How To Learn C++?

What is C++ ? 

C++ is one of the most popular programming languages. 

It is a general-purpose, object-oriented language that is used in the creation of various high-performance systems, graphical user interfaces, browsers, games, applications (and their back end), operating systems, etc.

C++ is one of the most functional, flexible, and powerful languages. 

There are a plethora of resources in the market (both online and offline) to learn C++. 

Why learn C++ ? 

  • C++ is one of the most widely used programming languages. The syntax, principles, and concepts of this language have stood the test of time. Not only that, they have been also incorporated and used into other popular programming languages, including modern ones like Go.
  • Whether you want to build web applications or work on some fancy web front-end components, this language will help you understand how the hardware and software interact with each other. 
  • If you put in your time and effort in learning this language, you will be rewarded. C++ is a high-paying skill and is currently experiencing a resurgence of popularity in being used for robust applications like self-driving cars and VR. This language is not just useful in the present but it will also be important and extremely useful in the future. 
  • C++ has been used for the creation of some of your favorite programs, including the browser you are using right now. Although having some familiarity with C is an excellent starting point, learning C++ and its paradigms is important if you want to master programming and develop software. 
  • C++ is a great and probably the best language to learn/use if you want to create software that needs to maximize a computer’s performance and capabilities—for example, high-end desktop games, sophisticated productivity tools, or intricate computationally intensive programs—or if you simply want to interact directly with a computer’s hardware.

There is not a single reason why you shouldn’t learn C++. In 1995, getting started might have required spending money on a proprietary compiler. But today, you have everything available online and too for free. 

So what are you waiting for? 

C++ terms and vocabulary

To understand and learn C++, you need to be familiar with all the terms and components used in this language. 

Keywords 

Predetermined names that can be used to identify things in your code. Keywords are identifiers for particular objects, variables, or actions. You can also make your own keywords. 

Variables

Variables are like containers that store values. To declare a variable, you must give it a value and a type using the correct keyword. All variables in C++ need a name, or identifier. 

Data types

Classifications for different kinds of data you can use in a program. Data types tell our variables what data they can store. 

There are three data types in C++:

  1. Primitive data types: the built-in data used to declare variables.
  2. Derived data types: derived from the primitive data types.
  3. User-Defined data types: these are defined by you, the programmer.

Strings

Strings are objects in C++. They are a set of characters within quotes, like our “Hello World” string. You can perform functions to them, like the length () function, which determines the length of a string.

Operators

These are symbols that manipulate our data and perform operations. In C++, we can overload operators to make them work for programmer-defined classes. Overloading an operator basically means that an operator can have more than one function at a time. 

There are four kinds of operators in the C++ language:

  • Arithmetic Operators: used for mathematical operations, work just like algebraic symbols.
  • Assignment Operators: for assigning values to our variables
  • Comparison Operators: compare two values.
  • Logical Operators: determine the logic between values

Objects

A collection of data that we can act upon. All the objects in C++ have an attribute (its traits) and method (its abilities) and can be constructed using a class. Think of this like a blueprint for an object.

Functions

These are blocks of code that run when they are invoked. Functions are basically the workhorse for your program and are used to perform operations and manipulations on your code. They help to better modularize your code. C++ has predetermined functions, for example, main (), void () etc. 

To create a function, you have to give it a name (called the declaration) and parentheses (). You can then invoke this function at any point by using that name ().

Conditional statements

Conditional statements let you perform checks on whether a block of code should be executed or not. 

There are four conditional statements:

  1. If: a certain action will be performed if a certain condition is met
  2. Else: a certain action will be performed instead if that condition is not met
  3. Else if: a new condition will be tested if the first is not met
  4. Switch: tests a variable against a list of values

Loops

Similar to conditional statements, loops execute blocks of code as long as a certain condition is reached. 

There are two types of loops in this language:

  1. While loops: will continue to iterate through your code while a condition returns true
  2. For loops: used when you know the exact number of times you want to loop in your code

C++ Tools and Software

Before getting started with your coding journey, you need to learn and become familiar with some tools and softwares which are important in C++. 

Basically, you need 4 tools: 

  1. Text Editor
  2. Compiler 
  3. Linker 
  4. Libraries

Text Editor

You need a text editor to write C++ programs. A text editor is like a blank MS Word document where you write codes. You can use any text editor, some devices/systems even have an in-built editor in them. But it is always advisable to use a text editor which is specifically designed for coding. 

