Software development with linux

Linux Programming Made Easy – A Complete Guide With Resources For Beginners

Written by Digital.com Staff

Updated July 18, 2022

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Linux is an operating system, platform, ecosystem, and culture. While the continued dominance of Windows and Mac OS for desktop computing causes the uninitiated consumer to assume that Linux is a sort of fringe option for extreme geeks and those who don’t want to pay for an operating system, the truth of the matter is that Linux is the most used and most important operating system on the planet. It powers the web, it powers our infrastructure, it powers the largest supercomputers in the world.

Developing for Linux can be a bit of a challenge, but it can also be extremely rewarding. This short guide will provide you with an introduction to the information and resources you need to get started with Linux programming. It covers four areas of Linux development: contributing to the kernel, building new modules, developing applications for Linux, and Shell scripting.

Linux kernel development

The Linux kernel is, perhaps, the most ambitious software development project on the planet. New stable releases come out approximately every three months, and each release involves thousands of developers working in dozens of countries.

Getting involved with kernel development is, paradoxically, both easier than it seems like it should be, and also ridiculously difficult. It is easier than it seems like it should be, because there is no hiring process, no interview, no bureaucracy. Anyone who knows what they are doing is welcome to develop for the core, and submit patches. On the other hand, it is also extremely difficult because the kernel is extremely complicated. Moreover, the kernel development community, while quite welcoming in some ways, does not tolerate amateur shenanigans very well. While it helps to have thick skin, nothing really substitutes for actually knowing what you are doing. Developing the core is pretty serious business, involving pretty serious computer science. If you are just getting started with operating system development, this is not really the place to start.

What You Need to Know

Development Skills

Programming of the Linux kernel is done in C. Not C++, not Objective-C, not C#. So the first thing that you need to do is learn the C programming language extremely well.

You also need to have a deep understanding of operating system theory, particularly as it relates to the Linux system. More on that in the next section.

  • The C Programming Language: the definitive guide to the language.
  • Operating System Concepts: a thorough introduction to the theory and practice of operating system development.

Understanding Linux

Naturally, you need to understand Linux both as a user and as a developer. This includes having a fairly deep understanding of how the Linux kernel is structured, and how the various sub projects fit together.

Process and Culture

Finally, you need to understand how the Linux development process actually works. This includes getting a feel for the community as a whole, for its culture, and how the various members of the development community relate to each other. Also, it means understanding distributed version control, and the development release cycle.

  • How to Participate in the Linux Community: required reading. Start here.
  • Three Ways for Beginners to Contribute to the Linux Kernel: a short, friendly guide to getting involved.
  • Official Things:
    • The Linux Kernel Archives
    • The Linux Kernel Mailing List
    • The Kernel Bug Tracker
  • Being a Moron on linux-kernel: a guide on how not to behave on the Linux Kernel (or any other) mailing list. (Our recommendation: lurk for at least six-months before posting anything.)

Developing Kernel Modules

Before jumping into core development on the Linux kernel, a good way to increase your knowledge and expertise with Linux programming is to work on a kernel module. These are independently developed pieces of software that work with the kernel in order to function as a complete operating system. Kernel modules include things like device drivers for various hardware peripheries, as well as file managers and other low level operating system features.

The barriers to entry for working on a kernel module are, generally speaking, much lower than they are for working on the Linux kernel. There are hundreds of modules, developed by many different teams and individuals, so there is not one set of gatekeepers setting the tone for development. Moreover, the stakes are a bit lower with module development.

What You Need to Know

Kernel modules, like the kernel itself, are usually written in C. (There is some fringe debate about developing kernel modules in C++, and there are some off-the-wall ways of accomplishing this, but it is certainly not the normal way nor is it recommended.)

Obviously, if you are writing a device driver for a piece of hardware, you will need to know quite a bit about the type of hardware, and the firmware embedded on it. You also need a decent understanding of the Linux-based kernel, and the way that it interacts with kernel modules. Finally, if you are contributing to an existing kernel module, you will need to learn about their procedures and development cycle.

