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What is C++? Easy Intro to the C++ Programming Language
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Fast approaching the age of 40, the C++ language remains one of the most popular, with more than 27% of developers surveyed in 2022 making it their language of choice.
Sitting alongside Java and Python as one of the best general-purpose languages, C++ is well-supported, well-documented, and robust. As a result, many coders learn C++ as their first programming language, while others pick it up later to enhance their skill set.
If you’re looking for an intro to C++, read on as we answer essential questions, like what C++ is, why you should use it, and what you should use it for.
What Is C++?
C++ (sometimes called Cpp) was first released in 1985 as an evolution of C; ever notice the genius behind the name as we use ‘++’ to increment variables in C languages? While C implements a procedural programming approach, the C++ programming language provides the added ability to write object-oriented programs.
Let’s look at some key features of the C++ coding language.
- Object-oriented: Uses classes and objects to reduce code repetition (D.R.Y principles), making code more flexible and extensible
- Multi-paradigm: Not only is C++ object-oriented, but like its older brother, C, it can be used as a procedural language
- Mid-level language: Offers low-level language features to interact with and manipulate hardware, along with high-level abstraction via object-oriented programming
- Fast: Compiles directly to machine code, meaning it’s one of the fastest and most performant languages
- Popular: Widely used and documented, including extensive community support
- Maintained & updated: A fully-featured language with four significant updates in 2011, 2014, 2017, and 2020
- Scalable: Good for large, scalable applications due to discrete & direct memory management and low-level machine functions
- Comparable to Java: Similar in extensibility, portability, and scalability
Want to learn more about C and its younger sibling, C++? Check out our article on the differences between C and C++
What Is C++ Used For?
Some of the world's most widely used software, games, operating systems, backend infrastructure, and more relies on C++.
- Operating Systems (OS): Microsoft Windows, macOS
- Software Applications: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and others
- Games: World of Warcraft, Counter-Strike, Unreal Engine, Playstation, Xbox, etc
- Graphics: Digital image processing, computer-generated graphics, etc
- Embedded Systems: Internet of Things (IoT), flight software, etc
- Databases: MySQL, MongoDB
- Web browsers: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera
- Backend via CGI (Common Gateway Interface): Spotify, YouTube, Amazon
- Machine Learning: TensorFlow, Google Search
- Business Applications: Tools for finance, civil engineering, hospitality, etc
Why Learn C++ in 2023?
If you’re an aspiring software developer or a seasoned pro who is unsure about C++, consider these reasons to learn C++ in 2023.
- High Salary & In-Demand: C++ developers are some of the most sought-after across various industries, with an average annual salary of $106,000
- Built-in Libraries: The Standard Template Library (STL) provides algorithms, containers, functions, and iterators, helping to speed up and simplify development
- Community: Vast number of users, from beginners to pros, available to help
- Portable: Easily move C++ programs between platforms
- Mid-Level Language: Can be optimized for hardware in embedded systems & IoT
- Optimized for Backend: Fast, reliable, and can directly interact with hardware
- Established: Relied upon to build popular browsers, applications, games, OS, and more
C++ Developers Command Competitive Salaries: Source: Zippia.com
C++ Programming Basics
- Variables: Used to store information, can be retrieved by referring to a ‘label’ which identifies the variable and its information
- Control Structures: These handle decisions, redirect code to a new location, resume an iterative process, etc
- Data Structures: Store data in a particular way; for example, we can use an array to store a range of variables, a Stack to model a Last-In-First-Out (LIFO) data process, etc
- Syntax: Simply the layout of letters, words, numbers, symbols, and expressions that make up your C++ code, and you must follow the syntax rules to prevent errors
- Object-oriented Programming: Uses classes and objects
- Classes: User-defined data type with properties and functions
- Objects: Instance of a class with unique properties
- Function Overloading: Functions that share names with different parameters
- Memory management: Memory allocation, deallocation, and no garbage collection
- Security issues: Buffer overflow, memory leaks, incorrect type conversions
- Advanced syntax: Less intuitive than modern languages like Python, which reads like English (or pseudocode, according to some!)
How Does C++ Compare to Python & Java?
Java and Python are younger languages than C++, arriving in 1996 and 1991, respectively. And while they both have reputations for being easier to learn than C++, you’ll find that starting with C++ will make it much easier to pick up Python and Java, but not the other way around.
