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The Top 10 C++ IDE Features For Native Windows Development

The Top 10 C++ IDE Features For Native Windows Development

The C++ Programming Language is one of the most widely used software development languages in the world. It can be downloaded easily and, combined with a great C++ IDE, allows you to create native applications which really harness the full potential of the operating system and underlaying hardware. The great variety of sources and hosts for C++ compilers often means users can develop smaller applications for different platforms entirely for free. When we say “native development” we mean you can use every part of the device natively and efficiently without layers of interpreters or runtime frameworks slowing things down or forcing the developer to jump through hoops or make compromises. This native access allows you to build faster applications with faster data connections and full speed raw power computation for tough tasks like numerical analysis, image processing, High-DPI video analyzers, Deep Learning, and other AI applications which can take a toll on scripting or interpreted solutions. Thus, for the best application performance, developers should use a native C++ compiler combined with a professional, specialized C++ IDE to ensure they’re working smarter, not harder, to get the very best from their coding. Here, we listed the Top 10 C++ IDE Windows features for native windows development.

1. Support for the latest versions of Windows

One of the main C++ IDE Windows features is of course support for Windows development in 32bits and in 64bits. The compiler should come with the IDE and should be designed for native Windows Development. The latest Windows has some very specific UI design metaphors so the C++ UI elements or framework should support those. In But, in addition to Windows 11 it should also support Windows 10 since a substantial number of Windows users either couldn’t upgrade or chose not to. Windows 8 is beneficial too since, at the time of writing, Microsoft still actively supports it.

Here are the features of the C++ IDE that needs to satisfy these features.

  • Provision apps for Windows 11, Windows 10 and before
  • Able to compile code for Windows but it’s also desirable to be able to compile for Android and iOS (Multi-Platform, Multi-OS, Multi-Device Support)
  • Modern UI elements with skins, or styles, in design time and run time
  • New & modernized components  
  • Design on high-DPI 4K+ displays
  • Remote desktop support to collaborate remotely 
  • Building applications faster with less code.
  • Integrated toolchain and professional-level developer tools
  • Featuring Clang-enhanced compiler, Dinkumware standard library, MSBuild/CMake/Ninja support, and popular libraries like Boost and Eigen.
  • Developing Windows Apps with a single codebase and responsive UI
  • Licensed for use until your individual revenue from C++Builder applications or company revenue reaches $5,000 US or your development team expands to more than 5 developers
  • Friendly code compilation between older and newer Windows versions
The Top 10 C++ IDE Features For Native Windows Development A collection of Windows devices

C++ Builder is the easiest and fastest C and C++ IDE for building simple or professional applications on the Windows, iOS & Android operating systems. It is also easy for beginners to learn with its wide range of samples, tutorials, help files and LSP support for code. RAD Studio’s C++ Builder version comes with the award-winning VCL framework for high-performance native Windows apps and the powerful FireMonkey (FMX) framework for cross-platform UIs. There is a free C++ Builder Community Edition for students, beginners and startups. There is a free C++ Builder Community Edition. Embarcadero’s C++ Builder CE, is a combined C++ IDE and compiler for the community of freelance developers, startups, students and non-profits.

2. The CLANG compiler is essential for all forms of professional C and C++ development

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In Windows application development, a native C++ compiler and IDE that supports the latest Windows features are very important. Some of the IDEs are not specifically designed for C++ development. Some IDEs are designed only for console application developments. Some support with a limited set of features, generally, you must install a C++ compiler with a lot of options changes, etc. In modern application development, professional developers use much stronger C++ IDE.

If the IDE development company also develops the compiler, this can ensure a smoother and more integrated developer experience. Be sure that your C++ IDE comes with a CLANG based compiler. Be sure that your IDE also supports, other C++ libraries and standards like Dinkumware standard library, MSBuild/CMake/Ninja support, and popular libraries like Boost and Eigen.

CLANG is considered to be a production quality C, Objective-C, C++ and Objective-C++ compiler when targeting X86-32, X86-64, and ARM. It is a new C/C++ compiler standard (C++98, C++11, C++17, C++20, C++23 ..) supported by The LLVM Compiler Infrastructure Project, and has been a default compiler in recent years for most C/C++ compilers. This means that if you code for a CLANG compiler, most other IDEs, Compilers of Platforms will support your code without any changes. The latest C++17 standard is supported by the most C++ compilers. More information about core language features can be found here. C++ 20 is new and needs adaptation time.

We highly recommend you start with or to move to a CLANG Enhanced compiler like the Embarcadero’s C++ Builder, which supports the CLANG (C++11, C++ 17) standard and has its own C++ Compiler, IDE, GUI Designer and more. The C++Builder Standards and Clang Enhanced Compiler features can be found here.

The C++ Builder Community Edition is a free edition and can be used by students, beginners and startups. You can download it here Free C++ Builder Community Edition.

Professional developers can use the Professional, Architect or Enterprise versions of the C++ Builder.

