the inaugural IET robot triathlon competition. I used the beta version of the MSP430 Lite compiler for the software. It had to compete in three events; line follower, drag race and time trial. It came 2nd in each competition and second overall. The Forth system is sufficient for this competition. I ended up with one download for the line follower and drag race and another one for the time trial. If I had had more time, we only had 8 weeks to do the whole thing including design and build the hardware, I could have done much better. The winner used a lot of commercial hardware and library routines for things like the PID controller.

IET robot

Duncan's racing robot


"VFXL is a pleasure to work with."

The Cortex-M0/M3 Lite compiler is code-limited to 64 kb and RAM-limited to 16 kb. Target device drivers are supplied for the STM32F072B Discovery board (includes MEMS gyros), the STM32F4 Discovery board and the Freescale FRDM-KL25Z board. these are available from most catalogues, e.g. Digikey, Element14, Farnell, and Mouser. The prices below are approximate.

STM32f072B Discovery

STM32F072B Discovery

STM32F4 Discovery

STM32F4 Discovery

Freescale Freedom KL25Z

Freescale FRDM-KL25Z


The MSP430 Lite compiler is code-limited to 16 kb and RAM-limited to 1 kb. Target device drivers are supplied for the TI Launchpad G2 with the MSP430G2553 CPU. This board is available from several sources including the TI web shop. The prices below are approximate.

Launchpad MSP430

MSP430 Launchpad

Compiler feature matrix

Lite Stamp Standard Professional
VFX code generator Y Y Y Y
All target code in source form Y Y Y Y
Full-featured standalone PowerForth target N Y Y Y
Small standalone Lite target Y N N N
Umbilical target Y Y Y Y
Multi-tasking Y Y Y Y
Cross reference tools N N Y Y
Unlimited code size N N Y Y
State machine compiler N N Y Y
Floating point math N N Y Y
32 bit targets
PowerFiler Unix-like file system N N Y Y
PID loops N N Y Y
FAT 12/16/32 file system, SD/MMC N N N Y
USB driver, core and classes N N N Y
PowerView embedded GUI N N N Y
PowerNet TCP/IP stack N N N Y
Compiler source code (with NDA) N N N Y
16 bit targets
Bank-switched targets N N Y Y
PID loops N N N Y
Compiler source code (with NDA) N N N Y