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I've been using Linux steadily for a year now, and my knowledge has been growing steadily as well. I recently downloaded the xfce-4.4.0 source code (just as an exercise) and when I ran the ./configure --help at the terminal I get this
For better control, use the options below.
Fine tuning of the installation directories:
--bindir=DIR user executables [EPREFIX/bin]
--sbindir=DIR system admin executables [EPREFIX/sbin]
--libexecdir=DIR program executables [EPREFIX/libexec]
--datadir=DIR read-only architecture-independent data [PREFIX/share]
--sysconfdir=DIR read-only single-machine data [PREFIX/etc]
--sharedstatedir=DIR modifiable architecture-independent data [PREFIX/com]
--localstatedir=DIR modifiable single-machine data [PREFIX/var]
--libdir=DIR object code libraries [EPREFIX/lib]
--includedir=DIR C header files [PREFIX/include]
--oldincludedir=DIR C header files for non-gcc [/usr/include]
--infodir=DIR info documentation [PREFIX/info]
--mandir=DIR man documentation [PREFIX/man]
for the --bindir=DIR ; I am assuming these are the user binarys, and --sysconfdir=DIR is the configuration files , and --mandir=DIR is where the man pages go. What are the others? What are architecture-independent files?
More configuration files, usually, but in this case it's probably the xinitrc file to start the window manager. Also, for whatever reason, XFCE likes to put its config files in /etc instead of /usr/etc . After you install, have a look in /etc/xinit and see if you don't have a xinitrc.xfce file in there.
Those are standard options across all autoconf generated configuration scripts. They control where various parts go. For everyone, only --prefix really matters, sometimes tho the documentation locations you might want to change. These are --mandir and --infodir, sometimes others might be present with the word "doc" or "html" in them. Everything besides --prefix is usually best kept as is, unless you have a reason for changing them.