Also see the list of resources above in the Kernel Development section.

Developing Applications For the Linux Operating System

Once we get up out of the weeds of operating system development, and start talking about developing actual applications for the Linux operating system, the job gets a little easier and we have a lot more options about how to proceed. Compilers and interpreters for just about every programming language are available for the Linux platform, often more than one for a particular language.

What You Need to Know

If you are used to developing for Windows or Mac OS, the biggest shock when developing for Linux is probably the wide variety of Linux environments. There are dozens of Linux distros, and every Linux user has the ability to change quite a lot about how their particular environment works. This means, among other things, that you have to pay attention to dependency management a lot more than you might otherwise need to.

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Another difference, particularly as compared to a Windows system is that many Linux users prefer to compile their applications from source code. This happens on Mac OS as well but with less frequency. In the Linux world, a large number of users will always prefer to compile applications from source, rather than using an installer package. This might affect how you think about development and distribution of your software.

Most Linux-centric development takes place in C, C++, Perl, or Python. Learning those languages well, and diving into the resources mentioned above (Kernel and Modules) and below (scripting) will help a lot.

  • C Programming in Linux: a thorough introduction and tutorial about programming Linux applications in the C language.
  • Linux Developer Training: paid courses on Linux development, from the Linux Foundation.

Scripting in Linux

Perhaps the “lowest-level” of programming in Linux is shell scripting. However, this is no less “programming” than anything else. Shell scripting in Linux is a great way to automate routine tasks and accomplish more work in less time. Additionally, digging into advanced shell scripting will give you a deeper knowledge and understanding of the Linux operating system. Shell scripting is really what separates novice Linux consumers from advanced Linux users.

What You Need to Know

While there are other options, the most common scripting language is Bash. Even if you plan to move on to more advanced scripting languages, getting a handle on Bash will start you off on the right foot for all types of operating system scripting. Most people who really get into scripting as a way to boost productivity, use either Python or Perl for most of their work. Once you have hit a wall with what you can easily accomplish in Bash, you will probably want to move onto one of those languages.

Bash Resources

Python Resources

  • Learn Python the Hard Way: one of the most popular introductions to Python development.
  • Automate the Boring Stuff with Python: Practical Programming for Total Beginners: a great introduction to scripting (as opposed to “development”) in Python. Also available for free online as a video course.

Perl Resources

General Linux Resources

Linux.org: a central forum for all things Linux.

The Linux Documentation Project: a giant library of Linux guides on all of the subjects above, plus a bunch of other things. This is one of the most important places to go for in-depth Linux information.

Summary

That was a wild ride! From Linux kernel programming all the way down to shell scripting. There are endless ways to program the Linux operating system. With this guide, you should be well on your way.

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27 Best IDEs for C/C++ Programming or Source Code Editors on Linux

C++, an extension of well known C language, is an excellent, powerful and general-purpose programming language that offers modern and generic programming features for developing large-scale applications ranging from video games, search engines, other computer software to operating systems.

C++ is highly reliable and also enables low-level memory manipulation for more advanced programming requirements.

Best Linux IDE Editors or Source Code Editors

There are several text editors out there that programmers can use to write C/C++ code, but IDE has come up to offer comprehensive facilities and components for easy and ideal programming.

In this article, we shall look at some of the best IDE’s you can find on the Linux platform for C++ or any other programming language.

1. Netbeans for C/C++ Development

Netbeans is a free, open-source, and popular cross-platform IDE for C/C++ and many other programming languages. Its fully extensible using community-developed plugins.

Netbeans includes project types and templates for C/C++ and you can build applications using static and dynamic libraries. Additionally, you can reuse existing code to create your projects, and also use the drag and drop feature to import binary files into it to build applications from the ground.

