Tutorial :Visual C++ Development Targeting Linux


I've been a Visual C++ user for quite some time now, and in the following weeks, I will be joining a (C++) Linux-only project. It should be noted that I have absolutely zero development experience on Linux.

Currently, Visual C++ 9 along with the Visual Assist X add-in make Windows-based development rather enjoyable. Having looked at various C++ IDEs on Linux left me a little disappointed with the coding experience, however.

I'd love to be able to use my current tool set (see above) for Linux development, so I have a couple of questions:

  1. Can the VS editor convert between CR+LF <-> LF in a reliable manner?
  2. Is it possible to set up a system where if I press "Build" in the IDE all of my work gets transferred to another box (e.g., a virtual machine) running Linux that compiles my project?
  3. How would debugging work? Is it possible to remote-debug an application running in Linux via something like gdb? If so, would the "advanced" features of MS's debugger (e.g., tracepoints, break-if-cond, etc.) be lost?

Is this even a sane thing to think of? Does anyone use a Windows environment for Linux development? If not, I guess I should just suck it up and move to a Linux environment all together...?

Any input is appreciated, as I feel a little lost right now.


I've done windows/linux/freebsd cross-platform development with Windows as my primary OS... so it is possible.

  • Use VS as editor.

  • Access Linux Dev node via SSH with putty.

  • Use revision control system (subversion/git/bazaar/mercurial/cvs) to check changes into repo & check changes out on Linux.

  • Use a multi-platform build process. I use SCons. It is python based and works beautifully - though it is a little slow with the default settings.

  • Launch build process from shell using putty.

  • Use additional shells as needed to attach gdb & debug.

Now to answer your questions:

  1. Yes. There is a VS setting to say use unix line endings. Many revision control systems can also be configured to correct this for you.

  2. Maybe, but that's not how I did it.

  3. Yes, you can remotely debug using GDB. GDB has many (all?) the features available with VS's debuger but you have to learn the GDB commands. I don't know of a way to use VS's debugger to debug processes compiled with GCC - though this is a frequent request.


It's probable you'll eventually want to suck it up and work on Linux. microsoft, for obvious reasons, builds their tools to be very Windows-centric and Windows-specific; there are even a few ways in which Visual C++ isn't quite standard C++.

That said, though, you can work with VC++ to some extent.

There are easy tools on linux that will translate to UNIX line endings from Windows. (called something creative like 'dos2unix')

You can set up a remote file system, like with ExpanDrive for Windows, to let you keep your files there.

You can run ssh or rsh from Windows to run makes on the remote Linux box.


I'd recommend that you dive in and try to learn the Linux way of doing things. What are the other people on your team using? If you use the same tool-set as other people, you'll be much better of when asking for help. If you're sitting on a Windows box cross-compiling using Cygwin, you're more or less on your own.


I work on a Linux team currently but use Visual Studio + Visual AssistX as my IDE. VS+VAX is the best environment for developing code in my opinion. Nothing like it exists anywhere else that I've found.

What you want to do is:

  1. Install Cygwin openssh and configure it for shelling into your linux machine without a password.
  2. Expose your development tree on your linux machine as a samba share and mount the share on your Windows machine.
  3. Create a Visual Studio "makefile" project referencing the files on your linux machine.
  4. Override the make command to ssh into your linux machine and execute the build.
  5. Write a sed script on your linux machine that converts gcc/g++ output errors into visual studio format. I use something similar to this: sed -e 's/(.):([0-9]): (.*)/z:\path\to\code\\1(\2): \3/' \


I would really recommend you to give Linux a shot natively, not through a virtual machine. If you run it under a virtual machine you will probably end up doing 85% of your activities under Windows and this will prevent you from actually learning anything under linux.

Install linux in its own partition and work on it fulltime. Do this ASAP before the project start and get familiarized with the basics on how to use it first.

Regarding IDE's to use, find out what build system the project will use and what libraries you will be using. KDevelop is a great IDE although it might be a bit too cluttered. I really like Qt-Creator. You might wanna give Eclipse a shot too.

As of what distribution to use, I would recommend you Archlinux if you feel like really learning something out of this and learning about linux along with learning to do development under linux. If you dont really want to learn too much about linux and go straight into developing then go with Kubuntu. As for what Desktop Manager to use I would go with KDE.


There is no Visual Studio on Linux. Period. Try KDevelop or Code::Blocks. They should make development fun on Linux.

As for the compiler/executables you'd have to use the GNU GCC toolchain. There is no MS cl compiler on Linux either.

The debugger to use is gdb, again part of the GCC toolchain.

One more thing, try to pick a shell (like bash) and read up on it. It'll save quite some time in future.


I wrote a ftp script to move files from my pc to the linux box, then set it up as a tool, so i can at least write the code on the pc, and have easy access to source safe. I hit a tool button, and the files get transferred to the linux box, where i use the utilities there to do the work


  1. & 3.: I use cygwin + Eclipse on Windows for developing and compiling. With this combination I can also debug via gdbserver on the target machine (VM with x86 Linux or ARM "real" target).

Unfortunately you have to do some tiny but important settings (library paths in gdb etc...) but as soon as it works......

Sorry, no solution for debugging from within VS on a linux box...and I think there will none in the near future...


What you will find is that there are dialectic variations in the compiler and the libraries are different enough that it's unlikely to work well.

You're probably better off with a gcc based tool chain like MinGW if you don't want to switch your environment to Windows right off. MinGW uses native Win32 ports of standard open-source libraries such as getopt, and it is fairly easy to port software between Linux and MinGW32 (as long as you're not using Linux or Windows specific APIs).

However, porting software from MinGW to Visual C++ is quite a bit harder. On the few occasions that I've done this sort of thing I find that porting between Linux and MinGW is much easier than porting between MinGW and Visual C++.

As far as I'm aware I've never seen a MinGW plugin for Visual Studio, although one could theoretically write such a thing as Visual Studio will let you use third party compilers. Additionally, you will have to work with whatever build system the rest of the team uses, which is pretty much guaranteed not to be MSBuild.

So, I'd guess that it's fairly unlikely to work well. Still, as Hunt & Thomas would say getting used to a different way of doing things will make you a better programmer. While vi (or emacs if you're that way inclined), ctags and gdb work quite differently to Visual studio they're still quite a powerful development environment. With MinGW32 and Cygwin or MSYS you can use these without having to make a wholesale switch across to Linux.

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