CLANG is supported by many other Development IDEs Like Visual Studio, VS Code, Dev C++. CodeBlocks, CLion etc. For more details, please see our article about the Top 6 C++ IDEs For Building Native Windows Apps.

3. You need to use a modern C++ IDE

It’s very hard to identify which C++ IDE is the best for you, as this is mostly about what you want to achieve with your code. If you want to implement small projects for analysis and calculations without GUIs and many other features, most small compilers will do just fine. If you want to migrate from building simple executable code to complex professional applications, we highly recommend starting with Community Editions which are often free to use so you can benefit from an advanced IDE right from the start and then progress to the full Pro or Enterprise editions.

The Top 10 C++ IDE Features For Native Windows Development A screenshot showing the RAD Studio C++ Builder IDE in action

IDE should support professional code editing with cut, copy, paste, undo, redo operations, syntax highlighting, LSP support for code completion, higher compiler support with tools, easy IDE installation and uninstallation. IDE should have options in general and specific options for the project code.

4. Good debugging features help make sense of your C++ code when something isn’t working

Be sure that your IDE has built-in Debugging tools that allow you to debug on any device. You should be able to build and debug apps with local/embedded capabilities. The Debug Inspector enables you to examine various data types such as arrays, classes, constants, functions, pointers, scalar variables, and interfaces.

These are important parts of debugging,

  • Stepping – Step by Step Debugging Through Code
  • Evaluate/Modify – Investigate Expressions
  • Breakpoints – Pause and Check
  • Watches – Tracking Values
  • Exceptions – Displaying the stack trace

5. A good quality visual designer ensure you design modern, professional-looking C++ app screens

When you first start coding in C++, console applications might be easy to learn some basics of C and C++ programming language. In modern C++, you must develop your apps with an IDE which has a good quality visual designer. The award-winning C++ Builder Visual Designer using the C++Builder VCL and FireMonkey frameworks ensures you achieve maximum productivity and create applications which look utterly superb on all devices.

The Top 10 C++ IDE Features For Native Windows Development. A mdern C++ app with a style applied.

C++ Builder supports a treasure-trove of modern visual design components and a low-code/no-code feature called Live Bindings which means you can avoid almost all of the ‘boilerplate’ data handling, storage and retrieval code. C++ Builder has benefitted from agile early design feedback across a range of devices using a live preview powered by real data, both on device and in the IDE. The live preview allows you to design your screens in the C++ IDE with the data shown as you create the various screen elements. This “what you see is what you get” capability is extremely powerful and simplifies the design process so you can prototype faster and reach more platforms more quickly.

6. Modern visual look and feel at design time and run time

Your C++ IDE should support the latest Windows UI visuals. In addition, it should support custom UI designs (skins or styles). Using styles on your new projects should be very easy, they should be easily removed which allows your visuals in standard visuals of windows. You should be able to design your application view in normal ways with buttons, labels, edit boxes, memos, trackbars, panels, switches, etc. You should be able to set one style to all of your components or you can choose different styles on different forms or different components. In addition, users should easily install and uninstall these kinds of styles, skins via IDE tools.

One of the most important parts is seeing visuals in design time and when coding, so developers may design their best UI forms during development. In addition to Windows visuals, users should be able to easily switch to other operating systems to compare different UI visuals in different operating systems. Thus, users may develop their Windows apps well under other OS visuals and standards.

The Top 10 C++ IDE Features For Native Windows Development. The Coral Crystal theme

Styles are sets of graphical details that define the look and feel of a application visually and they are one of most beautiful and useful UI feature of RAD Studio, that makes your UI elements skinned with professionally designed with different Styles. Official Styles are designed by Embarcadero’s Designers and other there are other 3rd party Styles, also users may generate their own styles. Styles are similar to themes in Windows or skins of applications. Styles are being modernized with RAD Studio, C++ Builder and Delphi since the first XE versions (2010), currently C++ Builder11 has many improvements on Styles. There are more than 50 different styles. You can see some of officila ones here on GetIt.

7. Modern components, libraries and tools provide ready-made nuggets of functionality for maximum efficiency

Why work too hard? Using components, libraries and tools allows you to produce programs MUCH faster and more reliably by taking ready-made chunks of functionality which have been widely tested and then add them to your own programs. This avoids having to ‘reinvent the wheel’ and means you get to focus on only writing the code you have to. In modern C++, modern programming we mostly refer to a lot of libraries and other tools that help us to modernize our applications. One of the strongest parts of C++ Builder is the availability of a broad wealth of ready-made built-in components and libraries. Plus, it supports 3rd party components and libraries. GetIt also a good place for developers who want to release this kind of libraries and tools.

The Top 10 C++ IDE Features For Native Windows Development. The GetIt component manager.

