How to install software from tarballs

Q I installed SUSE 10.0 three weeks ago, and I've not looked back since. I hope to eventually defect fully to Linux. One problem I cannot figure out comes with installing certain applications, particularly tarballs. I understand about untaring them and changing into that particular directory, but when I enter ./configure I get this:

bash: ./configure: No such file or directory

I'm a little confused by this, as I've followed lots of people's advice, tried carrying out this task using root and still can't get my head around it. I feel like I'm missing something really simple, but have to admit defeat.

A It is often said that running ./configure is the first step after unpacking the tarball; in fact it is the third. The first two are:

1 Look for any files containing installation instructions.

2 Read those instructions thoroughly.

Most source code tarballs contain files called README or INSTALL, which you should read to see how to install them. The standard installation method for source code of

./configure
make
make install

applies to more than 90% of Linux open source programs, but there are exceptions. In some cases there is no configuration to do, particularly with very simple programs, and you only need make followed by make install. In other cases, the program uses a different installation method. In either case, you must read the instructions before you proceed. While it is unnecessary - and some say undesirable - to run the first two steps as root, make install generally needs root access as it copies files into system directories. As such, it is potentially dangerous, so you should not run it without looking at the instructions first. Another step worth taking when using ./configure is to run it with the --help option first. This gives you plenty of options for controlling where the program is installed (not something you should change lightly) and which features of the program should be compiled and installed.

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