Compared with Java, a predominantly object-oriented language, C++ is a multi-paradigm language as it can be procedural, object-oriented, generic, etc. In addition, C++ is a purely compiled language, while Java is both compiled and interpreted.
Both Java and C++ are cross-platform, which means you can write code that runs anywhere, although Java requires the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) to be installed. One key difference is that programming in C++ provides operator overloading, which is not possible with Java. Similarly, Java has no concept of global scope, while C++ does (although this can be a security issue!).
Unlike C++, Python is a modern high-level interpreted language that is dynamically typed compared to the static typing used in C++. This flexibility and an English-like syntax make Python an attractive language for beginners. C++ has the speed edge due to its compiled approach versus Python’s interpreter.
Programming With C++
One option is to use a simple text editor like Notepad and then run your code through a compiler like the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC). Often, it’s easier to use a modern IDE (Integrated Development Environment) or a code editor like Visual Studio Code.
Visual Studio Code Is a Popular C++ Code Editor
Using an IDE, or a code editor allows you to take advantage of syntax highlighting, ‘IntelliSense’ (autocomplete functions, variable names, etc.), built-in linters to point out syntax errors, and auto-formatting tools to make your code more readable. You can also compile and run your code within a single environment.
Most of the time, your IDE or code editor will need some minor configuration, including installing a C++ compiler; however popular options like Visual Studio Code provide detailed prompts to help you do this.
Once the compiler completes its process, you will have produced an executable file that can run on the appropriate platform.
How to Learn C++ in 2023
If you’re majoring in computer science at college, you likely have access to various C++ courses. But if this isn’t an option for you, there are plenty of ways to get an introduction to C++ programming in 2023.
The most obvious choice is to find a C++ course online. These are usually self-paced and include detailed video content on C++ features and uses, project-based learning, and an active community should you need help. Some also offer graded exams and certificates of completion, which can significantly boost your resume.
Perhaps you’d prefer more structure and a defined timeline? In that case, a C++ boot camp could be an excellent option. These are usually focused environments that get you up to speed very quickly, and they often include a capstone project and a certificate of completion.
Another solid choice if you prefer a written rather than visual approach to learning is to find a good C++ book. This can be a great way to get a C++ introduction or to supplement your learning from a course or boot camp.
If you’re actively looking for C++ developer jobs, you might also consider looking intoC++ certifications, as these can validate that you have the appropriate C++ skill level for open positions.
We’d also recommend completing as many C++ projects as possible, as this can solidify your learning and build a portfolio to share with potential employers. Make sure you add these to a solid repository of GitHub commits. This is an excellent indicator to hiring managers that you’re an active developer who knows the basics of C++.
We recommend taking this course as a great starting point:
Beginning C++ Programming – From Beginner to Beyond
This article has answered the questions, what is C++, and what is C++ for? Despite being around for nearly four decades, C++ is still among the top 10 programming languages. As the younger sibling of C, it offers a multi-paradigm approach to programming, a massive community of developers, and an established built-in library (the STL).
As a fast, versatile, and general-purpose mid-level language, we can use C++ for software development, mobile applications, games, operating systems, and more. It’s also renowned for being robust and scalable, which makes it ideal for large applications and backend development.
Beginners and experienced programmers have various options available to learn C++ in 2023, including courses, boot camps, and books. Plus, with an average salary of $106,000 and a high demand in various sectors, C++ developers have no shortage of career paths to choose from.
Looking for more ways to learn C++ while building your portfolio? Check out our Top C++ Projects
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is C++ a Coding Language?
Yes, C++ is a programming language. It can be used for software engineering, game development, application design, and more.
2. What Is C++ in Brief?
C++ is a mid-level, general-purpose programming language. It was created by Bjarne Stroustrup and released in 1985 as an extension of C.
3. Why Is It Called C++?
C++ is an extension of C. The ++ refers to the increment operator, so C++ can be considered “C incremented.”
4. Is C++ the Best Programming Language?
There is no ‘best programming language’. C++ has advantages and disadvantages, just like any other programming language. However, C++ is still one of the top 10 programming languages, and it’s known to be a fast, versatile, general-purpose mid-level language.
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