Let us look at some of its features:

  • The C/C++ editor is well integrated with the multi-session GNU GDB debugger tool.
  • Support for code assistance
  • C++11 support
  • Create and run C/C++ tests from within
  • Qt toolkit support
  • Support for automatic packaging of compiled application into .tar, .zip, and many more archive files
  • Support for multiple compilers such as GNU, Clang/LLVM, Cygwin, Oracle Solaris Studio, and MinGW
  • Support for remote development
  • File navigation
  • Source inspection

NetBeans IDE for C++ Programming

2. Code::Blocks

Code::Blocks is a free, highly extensible, and configurable, cross-platform C++ IDE built to offer users the most demanded and ideal features. It delivers a consistent user interface and feels.

And most importantly, you can extend its functionality by using plugins developed by users, some of the plugins are part of the Code::Blocks release, and many are not, written by individual users not part of the Code::Block development team.

Its features are categorized into a compiler, debugger, and interface features and these include:

  • Multiple compiler support including GCC, clang, Borland C++ 5.5, digital mars plus many more
  • Very fast, no need for makefiles
  • Multi-target projects
  • A workspace that supports the combining of projects
  • Interfaces GNU GDB
  • Support for full breakpoints including code breakpoints, data breakpoints, breakpoint conditions plus many more
    display local functions symbols and arguments
  • custom memory dump and syntax highlighting
  • Customizable and extensible interface plus many more other features including those added through user-built plugins

CodeBlocks IDE for C++ Programming

3. Eclipse CDT(C/C++ Development Tooling)

Eclipse is a well-known open-source, cross-platform IDE in the programming arena. It offers users a great GUI with support for drag and drops functionality for easy arrangement of interface elements.

The Eclipse CDT is a project based on the primary Eclipse platform and it provides a fully functional C/C++ IDE with the following features:

  • Supports project creation.
  • Managed build for various toolchains.
  • Standard make build.
  • Source navigation.
  • Several knowledge tools such as call graph, type hierarchy, in-built browser, macro definition browser.
  • Code editor with support for syntax highlighting.
  • Support for folding and hyperlink navigation.
  • Source code refactoring plus code generation.
  • Tools for visual debugging such as memory, registers.
  • Disassembly viewers and many more.

Eclipse IDE for Linux

4. CodeLite IDE

CodeLite is also a free, open-source, cross-platform IDE designed and built specifically for C/C++, JavaScript (Node.js), and PHP programming.

Some of its main features include:

  • Code completion and offers two code completion engines.
  • Supports several compilers including GCC, clang/VC++.
  • Displays errors as code glossary.
  • Clickable errors via the build tab.
  • Support for LLDB next-generation debugger.
  • GDB support.
  • Support for refactoring.
  • Code navigation.
  • Remote development using built-in SFTP.
  • Source control plugins.
  • RAD (Rapid Application Development) tool for developing wxWidgets-based apps plus many more features.
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Codelite IDE for Linux

5. Bluefish Editor

Bluefish is more than just a normal editor, it is a lightweight, fast editor that offers programmers IDE-like features for developing websites, writing scripts, and software code. It is multi-platform, runs on Linux, Mac OSX, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris, and Windows, and also supports many programming languages including C/C++.

It is feature-rich including the ones listed below:

  • Multiple document interface.
  • Supports the recursive opening of files based on filename patterns or content patterns.
  • Offers a very powerful search and replace functionality.
  • Snippet sidebar.
  • Support for integrating external filters of your own, pipe documents using commands such as awk, sed, sort plus custom-built scripts.
  • Supports full-screen editing.
  • Site uploader and downloader.
  • Multiple encoding support and many more other features.

BlueFish IDE Editor for Linux

6. Brackets Code Editor

Brackets is a modern and open-source text editor designed specifically for web designing and development. It is highly extensible through plugins, therefore C/C++ programmers can use it by installing the C/C++/Objective-C pack extension, this pack is designed to enhance C/C++ code writing and to offer IDE-like features.

Brackets Code Editor for Linux

7. Atom Code Editor

Atom is also a modern, open-source, multi-platform text editor that can run on Linux, Windows, or Mac OS X. It is also hackable down to its base, therefore users can customize it to meet their code writing demands.

It is fully featured and some of its main features include:

  • Built-in package manager.
  • Smart auto-completion.
  • In-built file browser.
  • Find and replace functionality and many more.

