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Does the directory contain a configure file? What is the source package that you want to build and install?
Look at the directory listing and most importantly read the README and INSTALL files.
Not all developers use the autoconf system when they develop and package their software. Some have a different install script that contains the files in it as "here" documents. Others have a Makefile, that copies files to their target.
If there is a configure file, you can either make it executable as described earlier or use "sh ./configure".
I started over for the third time and downloaded gnomesword-2.2.3.tar.gz one more time. I got the ./configure command to work but running the make command in the newly unpacked directory gives me the message "No target specified and no make file found."
The ./configure command dropped me a hint that I need gnome to run gnomesword. It never came back with a "yes" after checking for gnome. I may be starting to see the light, since Slackware has practially every windows manager except gnome.
Yes, Slackware dropped GNOME several releases ago. There are several projects that have packaged GNOME for Slack: Dropline, Freerock, GWARE. Edit: I've never used any of these and I'm not sure if they're compatible with 12.0 yet.