Here are some of the most commonly used editors for C++: 

  • Notepad
  • Sublime Text
  • Bluefish
  • Atom

Compiler

Compilers are software or programs that are run through command-line interfaces (CLIs). They read the entire program and translate it into object code, which is a sort of program source code that the computer uses to run the program immediately. Some of the most commonly used compilers are: 

  • GCC
  • Clang
  • Visual Studio
  • Turbo C++ (this one is not recommended since it’s a bit out of date) 

Linker

Once the job of the compiler is completed, the object file is transferred to a linker program which performs the following functions: 

  1. Combines all the project files into one compact program
  2. Links the library files to the program
  3. Exposes any cross-file naming or reference issues

Library

It is essentially a prepackaged bundle of code that can be used again. The C++ library, known as the C++ Standard Library, is linked to all the C++ programs. Besides the C++ Standard Library, you can also add other libraries to your program.

Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

Integrated Development Environment is a one-stop-shop for C++ programming. It is a tool that includes and does the work of a text editor, linker, compiler, and libraries. Most programmers use IDE instead of using a compiler and text editor. Here are some of the best cross-platform IDEs:

  • Code::Blocks
  • Visual Studio Code
  • Eclipse

How to get started with C++ Programming 

You will need a compiler to get started with C++ or you can also learn the language by experimenting with “hello world” C projects in-browser.

Windows

A lot of good compilers are available on Windows nowadays. 

Visual Studio is a great option for anyone getting started with C++ or primarily targeting the Windows platform. It helps in building both C and C++ programs. It is a powerful tool with a feature-rich IDE. 

This program is one of the most widely used programs for coding nowadays as it is very flexible, functional and is also available for Linux and Mac environments besides Windows.

Next in the list are GCC (MinGW) and Codeblocks IDE. These programs are more standard-compliant. 

Another great option is Clang. It has become sort of a formidable choice on Windows since it’s used to build Google Chrome.

Some other cross-platform IDEs are Eclipse CDT, JetBrains CLion, NetBeans etc. These programs provide fully functional C++ development environments but lately, these have been overshadowed by a much better and popular program Visual Studio Code. 

Linux

Cross-platform IDEs such as Eclipse CDT and Codeblocks IDE work as well on Linux as they do on Windows.

When working on Linux, you need to install GCC (an essential part of your distribution) but if you have not installed it yet, you can do it in a few seconds/minutes using this command: 

# Ubuntu

sudo apt-get install build-essential

# Fedora

sudo yum install gcc gcc-c++

# Arch Linux

sudo pacman -S base-devel

Mac

For Mac, you can use GCC (GNU Compiler Collections). It is a set of compilers and development tools.You can also use Clang. Both of these tools are available for free.

GCC supports a wider range of C++ standards whereas Clang works fine in most cases.

Clang should already be installed.

For installing GCC, you can use Homebrew:

brew install gcc

You can also use the IDE – Xcode, one of the most popular Mac OS developer tools.

How to Succeed in learning and Master the C++ language

Focus on learning the fundamentals

Having a thorough knowledge of the basics of the language such as strings, functions and arrays will help you master it quickly and easily. 

Learn the syntax 

Syntax is the basic foundation for everything you’ll write in C++, you can say it is like the grammar of a programming language. And so it is very important to understand and learn the syntax if you want to master the language. 

Be consistent

Learning to code is similar to learning any other skill. It requires a lot of practice and time. If you want to learn and master C++, be persistent and don’t be afraid or reluctant to make mistakes. The more errors you make, the more you’ll learn about this language. 

Utilize the available resources 

Today, there are so many resources (both online and offline) from where you can learn any coding language. Subscribe to some quality courses or derive knowledge from books and online tutorials and lectures. 

C++ Resources

Here are some C++ resources which can help you to kickstart your programming journey. 

Courses

  1. C++ for C Programmers at Coursera
  2. C++ Fundamentals at Pluralsight
  3. C++ Tutorial for Complete Beginners at Udemy
  4. Advanced C++ Programming Training Course at Udemy
  5. C++ Annotations (Version 10.9.2) by Frank Brokken
  6. Google C++ Style Guide

Books

  1. The C++ Programming Language (4th Edition) by Bjarne Stroustrup
  2. C++ Primer (5th Edition) by Stanley Lippman
  3. Effective C++: 55 Specific Ways to Improve Your Programs and Designs by Scott Meyers
  4. Effective Modern C++: 42 Specific Ways to Improve Your Use of C++11 and C++14 by Scott Meyers

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