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The Pros And Cons of The C++ Programming Language

The Pros And Cons of The C++ Programming Language

C++ has a reputation for being one of the most efficient and powerful programming languages. It is still incredibly popular in almost all developer surveys despite having been available for over 40 years. Understanding the pros and cons of the C++ programming language can help you decide whether or not it’s right for you and also help you to select the right code editor (IDE) and C++ build tools. In this post, we try to explain the many advantages and the few disadvantages of C++. 

What are the pros of the C++ programming language?

C++ is a compiler-based programming language

C++ is a compiler-based programming language that makes it the fastest and one of the most powerful programming languages. This is one of the reasons to use hardware and software algorithms efficiently. In general, there are two types of programming languages: Interpreted and Non-Interpreted (Compiled). All computers work with something called machine code (code that can be directly executed by the computer’s CPU) that tells the computer what to do. This is the most native and fastest code, but it requires writing many lines for even quite simple things and is hard to generalize for all kinds of machines. It’s also not very easy to understand for humans. A Compiler (C or C++ Compiler, etc.) is a computer program that converts a program written in a ‘high level’ programming language such as C++ code into executable machine code. The high-level language looks more like English and is much easier to understand and less complicated.

C++ is a structured and object oriented programming language

C++ allows developers to use the immensely popular C language, but C++ adds to this as a structured programming language; it also allows Object Oriented Programming. Object Oriented Programming (OOP) is a way to integrate with objects which can contain data in the form of attributes or properties of objects, and code blocks in the form of methods, and functions of objects. These attributes and methods that belong to the class are generally referred to as class members. Object-Oriented Programming is a good way to work on data and work with functions in memory. Classes and Objects are the best way to work on properties and functions. Object-Oriented Programming has many advantages over procedural programming and it is the most characteristic feature of the visual and modern C++ programming language.

The C++ language supports visual 2D, 3D and GUI-based programming

C++ is useful to make GUI-based applications on Windows, iOS, Android, Mac OS, Linux, and many other less popular OSes. C++ has different GUI frameworks i.e. VCL, FMX, GTK, and other Visual components. Modern C++ has been enhanced with Visual Bindings, High-DPI 4K supports, responsive features, skinned UI elements, glamorous one-click GUI sets, 2D and 3D components like OpenGL, Skia, and Viewport3D; and has many game engines like Unreal Engine, Unity, O3DE. C++ is also useful to develop graphical 2D and 3D applications, real-time computational simulations, and analysis, C++ highly uses CPU and GPU-based applications with graphical supports like Physics, OpenCL, Vulkan, HPC, etc.

Learning the basics of C++ is relatively easy because it is a high-level language

Because C++ contains instructions which almost directly map to hardware and assembly instructions, I prefer calling C a ‘close to low-level language‘. C++ abstracts a lot of the programming process so that high-level things like objects, events, procedures and so on are easy to code. Yet the language still retains some fairly complex ‘close to the metal’ instructions like memory alignment. This is why most developers think of them as mid-level languages. Despite the high-level nature of things like loops and objects, C and C++ can be harder to learn than something like BASIC or Python.

A C++ program often has low memory usage and great memory management

C is very powerful in low-level memory usage and in addition to this feature, C++ has very powerful control over memory management and data safety. Some of the C features are DMA (Dynamic memory allocation) using structs for data blocks, pointers for big data structures (i.e. bitmaps), using malloc for a mass storage area, and calloc for the contiguous memory locations. C++ has classes and objects that have privateand public sections for memory usage, and advanced memory features like std::arraystd::vectorstd::map, iterators, etc.

Portability – the benefits of C++ multi-OS and multi-device features

C++ code can be compiled and executed on other platforms generally without any further add-ons. If there are no hardware or OS-specific features, mostly all C++ codes are portable to another system. This allows users to develop, Multi-OS and Multi-device applications.

C++ is a multi-paradigm language

In the evolution of C++, the procedural programming language C moved to object-oriented, functional, imperative, and generic programming languages. Every new feature in its modern standards let C++ a highly versatile language in the programming world (i.e. auto variables, templates, lambdas, generics). C++ is a Multi-Paradigm Language which means the planning involved in programming. This allows developers to define more flexible logic, style, and way how to develop programs.

Scalable programming and data is possible with C++

C++ developments are scalable which means that the C++ program can run on a small scale and a large scale of code and data. C++ is very resource-intensive programming that enables you to develop small-size and efficient applications or large-size and efficient applications. You can run simple C++ codes in simple IoT devices or very large-scale applications that manage factories, and many machines. C++ is very useful in every scale of programming, from back-end to front-end applications. C++ supports many different database connections, including MySQL, PostgreSQL, MSSQL, and different connection models like TCP/IP connection, REST Connection, MQTT connection, etc. etc.