The GetIt Package Manager, is an official tool (a window form) of RAD Studio IDE that comes with C++ Builder and/or Delphi. GetIt Package Manager lets you search and browse available packages (C++ or Delphi Components, Libraries, Components for IoT, Styles, Sample Projects, Tools, IDE Plugins, Patches, Trails, …). From this window you can install, uninstall, update, or subscribe to these packages. Currently it has about 300 components, all are in up to date, and able to run on the latest RADS version. With these more than 300 of included components, you can easily enhance your apps and you can reduce development cycles and time spend.

8. Use Live Bindings and data binding to let C++ Builder do the hard work for you

Why write more code than you need to? Live Bindings and Data Bindings are based on relational expressions, called binding expressions, that can be either unidirectional or bidirectional. LiveBindings is also about control objects and source objects. By means of binding expressions, any object can be bound to any other object, simply by defining a binding expression involving one or more properties of the objects you want to bind together. For example, you can bind a TEdit control to a TLabel so that, when the text changes in the edit box, the caption of the label is automatically adjusted to the value evaluated by your binding expression. Another example is binding a track bar control to a progress bar so that the progress rises or lowers as you move the track bar.

The Top 10 C++ IDE Features For Native Windows Development. An example fo using Live Bindings.

We can connect to dataset fields, alter one or more properties of different objects, and so on. Because LiveBindings propagate, we can even alter properties of objects that are connected to other objects that are bound to a control object.

In C++ Builder, you can easily use visual components of the VCL Visual Component Library framework for Windows apps or FMX FireMonkey framework for Multidevice applications.

9. Use modern data connections to get your C++ App to talk to the world’s databases

Modern applications use modern databases with modern data connections and data bindings. If you are developing a modern app, your database should be modern too. We highly recommend you make use of online and modern databases as much as possible.

C++ Builder has a great official database component, the FireDAC component pack. FireDAC is one of the great components for database connections that comes with RAD Studio, C++ Builder and Delphi. FireDAC is a Universal Data Access library for developing applications for multiple devices, connected to enterprise databases. With its powerful universal architecture, FireDAC enables native high-speed direct access from Delphi and C++Builder to InterBase, SQLite, MySQL, SQL Server, Oracle, PostgreSQL, DB2, SQL Anywhere, Advantage DB, Firebird, Access, Informix, DataSnap and more, including the NoSQL Database MongoDB.

FireDAC is a Universal Enterprise Data Connectivity

The Top 10 C++ IDE Features For Native Windows Development A schematic of FireDAC

To use FireDAC with C++ Builder, be sure that your RAD Studio, C++ Builder version has support for this component. We highly recommend here C++ Builder 10.x or above because of improvements on database connections. If you don’t have this component in your version there is a Trial version of FireDAC that you can test and then you can purchase if it meets your needs. In a new C++ Builder Project, VCL or FMX) you can drag and use its components on your forms. Most experienced programmers prefer to add a new DataModule to their project.

Some database posts about how to connect your C++ apps to modern databases like Interbase, PosgreSQL, MySQL and others are here: https://learncplusplus.org/category/database/

10. Your C++ IDE should help manage C++ application deployment

All development cycles require a lot of steps. At the end, you need a release version of your application. And your application may require additional files, dlls, images, sounds, databases. At the final stage, all should be packed and they should have Provisioning options and developer should easily deploy his application to the appropriate operating systems or its application store.

Professional application deployment is very important to setup packages safely for the operating system. For example, Windows needs MSIX deployment package for Windows Store of Microsoft, and Android apps needs deployment packages for Google Play and İOS apps needs deployment packages for the App Store of Apple.

MSIX is modern file installation package for Windows applications. Windows apps packaged with MSIX can be uploaded to the Windows Store to make is easier for your users to install your apps whether you decide to charge for them or not. It is a Windows app package format that provides a modern packaging experience to all Windows apps. The MSIX package format preserves the functionality of existing app packages and/or install files in addition to enabling new, modern packaging and deployment features to Win32, WPF, and Windows Forms apps.

The Top 10 C++ IDE Features For Native Windows Development - how to provision an app for the Windows App Store.

RAD Studio directly supports creating MSIX packaging for both your Delphi and C++ Builder apps directly via the RAD Studio IDE It is easy to create a new MSIX package for your own programs so that they are professional, modern packages. If you would like to release your VCL or FMX framework-based Windows C++ applications in MSIX package form, you should know how to create a MSIX package in C++ Builder.

RAD Studio 10.4.2 release and above, including the Latest RAD Studio 11, has support for MSIX packaging of Windows applications, for Microsoft Store and Enterprise deployment.

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C++ Builder is the easiest and fastest C and C++ IDE for building simple or professional applications on the Windows, MacOS, iOS & Android operating systems. It is also easy for beginners to learn with its wide range of samples, tutorials, help files, and LSP support for code. RAD Studio’s C++ Builder version comes with the award-winning VCL framework for high-performance native Windows apps and the powerful FireMonkey (FMX) framework for cross-platform UIs.

There is a free C++ Builder Community Edition for students, beginners, and startups; it can be downloaded from here. For professional developers, there are Professional, Architect, or Enterprise versions of C++ Builder and there is a trial version you can download from here.

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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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