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The Art of Unix Programming
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Unix Programming - Environment Variables - Portability to Other Operating Systems

Portability to Other Operating Systems

Environment variables have only very limited portability off Unix. Microsoft operating systems have an environment-variable feature modeled on that of Unix, and use a PATH variable as Unix does to set the binary search path, but most of other variables that Unix shell programmers take for granted (such as process ID or current working directory) are not supported. Other operating systems (including classic MacOS) generally do not have any local equivalent of environment variables.

[102] Nobody knows a really graceful way to represent this sort of distributed preference data; environment variables probably are not it, but all the known alternatives have equally nasty problems.

[103] Actually, most Unix programs first check VISUAL, and only if that's not set will they consult EDITOR. That's a relic from the days when people had different preferences for line-oriented editors and visual editors.

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The Art of Unix Programming
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