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What is C++? A Definitive C++ Programming Guide

Posted in C++
 What is C++

What is C++?

Despite being nearly four decades old, C++ remains one of the most popular programming languages — used by over 4 million programmers worldwide. Today, we’re going to answer some important questions:

  • What is C++? 
  • What is the C++ meaning and what makes it so common? 
  • Why would you learn C++ programming? And what is it chiefly used for?

Apart from Java and Python, C++ is one of the best general-purpose languages available. One of the top five programming languages in the world, it is well-supported, well-documented, and robust. Quite a few programmers learn C++ as their first programming language. Others learn it as a way to further develop their skill set. 

Let’s take a look at why C++ is such a popular language and what that means for programmers looking to upskill for work opportunities or hobbies.


What is C++?

C++ was first released in 1985 as an evolution of C. C++ is an iteration (++) of the C language. In C, as well as in many other languages, two “plus” signs are a way of adding “one” to an integer. 

There are a few things you should know about C++:


  • It’s scalable. An object-oriented language, C++ is known for being one of the best languages available for large, scalable applications, due to its discrete and direct memory management and low-level machine functions. 


  • It can be used procedurally or object-oriented. C++ is also special because it can be used as a procedural language as well as an object-oriented language. Very few languages can be used both ways.


  • Originally, C++ was just an extension of the C language. As an extension, it was also known as C with Classes. Over time, it evolved into a fully-featured language. It has gone through many iterations and improvements over the years. The libraries and repositories of C++ are extensive.


  • C++ is very comparable to Java in terms of extensibility, portability, and scalability. It is the first language many programmers will learn and is often thought of as one of the most essential languages to know. Moving from C++ to other languages is often fairly easy, which is what makes it a popular foundational language.


The C++ language was followed up by C#. While C++ is an object-oriented language, C# is a component-oriented language. But C# has not replaced C++ in terms of operability or market share, as they are used for different types of programming. C++ maintains very robust library sets, an extraordinarily active community, and extensive documentation. Meanwhile, C# is frequently used for game design and mobile development.


Who Uses C++?

C++ coding is used for application development. It’s a general-purpose language used for powerful platforms such as:

  • Operating systems
  • Games
  • Business applications


It is not designed for web application development, although there are ways for programmers to get around this. C++ can be considered to be very similar to Java, except that C++ is a purely compiled language whereas Java requires an interpreter.

A few tools programmed in C++ include: 

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Windows OS
  • Microsoft Office
  • MySQL 


C++ has also been used to develop the backend for multiple web applications, such as Spotify, YouTube, and Amazon.

To use C++ for backend web applications, programmers can use CGI (common gateway interface). There are advantages to using C++ rather than a language intended for web applications. It produces clean, accessible, and extensible code, which has a very low overhead.

In short, C++ is used by everyone. Many of the world’s most popular and powerful systems run on this programming language. However, it is a little less applicable to web application development than many other languages.


C++ Advantages

c++ advantages

C experienced a major evolution when C++ came around. C, while still very relevant, is a procedural programming language. Code executes in a sequence of events. The benefits of C++ include:


  • C++ is object-oriented. An object-oriented programming language stores code snippets in groups called objects, to reduce the repetition of code and make code both more extensible and flexible. Programming in C++ is, therefore, faster and easier, once you master the language.


  • C++ is very popular. Popularity is important in a programming language because it means that there’s thorough documentation, tutorials, lessons, and classes available. For any given “problem” in programming, there are many solutions already available. Many platforms use C++ and many employers look for employees well-versed in the language. Consequently, knowledge of C++ is important for many software engineers.


  • C++ provides both abstraction and machine-level manipulation. C++ provides high-level functionality and abstraction, but, if necessary, programmers are still able to control memory and system functions. Because of this, programmers consider C++ a very powerful language. 


There are very few things that cannot be done in C++, in terms of application development.


C++ Challenges

c++ challenges

No language is perfect. Most programmers will find drawn to one language or another. Programmers can find C++ unwieldy for a few reasons:


  • Memory management is confusing. C++ programming can be difficult primarily because of its pointers and memory management. Pointers have to be managed directly — that makes the programming quite fiddly. Furthermore, it doesn't have garbage collection, so you need to manage memory directly to avoid memory leaks.