Atom Code Editor for Linux

8. Sublime Text Editor

Sublime Text is a well-defined, multi-platform text editor designed and developed for code, markup, and prose. You can use it for writing C/C++ code and offers a great user interface.

Its features list comprises of:

  • Multiple selections
  • Command palette
  • Goto anything functionality
  • Distraction-free mode
  • Split editing
  • Instant project switching support
  • Highly customizable
  • Plugin API support based on Python plus other small features

Sublime Code Editor for Linux

9. JetBrains CLion

CLion is a non-free, powerful, and cross-platform IDE for C/C++ programming. It is a fully integrated C/C++ development environment for programmers, providing Cmake as a project model, an embedded terminal window, and a keyboard-oriented approach to code writing.

It also offers a smart and modern code editor plus many more exciting features to enable an ideal code writing environment and these features include:

  • Supports several languages other than C/C++
  • Easy navigation to symbol declarations or context usage
  • Code generation and refactoring
  • Editor customization
  • On-the-fly code analysis
  • An integrated code debugger
  • Supports Git, Subversion, Mercurial, CVS, Perforce(via plugin), and TFS
  • Seamlessly integrates with Google test frameworks
  • Support for Vim text editor via Vim-emulation plugin

JetBrains CLion IDE

10. Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code Editor

Visual Studio is a rich, fully integrated, cross-platform development environment that runs on Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. It was recently made open-source to Linux users and it has redefined code editing, offering users every tool needed for building every app for multiple platforms including Windows, Android, iOS and the web.

It is feature-full, with features categorized under application development, application lifecycle management, and extend and integrate features. You can read a comprehensive features list from the Visual Studio website.

Visual Studio Code Editor

11. KDevelop

KDevelop is just another free, open-source, and cross-platform IDE that works on Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD, Windows, Mac OSX, and other Unix-like operating systems. It is based on the KDevPlatform, KDE, and Qt libraries. KDevelop is highly extensible through plugins and feature-rich with the following notable features:

  • Support for Clang-based C/C++ plugin
  • KDE 4 config migration support
  • A revival of Oketa plugin support
  • Support for different line editings in various views and plugins
  • Support for Grep view and Uses widget to save vertical space plus many more

KDevelop IDE Editor

12. Geany IDE

Geany is a free, fast, lightweight, and cross-platform IDE developed to work with few dependencies and also operate independently from popular Linux desktops such as GNOME and KDE. It requires GTK2 libraries for functionality.

Its features list consists of the following:

  • Support for syntax highlighting
  • Code folding
  • Call tips
  • Symbol name auto-completion
  • Symbol lists
  • Code navigation
  • A simple project management tool
  • In-built system to compile and run a users code
  • Extensible through plugins

Geany IDE for Linux

13. Anjuta DevStudio

Anjuta DevStudio is a simple GNOME yet powerful software development studio that supports several programming languages including C/C++.

It offers advanced programming tools such as project management, GUI designer, interactive debugger, application wizard, source editor, version control plus so many other facilities. Additionally, to the above features, Anjuta DevStudio also has some other great IDE features and these include:

  • Simple user interface
  • Extensible with plugins
  • Integrated Glade for WYSIWYG UI development
  • Project wizards and templates
  • Integrated GDB debugger
  • In-built file manager
  • Integrated DevHelp for context-sensitive programming help
  • Source code editor with features such as syntax highlighting, smart indentation, auto-indentation, code folding/hiding, text zooming plus many more

Anjuta DevStudio for Linux

14. The GNAT Programming Studio

The GNAT Programming Studio is a free easy to use IDE designed and developed to unify the interaction between a developer and his/her code and software.

Built for ideal programming by facilitating source navigation while highlighting important sections and ideas of a program. It is also designed to offer a high level of programming comfortability, enabling users to developed comprehensive systems from the ground.

