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Table of Contents...
Introduction... Documentation projects
Unix-Related Projects Other Projects
Compilers for Other Batch Languages Games and Recreations

This is the task list Scott Ewing sent me when I volunteered to the GNU program. I'll try to update it every mont so that you people be well informed. The information that follows comes directly from t he F.S.F. I tryed to arrange it in a way that's more simple to read.

Please tell which task you choose to take on. Feel free to ask any questions that would help you get started or keep you going. Or for any help you need. Please also tell us once a month what progress you have made.


This file is updated automatically from `tasks.texi', which was last updated on 6 April 1995.

Check with, for a possibly more current copy. This task list is not exclusive; any other useful program might be a good project--but it might instead be something we already have, so check with gnu@prep before you start writing it.

If you start working steadily on a project, please let `gnu@prep' know. We might have information that could help you; we'd also like to send you the GNU coding standards.

Because of the natural tendency for most volunteers to write programming tools or programming languages, we have a comparative shortage of applications useful for non-programmer users. Therefore, we ask you to consider writing such a program.

In general, a new program that does a completely new job advances the GNU project more than an improvement to an existing program.

Documentation projects

We very urgently need documentation for some parts of the system that already exist or will exist very soon:

Completion of the documentation for CC-mode, a new C/C++ mode for Emacs Lisp.
A C reference manual. (RMS has written half of one which you could start with).
A manual for Ghostscript.
A manual for PIC (the graphics formatting language).
A manual for Perl. (The books that exist are not free, and thus not available to be part of the GNU system.)
A manual for Oleo.
A book on how GCC works and why various machine descriptions are written as they are.
A manual for programming X-window applications.
Manuals for various X window managers.
Reference cards for those manuals that don't have them: Gawk, C Compiler, Make, Texinfo, Termcap and maybe the C Library.

Many utilities need documentation, including `grep', `cpio', and other small utilities.

Unix-Related Projects

We could use an emulation of Unix `spell', which would run by invoking `ispell'.
Less urgent: `diction', `explain', `style'.
An improved version of the POSIX utility `pax'. There is one on the Usenet, but it is said to be poorly written. Talk with about this project.
A `grap' preprocessor program for `troff'.
Various other libraries.
An emulation of SCCS that works using RCS.

Kernel-Related Projects

An over-the-ethernet debugger stub that will allow the kernel to be debugged from GDB running on another machine. This stub needs its own self-contained implementation of all protocols to be used, since the GNU system will use user processes to implement all but the lowest levels, and the stub won't be able to use those processes. If a simple self-contained implementation of IP and TCP is impractical, it might be necessary to design a new, simple protocol based directly on ethernet. It's not crucial to support high speed or communicating across gateways. It might be possible to use the Mach ethernet driver code, but it would need some changes.
A shared memory X11 server to run under MACH is very desirable. The machine specific parts should be kept well separated.

Extensions to Existing GNU Software

Enhance GCC. See files `PROJECTS' and `PROBLEMS' in the GCC distribution.
GNU `sed' probably needs to be rewritten completely just to make it cleaner.
Work on the partially-implemented C interpreter project.
Help with the development of GNUStep, a GNU implementation of the OpenStep specification.
Add features to GNU Make to record the precise rule with which each file was last recompiled; then recompile any file if its rulein the makefile has changed.
Add a few features to GNU `diff', such as handling large input files without reading entire files into core.
An `nroff' macro package to simplify `texi2roff'.
A queueing system for the mailer Smail that groups pending work by destination rather than by original message. This makes it possible to schedule retries coherently for each destination. Talk to about this. Smail also needs a new chief maintainer.
Enhanced cross-reference browsing tools. (We now have something at about the level of `cxref'.) We also could use something like `ctrace'. (Some people are now working on this project.)