  • There may be security issues. Elements of C++ such as global variables can make C++ code harder to secure. Consequently, some programmers have been moving away from C++ to more modern languages.


  • C++ isn’t very flexible. You must follow the syntax quite closely compared to a language such as Python. This can make it very difficult for modern programmers to learn C++.


Still, for those who are well-versed in C++, these problems are easily surmounted.


How Does C++ Compare to Python and Java?

A beginner programmer will usually learn a C-language, Python, or Java. But how can people choose between them?

Compared to C++, Python and Java are both known for being easier to learn. But C++ provides a more robust foundation. Let’s put it this way — C++ programmers can learn Python and Java more easily than Python or Java programmers can learn C++. 

That being said, Java and Python are both younger languages. Java is often more in demand than C++ in the job market, although Java can only be used as an object-oriented language rather than also a procedural language.

Python is considered a more modern language. Anything that can be done in Python can be done in C++ and vice versa. C++, on the other hand, is more efficient and scalable; code will process in C++ faster. But this isn't always important, except when dealing with complex, enterprise-grade technology. Learning Python can also be a boon for a new programmer.

Ultimately, it's up to the programmer. C++ provides superior performance and more access to low-level machine functions, but it's also more difficult to use and, to some, antiquated. Java and Python are popular, common languages that are easier to use, but they may not provide as much fine control.


How to Code in C++

C++ is a compiled language. To code in C++, a programmer can write code in a text editor like notepad and then run it through a compiler such as GCC. But most programmers are going to use an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) such as Notepad++ or Visual Studio.

code in cpp

An IDE or even just a code editor is useful because it can highlight syntaxes, such as functions and variable names. In an IDE, the editor and the compiler can run through a single platform, so compiling is as simple as pushing a button.

Most IDEs will still need to be configured for C++ and the compiler will still have to be installed.

When the coding is pushed through the compiler, it catches all errors. These errors will need to be addressed before the code can be properly compiled, which is a good thing. This is unlike a language like JavaScript, which will execute until it reaches a fatal error.

After the compiler finishes compiling, an executable file will be produced. The goal of C++ is to allow compilation anywhere, unlike the goal of Java, which is to allow running anywhere.


How to Learn C++

Many are taught how to code in C++ in college. Along with Python and Java, it is one of the most common languages in school. But for those who aren’t still in college, there are a lot of ways to learn C++ programming.

Some people self-teach through the Internet, as there are many lessons and tutorials available. But others may find that this lack of structure makes it difficult to learn. Instead, they might prefer a boot camp. Boot camps provide a fast, structured way of learning the right habits in programming.

Another great way to learn complex programming languages such as C++ is to develop a project in the language, as well as to study the code from other projects. 


C++ Jobs and Salary

C++ jobs are found in:

  • Software engineering
  • Game programming
  • Software analysis
  • Application design


Many software engineering jobs that involve games, native applications, and desktop applications will involve this language. And these fields are very highly paid.

Those who want to get a job in C++ may want to consider a C++ certification or boot camps if they don’t have a degree. Getting a job in the field often requires a portfolio, as well as a solid repository of GitHub commits.

Though C++ has been a programming language for some time, its growth and popularity remain high, and it's likely to remain a sought-after skill for many years to come. 

According to Indeed, the average programmer salary for a C++ programmer is a little over $118,000 annually. 

c++ programmer salary



What is C++? It’s one of the most popular programming languages today, even though it's been in existence since 1985. 

C++ is a general-purpose programming language used for application development, mobile applications, video games, operating systems, and more. Similar languages to C++ include Java and Python.

An object-oriented language, C++ is both powerful and scalable and often used for large applications. C++ programmers can make a significant amount of money, as experience and expertise in this language are very in demand.

A prospective C++ programmer can start learning the programming language by signing up for lessons, tutorials, classes — or a boot camp.

Jenna Inouye

Jenna Inouye

Jenna Inouye has been a full stack developer for two decades, specializing in web application design and development. For the last eight years, she has worked as a news and feature writer focusing on technology and finance, with bylines in Udemy, SVG, and The Gamer. View all posts by the Author

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