In Ubuntu (and many other distributions) the runtime and development versions of libraries are split into separate packages. Since most users only need the runtime libraries, these are the only ones installed by default. The compiler, linker and other development tools are also not installed by default.
To install them, you need to add the package "build-essential", which will automatically install the C compiler, some other tools and the libc development library. For C++ development you need the package g++.
Many non-trivial projects will use some build system like GNU Autoconf/Automake, CMake, Ant, and so on. Each of these have their own package which must also be installed if youo with to use them.
Since you are new to Ubuntu, I would recommend installing them using the Synaptic package manager. You don't need to download any files yourself - just open synaptic, search the the packages by name and select them for installation and apply the changes. It worries me slightly that you said it took a lot of effort to install emacs, as it should be a trivial operation - just add the "emacs" package in synaptic.
If you're not used to emacs, it might not be for you. It is a very capable editor, but it is a bit weird if you are used to Windows tools, which have a rather different style to them. I would recommend trying out different editors. Emacs and vi are popular with coders as they both have very powerful features, but both have quite a steep learning curve - especially vi, which to start with can be very frustrating.