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What tools can I use to simplify porting apps from Windows to Linux?

What's the hardest thing about porting applications from Windows to Linux? What open source tools (like compilers) do you use when porting applications to Linux? Are any of them universal? Can they be used any time you're porting an application?

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In general, the most difficult thing when porting applications from Windows to Linux is porting the GUI code. There are free as well as commercial cross-platform GUI libraries which make this manageable.

The most common tools used when porting applications to Linux, or more accurately, GNU/Linux, are GCC (GNU Compiler Collection) C, C++ compilers, binutils (the assembler, linker and other object file utilities) and the gdb debugger.

These tools are available on most popular operating systems and can be used for porting almost any C or C++ application. GCC can also be used for porting applications developed using other languages like Java, Objective-C and Ada.

There is not much difference between the various Linux distributions in terms of ease of porting as far as tools are concerned. The larger distributions tend to pack together more features and may make it easier to get a particular library required to complete the port.

How long a particular release is supported by the vendor and quality and price of support for the GNU tools is a lot more important and should be considered when selecting a distribution of Linux.

This was first published in January 2005

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