It is feature-rich with the following features:

  • Intuitive user interface
  • Developer friendly
  • Multi-lingual and multi-platform
  • Flexible MDI(multiple document interface)
  • Highly customizable
  • Fully extensible with preferred tools

GNAT Programming Studio

15. Qt Creator

Qt Creator is a free, cross-platform IDE designed for the creation of connected devices, UIs, and applications. Qt creator enables users to do more of creation than actual coding of applications.

It can be used to create mobile and desktop applications, and also connected embedded devices.

Some of its features include:

  • Sophisticated code editor
  • Support for version control
  • Project and build management tools
  • Multi-screen and multi-platform support for easy switching between build targets plus many more

Qt Creator for Linux

16. Emacs Editor

Emacs is a free, powerful, highly extensible, and customizable, cross-platform text editor you can use on Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Windows, and Mac OS X.

The core of Emacs is also an interpreter for Emacs Lisp which is a language under the Lisp programming language. As of this writing, the latest release of GNU Emacs is version 27.2 and the fundamental and notable features of Emacs include:

  • Content-aware editing modes
  • Full Unicode support
  • Highly customizable using GUI or Emacs Lisp code
  • A packaging system for downloading and installing extensions
  • An ecosystem of functionalities beyond normal text editing including a project planner, mail, calendar, and newsreader plus many more
  • A complete built-in documentation plus user tutorials and many more
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Emacs Editor for Linux

17. SlickEdit

SlickEdit (previously Visual SlickEdit) is an award-winning commercial cross-platform IDE created to enable programmers the ability to code on 7 platforms in 40+ languages. Respected for its feature-rich set of programming tools, SlickEdit allows users to code faster with complete control over their environment.

Its features include:

  • Dynamic differencing using DIFFzilla
  • Syntax expansion
  • Code templates
  • Autocomplete
  • Custom typing shortcuts with aliases
  • Functionality extensions using Slick-C macro language
  • Customizable toolbars, mouse operations, menus, and key bindings
  • Support for Perl, Python, XML, Ruby, COBOL, Groovy, etc.

SlickEdit – Source Code and Text Editor

18. Lazarus IDE

Lazarus IDE is a free and open-source Pascal-based cross-platform visual Integrated Development Environment created to provide programmers with a Free Pascal Compiler for rapid application development. It is free for building anything including e.g. software, games, file browsers, graphics editing software, etc. irrespective of whether they will be free or commercial.

Feature highlights include:

  • A graphical form designer
  • 100% freedom because it is open source
  • Drag & Drop support
  • Contains 200+ components
  • Support for several frameworks
  • A built-in Delphi code converter
  • A huge welcoming community of professionals, hobbyists, scientists, students, etc.

Lazarus IDE

19. MonoDevelop

MonoDevelop is a cross-platform and open-source IDE developed by Xamarin for building web and cross-platform desktop applications with a primary focus on projects that use Mono and .Net frameworks. It has a clean, modern UI with support for extensions and several languages right out of the box.

MonoDevelop’s feature highlights include:

  • 100% free and open-source
  • A Gtk GUI designer
  • Advanced text editing
  • A configurable workbench
  • Multi-language support e.g. C#, F#, Vala, Visual Basic .NET, etc.
  • ASP.NET
  • Unit testing, localization, packaging, and deployment, etc.
  • An integrated debugger

MonoDevelop IDE for C Programming

20. Gambas

Gambas is a powerful free and open source development environment platform based on a Basic interpreter with object extensions similar to those in Visual Basic. To greatly improve its usability and feature set its developers to have several additions in the pipeline such as an enhanced web component, a graph component, an object persistence system, and upgrades to its database component.

Among its several current feature highlights are:

  • A Just-in-Time compiler
  • Declarable local variables from anywhere in a function’s body
  • Smooth scrolling animation
  • Gambas playground
  • JIT compilation in the background
  • Support for PowerPC64 and ARM64 architectures
  • Built-in Git support
  • Auto-closing of braces, markups, strings, and brackets
  • A dialog for inserting special characters

Gambas IDE Editor

21. The Eric Python IDE

The Eric Python IDE is a full-featured Python IDE written in Python based on the Qt UI toolkit to integrate with Scintilla editor control. It is designed for use by both beginner programmers and professional developers and it contains a plugin system that enables users to easily extend its functionality.

