Today I tried setting up Netbeans as a C IDE, it has built in support for C, but unfortunately enough you have to manually configure a compiler so that you can actually debug / build your C/C++ programs.


Fortunately there is this helpful page at to help you install Cygwin, a very popular UNIX/Windows C/C++ compiler. However, this helpful page isn't as helpful as I’d hope at all! It will point you in the right direction to download Cygwin, and will tell you what packages to select for download, it will even tell you to set up your PATH environment variable for Cygwin, but it will assume Netbeans auto detects the correct settings, which it unfortunately doesn’t do. (Well at least at my pc, and I’ve seen a few threads with the same problems around).

So here is my attempt at a more complete overview on installing Cygwin for Netbeans 6.5.

Go to and download the small setup program. Run it (if your using Vista, set the compatibility options to XP SP2, and run it as administrator). Follow the pretty standard steps until you get to choose the installation packages. If you thought just pressing next would install the most common Cygwin apps, like the compiler (gcc.exe) and the make implementation, unfortunately Cygwin, is not just a C/C++ compiler, it even includes a java compiler, games, documentation, text editors etc. . Ok so just install everything, well that will install the compiler etc., but also 3GB of (for us) useless data. So don’t make the same mistake I did there. We are going to search for the few packages that we actually need. According to the these are:

select gcc-core: C compiler, gcc-g++: C++ compiler, gdb: The GNU Debugger, and make: the GNU version of the 'make' utility.

Unfortunately these aren’t easy to find. For example there is no core package directly visible (we do have base and development though).  It took me a while but I think I’ve nailed it down. Select the following packages by clicking the weird “refresh” icon next to them until it says install:

-The entire base package
-In the development package select:
--gcc core
--gcc g++
--gcc g77
--gcc mingw core
--gcc mingw g++
--gcc mingw g77
--mingw runtime

(note I’m not sure about the mingw packages, this seems to be a seperate C compiler but it doesn’t seem to harm)

After that go to windows configuration screen->advanced->environment variables. And add "C:\Cygwin\Bin” to the PATH variables (or wherever you have located your Cygwin\bin folder, (make sure to separate it from the last one with a ‘;’).

Start Netbeans, navigate to tools->options->C/C++. Check to see if Cygwin is in the list on the left panel. Select it, and then fill in the options as following: (I assume that you’ve installed it in C:\Cygwin)

Base Director: C:\Cygwin\bin
C compiler C:\Cygwin\bin\gcc.exe
C++ Compiler: C:\Cygwin\bin\g++-3.exe*
Fortran Compiler: C:\Cygwin\bin\g77-3.exe*
Make Command: C:\Cygwin\bin\make.exe
Debugger: C:\Cygwin\bin\gdb.exe

(* marks optional)

Now make a new C project. And add a new main file to it by right clicking the source directory and selecting New->Main C file. There is an odd chance that the include directives will be underlined with red. This is not a problem, as you will see the program will compile and run fine, but you can’t use intellisense this way so we are going to fix it. (First make sure your PATH variable was correctly set!).

Right click on your project and select properties. Go to build->C compiler (or C++ compiler if you are doing C++).  Select the “…” button after Include Directories. And add the “C:\Cygwin\usr\include” directory to the include directories. Save your settings and reload your project. The red lines should’ve disappeared now, leaving you behind with a fully functional C/C++ IDE and compiler in Netbeans. *Yay*!


(I wish someone else would’ve written this before me, so that I wasn't busy uninstalling a couple of gigabytes of C/C++ tools/compilers/utilities/fonts and text editors!)