C++ is one of the most popular programming languages to use for a variety of different projects and applications. Despite being a notoriously tricky language to get your head around, once you’ve mastered how to code in C++ then numerous project possibilities open up.
What makes programming in C++ simpler is using a high-quality IDE to assist with your process, easily compile your code and debug it before you take the project any further. No matter what level of experience you have, the majority of programmers use IDEs to make their process more efficient and save time when writing large or complex programs.
There are a lot of different IDEs available, all with different standout features that make some more suited for certain projects than others. Here’s our guide to some of the best IDEs for C++ programmers.
What is an IDE?
IDE stands for integrated development environment. It’s a kind of digital platform that is used to develop software, hardware and other programs and offers the programmer a range of useful features that help with this process.
Using an IDE when you’re coding saves time and increases productivity, as it offers pre-made tools and software components for writing and developing new programs that mean you don’t have to begin the process by manually configuring and integrating necessary features. IDEs can also assist when editing, compiling or debugging code, which makes the whole programming process a lot easier and more efficient.
Most IDEs have three main components; a source code editor, an automated building and compiling tool and a debugger. Within these sections, code can be automatically completed, the syntax is highlighted for efficient readability, compilation happens automatically and any errors in the code are identified before they cause problems later down the line.
Whilst some expert developers prefer to create their own IDE so that they have total control over the features, most individuals and companies choose a pre-configured IDE that is best suited for the type of work they do. The best IDE for C++ programmers to work with will be down to personal choice based on the kind of features you’re looking for and the operating systems or devices that you use.
The 11 Best IDEs for C++
There is a huge range of different IDEs available for C++ programmers, with plenty of open source options that are accessible for everyone as well as more complex, paid platforms. Below are 11 of the best C++ IDEs that are suitable for a variety of operating systems and come with various unique features and options to personalise your environment.
Qt Creator is one of the best cross-platform C++ IDEs out there at the moment. As well as supporting all major platforms, it also has the standout feature that developers using different operating systems can share projects without any issues and work together on the same code.
If you’re building cross-platform software applications then Qt Creator is an excellent choice, offering one of the best designing platforms for creating and programming graphical user interfaces. It’s a really fast IDE that has a lot of great features, but after a 1-month free trial you do have to pay for it, which can be a drawback.
If you’re relatively new to programming with C++ code then Eclipse is one of the best IDEs you can start using. It’s an open-source platform that runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X operating systems and is a really popular choice for all kinds of projects.
Eclipse includes tools for code compiling, debugging, auto-completion, automatic syntax validation and static code analysis to name a few. It’s also one of the simplest and easiest to understand IDEs available at the moment, which is why it’s often recommended to those new to coding.
NetBeans is one of the best free C++ IDEs, available on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and Solaris operating systems. It’s an open-source platform that is written in Java but available for programming in C++ amongst many other languages, offering a variety of project-based templates for common programming tasks that makes it a good choice for those who are new to C++ code.
Features offered by NetBeans include code completion, debugging, syntax highlighting, refactoring, code folding, bracket matching and an easy to understand interface that comes with a drag-and-drop feature. A unique feature of this IDE is that it can be easily integrated into web browsers and also lets developers monitor the development of projects remotely.
Visual Studio Code
One of the most used IDEs for programming is Visual Studio Code, which is an open-source code editor that is compatible with a wide range of different languages. It was developed by Microsoft but is suitable for Linux and Mac OS as well as Windows operating systems and includes multi-platform support.
Visual Studio Code is incredibly popular because it is a simple to use IDE that is also customizable, letting programmers change the themes and shortcuts to suit their preferences. It is built around a file system that some people find difficult to use, but makes up for this with the vast array of features on offer and the ability to personalise with different plugins.
Code:: Blocks is a classic open-source IDE that can be used across a variety of platforms. It’s another of the best free C++ IDEs on offer that has a brilliant range of basic features and is pretty simple to use.
What makes Code:: Blocks a particularly good option is that it is a highly customisable IDE, allowing users to install different functions and plugins to create a platform that works specifically for them. It has the benefit that it was created for C++ programmers, so is particularly compatible with this programming language.
If you’re looking for the best C++ IDE for Mac OS computers, Xcode is your best option. As well as all the classic features you’d expect from any IDE, it also comes with the option to integrate with the online developer services offered by Apple which makes it easier to publish applications on the App Store or use specific Apple services in the applications that have been built.
Dev C++ is considered to be one of the best C++ IDEs for Windows. It’s an open-source platform for programming in C or C++ languages and offers all of the classic features you’d expect from an IDE, as well as the option to add more features from tool libraries. As a free option, it ticks all the boxes and can handle large and small projects so is suitable for all kinds of programmers.
Another brilliant free C++ IDE is CodeLite, which is an open-source, cross-platform option that supports Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. It’s a really powerful code editor that comes with features like code completion, profiling, debugging, refactoring and static code analysis.
Another user-friendly feature of CodeLite is that it allows you to see more about errors that it detects just by hovering over them, which is great if you’re a less experienced programmer.
Sublime Text is a really versatile IDE option that supports a range of different programming languages including C++. A standout feature of this IDE is that it has a modern and simple GUI that makes it one of the best options for C++ developers out there.
Programmers using Sublime Text can also add their own features to the IDE and make these plugins available to other users through a community library.
Visual Studio is an IDE that is not to be confused with Visual Studio Code, as they are two very different options. This C++ IDE is designed by Microsoft but can be used to write code and build programs on other operating systems as well as just Windows.
A key feature of this IDE is that the code completion feature uses a component called IntelliSense that offers suggestions using language semantics and what you have already written in your code. A lot of developers rate Visual Studio very highly, but it does require a very powerful computer.
Atom was developed by GitHub; an open-source software and code community that is used by millions of developers worldwide. It’s a classic free IDE that can be used to code in a variety of languages including C++ and can be used on computers with Mac OS, Windows, and Linux operating systems.
Atom is a highly configurable and powerful IDE that has all the standard features of the other versions on this list, as well as the option to add a variety of plugins and customise what features are available.
How to Choose a C++ IDE
When you’re deciding what the best IDE for C++ programming is going to be for you, there are several general characteristics that vary between platforms that you should consider before making your choice.
What automated features are included?
Almost every IDE includes key three features; a code editor, build automation and a debugging system. However, certain other IDEs come with additional automated features that will benefit programmers working on certain projects, so it’s worth considering what else your IDE will automate and offer before choosing.
Does it support C++?
A key factor when it comes to deciding what IDE to use for C++ programming is whether the platform is actually compatible with the language. Some IDEs support multiple programming languages and some are geared to be better for specific ones, so it’s worth checking that C++ will be adequately supported.
How much memory does it require?
Some IDEs can take up a lot of memory, and often programmers need to be able to run other large programs on a system at the same time. Before choosing a C++ IDE, check how much memory the platform will require and whether this is going to slow down or limit what else you can do whilst you’re using it.
What operating systems does it support?
The operating system that you use will affect which IDEs you can use on your computer, unless you choose a cloud-based IDE. The operating system that your program or code is being built for can also be affected by the kind of IDE that you use, so both of these factors will need to be considered before choosing which platform to work with.
Unless you’re an incredibly experienced C++ developer, you’re probably going to use an IDE to assist with the code you write and the programs you build. Whether you’re relatively new to programming or are just teaching yourself how to code with C++, choosing an IDE that is optimised for the language and offers customisable features will make your experience a lot simpler and give you more freedom to work in a way that suits you.
If you’re looking for a recruitment partner with expert industry knowledge who can help find people with the skills and knowledge of IDEs and programming languages like C++, get in touch and find out more about what we can do to help.