How do I manipulate the Unix graphical environment?
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Welcome to LQ---and thanks for acknowledging that this is homework.
First, do you know what an "integrated development environment" is? Without this, the rest of the question does not make sense.
You will need to give us more context for the question---for example, do you want to set up a system for development using C?
What course materials--textbooks, etc.--are you using?
I believe an IDE is something that provides a compiler, editor, builder etc but I may be wrong.
I don't really understand this question much myself hence why I am asking. I'm guessing by the question that he is asking us how we would go about setting it up ready to type C programs (a C program question follows).
As for textbooks, none. I just have handouts from the classes.
I have the impression that this is one of the pre-made questions that some people that do not have a clue write into a paper for a grade course and that you have to answer purely by memory (and really makes no real sense at all).
The first thing to know is if they want you to name what components would you use to create a self made IDE, if they want to know what steps would you follow to install those pieces on a given distro (then the distro you are using would also be relevant), or if they want anything else. As I said, the question wins a prize for vagueness.
It's also worth mentioning that there are proper IDEs for linux (the question seems to imply that maybe your professor or whoever made the question is not aware about that). Look into Eclipse, anjuta or Kdevelop, there are many more.
The basic functionality of an IDE are editing code and compiling code. Some of them also have facilities to debug, assistants to fill code, syntax highlighting. The difference between these IDEs and, let's say, Visual Studio, is that in Visual Studio everything is tied into a monolith, while in Linux the philosophy is to re utilize the already existing components. This allow for greater quality and less buggy software, because the wheel is not reinvented again for each new IDE. So, all the existing IDEs use gcc as their compiler. This same way, if you want to implement a debugger into your IDE, you would use GDB, or if you need a profiler you'd use valgrind or something similar, that's well tested and is efficient.
I find the wording of the question to be rather odd. "Manipulate the graphical environment". Suggests to me you need to look at gtk and qt - identify what they are and what they do. "Emulate an IDE". Suggests to me you need to set out what an IDE does, and then consider how you might "emulate" that using the command line. Personally, I was "emulating" an IDE long before there was such a thing as an IDE, and I still don't make much use of IDEs, though I have developed a fondness for KDevelop.
I'm also unsure about what exactly the question means, but if I was faced with it (in roughly this position in my education), I think I'd be trying to answer it in roughly this way:
say what you think an IDE does for you (mostly convenience/automation functions in selecting, editing, building, debugging)
describe in general terms how you can provide those functions in a relatively simple program with some sort of graphical-ish interface
so, I'd be describing a system which had either/both of a curses-type interface and something that used a more common graphical toolkit to do something like change directories, select files, build software from a 'choose number to select file' type interface.
I have no idea whether this is the right kind of answer and have no idea how much detail is required and I've completely ignored the debugging end of things, because I've no idea how to do it.