X Windows Projects

An emulator for Macintosh graphics calls on top of X Windows.
A music playing and editing system.
A "disk jockey" program to keep track of a collection of recorded music samples (songs, etc), and queue up a sequence of them for playing. This program could use rplay to do the actual playing.
A program to edit dance notation (such as labanotation) and display dancers moving on the screen.
Port the Vibrant toolkit to work on X without using Motif.
A general-purpose image viewer that can handle many image formats. (Unfortunately, the Xv program that some people use is shareware, not free, and we cannot use it in the GNU system.)
A widget for displaying circle-shaped menus ("pie menus") with X windows.
A program to display and edit Hypercard stacks.
An interface-builder program to make it easy to design graphical interfaces for applications. This could work with the dynamic linker DLD and C++, loading in the same class definitions that will be used by the application program.
A "desktop" program with drag-and-drop icons and such.
A paint program, supporting both bitmap-oriented operations and component-oriented operations. `xpaint' exists, but isn't very usable.
A program for manipulating photographs--something vaguely like Photo Shop (though not exactly like it).

Other Projects

If you think of others that should be added, please send them to

[This seems to be being done:] A program to convert Postscript to plain ASCII text. Ghostscript will soon have a mode to output all the text strings in a document, each with its coordinates. You could write a program to start with this output and "layout the page" in ASCII. The program will be both easier and more useful if you don't worry pedantically about how the output text should be formatted. Instead, try to make it look reasonable as plain ASCII.
A program to convert compiled programs represented in OSF ANDF ("Architecture Neutral Distribution Format") into ANSI C.
An imitation of Page Maker or Ventura Publisher.
An imitation of `dbase2' or `dbase3' (How dbased!)
A text-based Web browser, somewhat like Lynx (which, unfortunately, is not free software).
A program to reformat Fortran programs in a way that is pretty.
A bulletin board system. There are a few free ones, but they don't have all the features that people want in such systems. It would make sense to start with an existing one and add the other features.
A general ledger program.
A program to typeset C code for printing. For ideas on what to do, see the forthcoming book,
Human Factors and Typography for More Readable Programs,
Ronald M. Baecker and Aaron Marcus,
Addison-Wesley, ISBN 0-201-10745-7
(I don't quite agree with a few of the details they propose.)
Speech-generation programs (there is a program from Brown U that you could improve).
Speech-recognition programs (single-speaker, disconnected speech).
Scientific mathematical subroutines, including clones of SPSS.
Statistical tools.
Software to replace card catalogues in libraries.
Grammar and style checking programs.
An implementation of the S language (an interpreted languages used for statistics).
A translator from Scheme to C.
Optical character recognition programs; especially if suitable for scanning documents with multiple fonts and capturing font info as well as character codes. This may not be very difficult if you let it *train* on part of the individual document to be scanned, so as to learn what fonts are in use in that document. We would particularly like to scan the Century Dictionary, an unabridged dictionary now in the public domain.
You don't need scanning hardware to work on OCR. We can send you bitmaps you can use as test data.
We may soon have an OCR program, but it will need lots of additional work.
A program to scan a line drawing and convert it to Postscript.
A program to recognize handwriting.
A pen based interface.
Software suitable for creating virtual reality user interfaces.
CAD software, such as a vague imitation of Autocad.
Software for displaying molecules.
Software for comparing DNA sequences, and finding matches and alignments.

Compilers for Other Batch Languages

Volunteers are needed to write parsers/front ends for languages such as Algol 60, Algol 68, PL/I, or whatever, to be used with the code generation phases of the GNU C compiler. (C++ and Objective C are done, Fortran is now in beta test, and Ada and Pascal are being worked on.

You can get the status of the Fortran front end with this command:
finger -l

Games and Recreations

Video-oriented games should work with the X window system.
Empire (there is a free version but it needs upgrading)
An "empire builder" system that makes it easy to write various kinds of simulation games.
Imitations of popular video games:
  • Space war, Asteroids, Pong, Columns.
  • Defending cities from missiles.
  • Plane shoots at lots of other planes, tanks, etc.
  • Wizard fights fanciful monster.
  • A golf game.
  • Program a robot by sticking building blocks together, then watch it explore a world.
  • Biomorph evolution (as in Scientific American).
  • A program to display effects of moving at relativistic speeds.
Intriguing screen-saver programs to make interesting pictures.
Other such programs that are simply entertaining to watch. For example, an aquarium.

We do not need `rogue', as we have `hack'.