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Very simple IDE for programming newbie

From: Sean McAfee
Subject: Very simple IDE for programming newbie
Date: Sat, 02 Jan 2010 13:51:57 -0500
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.1.50 (darwin)

I've started teaching my fiancée some basic C programming.  After the
first few lessons on her Windows laptop, using Notepad as the editor
and a Cygwin shell for compiling and running, I decided that a more
integrated environment was called for (not to mention a more capable

Although I use Emacs every day, I thought that it might be too
overwhelming for someone with little programming experience.  I tried
Eclipse first, but after much wrangling I just couldn't get it to work
with Cygwin's compiler tools.  Though I'm ashamed to admit it, I tried
a free version of Microsoft's Visual Studio next, but it requires a
bunch of arcane Microsoft cruft in and around main() just to compile a
simple "Hello World!" type console program, and I wasn't comfortable
telling my student to just ignore it.  So, I was finally led back to
consider Emacs again.  I've been working through the tutorial with
her, and her response has been quite gratifying.  After learning about
Emacs's cursor-motion commands, she was excited that she'd be able to
save a lot of time at work (she's a nurse and has to enter a lot of
text using a dedicated application).  I sadly had to disappoint her by
telling her that her new skills weren't widely applicable outside of
Emacs.  But it was nice to see her get excited about editing text.

So now we're just about done with the tutorial and ready to get back
into actual coding again.  I've been thinking of whipping up a very
simple development environment for her, maybe as simple as a single
command that does the following:

* Execute the compile command using "gcc this-file.c" as the command
  to run.
* If there were any errors, halt.  (Then I teach her about
* Otherwise, launch the terminal emulator, killing any that might
  already exist, and run the newly-compiled executable in it.

Something this simple should suffice for quite some time, I think.  My
question is, does something similar already exist, possibly with other
useful features that I haven't thought of?

If nothing like that exists, I could use some pointers about detecting
when the (asynchronous) compile command has finished running, and
whether there were any errors.  That's the one part I haven't quite
figured out how to do yet.

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