Written by Johannes Bauer, ARM
With Atmel Studio, Atmel has one of the best free development tools for ARM-based microcontrollers on the market.
Its slick IDE and the smooth integration of the Atmel Software Framework (ASF) makes it a good choice for users of the SAM3, SAM4, and the brand-new SAM D20 devices. One thing some might be missing, though, is a top-notch compiler.
Thankfully, there is a solution in the Atmel Gallery – the Keil MDK-ARM Toolchain extension. It allows Atmel Studio to use the highly optimizing ARM Compiler with its best-in-class code density and high performance for a wide range of applications. The extension requires an installation of Keil MDK-ARM, but makes the integrated compiler available transparently in Atmel Studio.
The ARM Compiler provides two run-time C/C++ library variants: a full ANSI compliant library and a Microlib for utmost code density on small microcontrollers like the Cortex-M0+ based SAM D20. You can give it a spin and see how your code size improves.
As a perfect match for the extension, ARM has recently introduced the MDK-ARM Atmel Edition, or MDK-Atmel for short. This special edition of the industry-standard Keil MDK supports compiling and debugging for ARM-based Atmel MCUs and is available at a reduced price compared to the full version of MDK. Of course you can also use MDK-Atmel stand-alone without Atmel Studio if you prefer that.
Together, the ARM development tools and Atmel software and hardware make a good combination for developers, no matter which environment they work in.