Need free programs, how do you install GNU software?

Okay, I don't know anything about compiling stuff, but I found a website with links to something called GNU software. It's supposed to be part of some freedom of rights for software, because many who have free software (for example Firefox) don't cost money but have certain restrictions, thus free of money but not freedom of rights. Not that I care about that, but I want some software that doesn't cost money.

The problem is it appears to be meant for people who are more advanced than just download and double-click to install. I found a program that looks useful, but it has files from mirror sites like .tar and tar.gz.sig. Apparently you're supposed to compile it or something. How do you go from point A to point B, where I can have a program?

Are you running Linux?

alxm
Right, they call it 'free as in speech', rather than 'free as in beer'. The freedom in question being the right to access the source code to the program and modify it as you like.

(Which you do have with Firefox as well, but it's not specifically GNU software, rather 'Open Source' which is the general term for any software where you can get and modify the source code. GNU is a subset of Open Source software)

Anyway. Getting and installing GNU software isn't necessarily different from other software. It depends on whether or not you're downloading the source code, or the binaries. The latter being just the executable program - in other words, the form you get most software in.

Some GNU software is available as binaries where you just download and double-click, others provide source-code, which you have to compile to binaries yourself and install.

As Greg said: Is it a Windows program or a Linux one (or both)? GNU programs are usually available for Linux (since it's a GNU-licensed operating system) but not always for Windows, and when they're available for Windows, they usually have a binary package for convenience. So if the program's available for Windows (or Mac) and that's what you're using, check for a 'Windows binaries' (or similarly named) download option.

If you're running Linux you should really be able to extract a tar.gz file from your desktop, after which there'd typically be a file named INSTALLATION or similar explaining how to install it. (although it may well depend on having some other things installed). Although typically, if you're running Linux you can often find binaries packaged for your Linux distribution available online as well.

Right, they call it 'free as in speech', rather than 'free as in beer'. The freedom in question being the right to access the source code to the program and modify it as you like.

(Which you do have with Firefox as well, but it's not specifically GNU software, rather 'Open Source' which is the general term for any software where you can get and modify the source code. GNU is a subset of Open Source software)

Anyway. Getting and installing GNU software isn't necessarily different from other software. It depends on whether or not you're downloading the source code, or the binaries. The latter being just the executable program - in other words, the form you get most software in.

Some GNU software is available as binaries where you just download and double-click, others provide source-code, which you have to compile to binaries yourself and install.

As Greg said: Is it a Windows program or a Linux one (or both)? GNU programs are usually available for Linux (since it's a GNU-licensed operating system) but not always for Windows, and when they're available for Windows, they usually have a binary package for convenience. So if the program's available for Windows (or Mac) and that's what you're using, check for a 'Windows binaries' (or similarly named) download option.

If you're running Linux you should really be able to extract a tar.gz file from your desktop, after which there'd typically be a file named INSTALLATION or similar explaining how to install it. (although it may well depend on having some other things installed). Although typically, if you're running Linux you can often find binaries packaged for your Linux distribution available online as well.

I have Windows XP. I was looking at two programs that looked interesting. The first one had .tar and other files, then it had another section of pre made up binary package, one for Windows, MAC, etc. It was meant to be a replacement of a paid program I've used. When I downloaded the pre made binary for Windows, it only had 2/3 of all the features the paid version does, along with not having the part that makes graphs for your statistical data. However, when I looked at what it said you need if you put it together yourself, it said, "Add this part if you want graphical abilities," etc. So I'm thinking if I put it together myself, I may have more features?

Then there's something about using cygwin, and then something about commands to put it together. I feel confused?

It says

PSPP is GNU software. You can obtain it the same way as with any GNU software. PSPP should work on most modern computers and most operating systems. Systems which have been known to work include:
.
.
.
# Windows (using Cygwin, or natively with MinGW)

Then it says you need certain packages first, such as an ANSI C compiler and tool chain, and on MS Windows Cygwin works. Then GNU Scientific Library, Perl, iconv, and other stuff.

Then it says

The simplest way to compile PSPP is:

1. cd' to the directory containing the package's source code and type
./configure' to configure the package for your system.

You may invoke configure' with --help to see what options are
available. The most common of these are listed under "Optional
Features", below.

It is best to build and install PSPP in directories whose names do
not contain unusual characters such as spaces or single-quotes, due
to limitations of the tools involved in the build process.

If you installed some of the libraries that PSPP uses in a
non-standard location (on many systems, anywhere other than
/usr), you may need to provide some special flags to configure'
to tell it where to find them. For example, on GNU/Linux, if you
installed some libraries in /usr/local, then you need to invoke
it with at least the following options:

./configure LDFLAGS='-L/usr/local/lib -Wl,-rpath,/usr/local/lib' CPPFLAGS='-I/usr/local/include'

Running `configure' takes awhile. While running, it prints some
messages telling which features it is checking for.

Since I have no background in anything like this whatsoever, I feel lost. In the cygwin folder, I see this DOS icon, that I clicked on, and brings up one of those command prompt like windows. Does cd to the directory just mean you say which drive/folder/etc, or what is it saying? If I type in the command prompt like window "C:/Documents and Setting.../Downloads/pspp-0.6.2.tar.gz", it says "cannot excute binary file. Then what is 'configure'?