C++ has efficient memory and CPU/GPU usage and low energy consumption

C++ applications are small executable files that require small-size libraries and they are running faster and lighter than other applications developed in many other languages. It also makes C++ ideal for developing programs under heavy hardware limitations, as is often the case for things like computational programming, game, and AI development, etc. It also allows you to use the maximum performance of your CPU/GPU hardware and large limits of memory sizes.

C allows you to use assembly language, which means your codes may run at the assembly level and most of its instructions are close assembly language, which may be called low-level language. Note that C/C++ is a compiled (non-interpreted) language that allows its compiler to compile the code to be close to the machine level. After the compilation, some of the instructions of C++ are close to the assembly language level, thus we may say it is a programming language that is close to the low-level programming language’.

All these allow you to use low memory, low CPU and GPU work, and low energy consumption as a result of similar code works.

The standardization of C++

C++ has a large community supported by ISO standards released and scheduled for future C++ programming language models. C++ has very high-level standards that help to improve a well-defined set of rules and guidelines for developers worldwide. This makes C++ compilers compatible with each other and allows developers to understand and use C++ easily.

The language has a set of standards generally named after the approximate year the standard was adopted, such as C++98, C++11, C++14, C++17, and so on. C++ standards begin with C++98, the first edition of ISO/IEC 14882 was published in 1998, and then a technical corrigendum was approved in 2003 and this standard was published again as the ISO/IEC 14882:2003 edition. C++11, the ISO/IEC 14882:2011 3rd edition was published on 2011-09-01. This was followed by C++14, The ISO/IEC 14882:2014 4th edition was published in 2014-12. The most powerful and stable C++ standard was the C++17 and, this ISO/IEC 14882:2017 5th edition was published in 2017-12. Most ISO C++ standard is the ISO/IEC 14882:2020 6th edition which was published in 2020-12.

There is a large community of C++ developers

The C++ community is one of the oldest and (in my opinion) most decent communities, they are not coding in C++ but also coding C++ for other programming languages. C++ has a very large ecosystem of libraries and frameworks that can be used to accelerate development and simplify tasks like network programming, graphics rendering, and database access. There are many SDKs for the many different software and hardware systems. There are many open-source codes on Github and on many other websites that can be developed for future usages.

What are the cons of the C++ programming language?

C++ can be hard to learn, and C++ programs can sometimes be very complex

C++ is huge (it also includes C and supports other programming languages), high-level and about to low-level language. It has many headers, functions, and methods that developers should remember, and it has many functional different syntaxes for the same function or method. It is a Multi-Paradigm language, that has object-oriented programming with runtime polymorphism, templates, lambdas, and static polymorphism, with some support for functional programming.

Some features of C++ might be very complex for new developers. Pointers in C++, templates, lambdas, and other generics are very tough conceptions compared to other standard commands of other languages. For example, if there is an uninitialized pointer, this may result in a serious system failure that may crash your device.

It can be difficult to analyze errors in a C++ program

C++ has very high standards in errors, warnings, and debugging features. Although this, some simple developer missings may give a lot of errors (i.e. missing a ‘;’ or a ‘{‘, or a ‘,’ character may result in a lot of errors). Linking and some missing libraries may result in errors that can not be solved if you can obtain and compile those libraries.

The syntax of C++ is very strict, and this can make it less flexible than other languages

In most views of programming, C++ is very strict regarding the syntax, a little missing gives a series of errors. It generally takes more time to code in C++ than in any other programming language. It is not easy to write C++ code in a readable way, making the language less user-friendly and less flexible for the user.

It is possible for C++ to have platform specific features

C++ has platform-specific features, that may only run on that system (i.e. Windows-based commands, Android or iOS-specific permissions, etc.). While the language is portable, those features may result in more complicated applications. You may need to check OS then you should add OS-based features on that part of a code block.

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About author

Dr. Yilmaz Yoru has 35+ years of coding with more than 30+ programming languages, mostly C++ on Windows, Android, Mac-OS, iOS, Linux, and some other operating systems. He graduated and received his MSc and PhD degrees from the Department of Mechanical Engineering of Eskisehir Osmangazi University. He is the founder and CEO of ESENJA LLC Company. His interests are Programming, Thermodynamics, Fluid Mechanics, Artificial Intelligence, 2D & 3D Designs, and high-end innovations.


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