Aug 6 2007
Are they serious at the Wired How To Wiki? They recently published the article, Compile Software From Source Code. This article is about the increasing number of open source applications that are becoming available. The idea here is that at times you’ll have to compile the code to have a working application. This is something the average user will be doing apparently.
Now I have a hard time believing that a hairdresser will download an open source program, download and install a compiler, and then compile the application. No problem. Of course, the source code will compile perfectly and will work flawlessly. Anyone who has tried to compile someone else’s program only knows what a fallacy this is.
A software developer who expects their users to compile their programs should take a reality check. Software should be easy to use and easy to set up. There should be one program, the setup application that you run to install the program. There should also be a program to completely uninstall the application if the user doesn’t want to keep it.
The article also claims that “the process is fairly simple” for compiling source code. It then goes on to recommend using a good command line compiler to do this. A command line compiler is easy to use? Has the author ever used one?
The article lists which compilers to use for Linux, Macintosh, and Windows. The amazing thing is that it claims that Cygwin is “more useful and user-friendly” than the Visual Studio Express compilers. I have a hard time believing a command line compiler is easier to use than a GUI compiler that has an integrated editor, debugger, and the .NET Framework.
If you create software and you want to get customers and retain them, the software needs to be easy to use and install. Well written documentation is also a must. You don’t want your customers phoning you and asking for help installing a compiler just to compile your program.