Its feature highlights include:

  • 100% free and open-source
  • 2 tutorials for beginners – a Log Parser and Mini Browser application
  • An integrated web browser
  • A source documentation interface
  • A wizard for Python regular expressions
  • Graphic module diagram import
  • A built-in icon editor, screenshot tool, difference checker
  • A plugin repository
  • Code autocomplete, folding
  • Configurable syntax highlighting and window layout
  • Brace matching

The Eric Python IDE

22. Stani’s Python Editor

Stani’s Python Editor is a cross-platform IDE for Python programming. It was developed by Stani Michiels to offer Python developers a free IDE capable of call tips, auto-indentation, PyCrust shell, source index, blender support, etc. It uses a simple UI with tabbed layouts and integration support for several tools.

Stani’s Python Editor’s features include:

  • Syntax colouring & highlighting
  • A UML viewer
  • A PyCrust shell
  • File browsers
  • Drag and drop support
  • Blender support
  • PyChecker and Kiki
  • wxGlade right out of the box
  • Auto indentation & completion

Stanis Python Editor

23. Boa Constructor

Boa Constructor is a simple free Python IDE and wxPython GUI builder for Linux, Windows, and Mac Operating Systems. It offers users with Zope support for object creation and editing, visual frame creation and manipulation, property creation and editing from the inspector, etc.

Feature highlights include:

  • An object inspector
  • A tabbed layout
  • A wxPython GUI builder
  • Zope support
  • An advanced debugger and integrated help
  • Inheritance hierarchies
  • Code folding
  • Python script debugging

Boa Constructor Python IDE

24. Graviton

Graviton is a free and open-source minimalist source code editor built with a focus on speed, customizability, and tools that boost productivity for Windows, Linux, and macOS. It features a customizable UI with colorful icons, syntax highlighting, auto-indentation, etc.

Graviton’s features include:

  • 100% free and open-source
  • A minimalist, clutter-free User Interface
  • Customizability using themes
  • Plugins
  • Autocomplete
  • Zen mode
  • Full compatibility with CodeMirror themes

Graviton Source Code Editor

25. MindForger

MindForger is a robust free and open-source performance-driven Markdown IDE developed as a smart note-taker, editor, and organizer with respect for the security and privacy of users. It offers tons of features for advanced note-taking, management, and sharing such as tag support, data backup, metadata editing, Git and SSH support, etc.

Its features include:

  • Free and open source
  • Privacy-focused
  • Supports several encryption tools e.g. ecryptfs
  • Sample mapper
  • Automatic linking
  • HTML preview and zooming
  • Import/export
  • Support for tags, metadata editing, and sorting

MindForger Markdown IDE

26. Komodo IDE

Komodo IDE is the most popular and powerful multi-language integrated development environment (IDE) for Perl, Python, PHP, Go, Ruby, web development (HTML, CSS, JavaScript), and more.

Check out some of the following key features of Komodo IDE.

  • A powerful editor with syntax highlighting, autocomplete, and more.
  • A visual debugger to debug, inspect, and test your code.
  • Support for Git, Subversion, Mercurial, and more.
  • Useful add-ons for customizing and extending features.
  • Supports Python, PHP, Perl, Go, Ruby, Node.js, JavaScript, and more.
  • Set your own workflow using easy file and project navigation.

Komodo IDE

27. VI/VIM Editor

Vim an improved version of VI editor, is a free, powerful, popular, and highly configurable text editor. It is built to enable efficient text editing and offers exciting editor features for Unix/Linux users, therefore, it is also a good option for writing and editing C/C++ code.

To learn how to use vim editor in Linux, read our following articles:

Generally, IDEs offer more programming comfortability than traditional text editors, therefore it is always a good idea to use them. They come with exciting features and offer a comprehensive development environment, sometimes programmers are caught up in choosing the best IDE to use for C/C++ programming.

There are many other IDEs you can find out and download from the Internet, but trying out several of them can help you find that which suits your needs.

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