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The Top 5 Free C And C++ IDE For Windows App Development

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C and C++ Compilers are great tools to develop when they are together with a professional C++ IDE. According to TIOBE Index and parallel to these results in many true statistic web sites, C and C++ programming language have more than 20% share in total, C language has more than 12.44% share and if you add Objective-C, Swift, and other C and C++ related programming languages it has about more than 33% share in worldwide, and note that these are recorded from online data. There might be more C++ developers n some other operating systems that are offline and not included in these records.

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Resource TIOBE httpswwwtiobecomtiobe index Captured on 23th Jan2022

The C++ Compiler and C++ IDE features really evolved from the early and auspicious beginnings of Turbo C, C++ and Borland C++. Today we have a wide array of features supporting a rich and diverse amount of OS platforms running on thousands of types of devices encompassing everything from cell phones, watches, cars to a broad collection of IoT (internet of things) specialized hardware. If we look at the C and C++ programming languages it has more than a %33+ share in programming overall and is still the most popular programming language worldwide. It is really amazing to see the ways in which humanity is benefitting from the advances in technology that have accompanied the evolution of our beloved programming language.

Is a C++ IDE also good for the C language?

Generally, a C++ compiler also compiles C language-specific commands, most of the standard C++ commands like for(), while(), printf() are comes from the C language. One of the biggest differences between C and C++ programming languages is, C++ is an Object Oriented Programming (OOP) language that supports using Classes.

In this post, we will list the top 5 C++ IDE and compilers mostly for Windows operating system and some of them can be used in other operating systems such as iOS, Android, MacOS, etc.

1. C++ Builder 11 (RAD Studio 11) Community Edition Free C++ IDE / Professional / Architect / Enterprise

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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. C++ Builder comes with Rapid Application Development Studio, also known as RAD Studio, and C++ Builder is one of the most professional IDE’s that work under RAD Studio. It is the oldest IDE (it began as Borland TurboC in 1990 and was later renamed Borland C++ Builder). Under the Embarcadero brand, it comes with new versions, features, updates, and support. 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.


In 2021, Embarcadero announced the General Availability of RAD Studio 11. This release introduced several new features, enhancements, and quality updates in key areas including:   

  • Provision apps for Windows 11
  • Compile for Android API 30
  • Compile for macOS M-series (Apple Silicon) processors
  • Design on high-DPI 4k+ screens
  • View VCL Styles in design time
  • New & modernized VCL components  
  • Use enhanced remote desktop support to collaborate remotely 
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Please check this post about the RADS 11 for more details;

You can download the free C++ Builder Community Edition here: https://www.embarcadero.com/products/cbuilder/starter.
Professional developers can use the Professional, Architect or Enterprise versions of C++ Builder. Please visit https://www.embarcadero.com/products/cbuilder.

We’ve also compiled a number of reasons why we think Dev-C++ is a good choice as an open-source text editor and IDE for Windows 11.

See What’s New in RAD Studio 11

Download RAD Studio 11 Now

2. Visual Studio Code is a C and C++ IDE

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Visual Studio Code (also called VS Code) is the most popular free IDE, published by Microsoft. We can say it is a free version IDE for beginners, students and for some professional usage. It can be used with MinGW Linux Simulation (with GNU C/C++ Compiler) to develop C++ applications running on the command console. It is the most well-known open-source code editor for a wide variety of languages, and it can act as an IDE with the right extensions. This developer-environment tool also offers multiplatform support and is excellent for developers seeking customization and a high degree of flexibility. However, Visual Studio Code is built in Electron and can consume more resources than other native IDEs.
Visual Studio Code can be downloaded from https://code.visualstudio.com/.

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Here are some of Visual Studio Code’s popular features:

  • It is free to use
  • Easy to use and develop
  • It is lightweight
  • Auto code completion
  • Syntax highlighting
  • Command line area
  • Debugger
  • Themes and extensions
  • Deployment tools
  • Git support

3. Embarcadero Dev-C++ is a free and open-source C++ IDE

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Embarcadero Dev-C++ is free, and is a fast, portable and simple C and C++ IDE for Windows. The free version is great for beginners. If you want to develop professionally it is highly recommended that you start with C++ Builder Community Edition version instead.

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Embarcadero Dev-C++ is a new and improved fork (sponsored by Embarcadero) of Bloodshed Dev-C++ and Orwell Dev-C++. It is a full-featured C++ IDE (Integrated Development Environment) and code editor for the C and C++ programming language. It uses the MinGW port of GCC (GNU Compiler Collection) as its compiler. Embarcadero Dev-C++ can also be used in combination with Cygwin or any other GCC-based compiler. Embarcadero Dev-C++ is built using the latest version of Embarcadero Delphi. Embarcadero Dev-C++ also has a low memory footprint because it is a native Windows application and does not use Electron.

Features of Embarcadero Dev C++ include:

  • TDM-GCC 9.2.0 32/64bit
  • Support GCC-based compilers
  • Integrated debugging (using GDB)
  • GPROF profiling
  • Project Manager
  • Customizable syntax highlighting editor
  • Class Browser
  • Code Completion
  • Code Insight
  • Function listing
  • AStyle code formatting support
  • GPROF Profiling support
  • Quick creation of Windows, console, static libraries, and DLLs
  • Support of templates for creating your own project types
  • Makefile creation
  • Editing and compiling of Resource files
  • Tool Manager
  • Devpak IDE extensions
  • Print support
  • Ability to find and replace facilities
  • CVS support

If you are a beginner and you want to learn and develop great C++ projects you can use Dev-C++.

The latest free version of Dev-C++ can be downloaded from here

4. Eclipse C++ IDE

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Eclipse is another integrated development environment (IDE) used in computer programming. It is written mostly in Java and its primary use is for developing Java applications, but it can also be used to develop applications in other programming languages. It requires MinGW Linux Simulation (with GNU C/C++ Compiler) to develop applications.

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Here are some of features of Eclipse that make it popular:

  • Open-source software
  • Available on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X
  • Debugging, compiling, profiling, auto-completion of code, and refactoring (i.e. code can be restructured without changing external behavior)
  • It has a GUI to arrange an element using drag and drop functionality

5. Notepad++ can be used as a simple lightweight C++ IDE

Another great IDE is Notepad++. It is a free source code editor for C and C++ development and supports several highlighting programming languages. It is running in the MS Windows environment, its use is governed by GNU General Public License.

Notepad++ is written in C++ and uses pure Win32 API and STL which ensures a higher execution speed and smaller program size. By optimizing as many routines as possible without losing user friendliness.

While it has no compilation, running, debugging, and other IDE features; it requires less space to download and install. It is fast to open codes, texts, etc. and it has a lot of editing features with code syntax and highlight in different themes. It is also good to edit other codes and texts. 

I personally like to use Notepad++ with C++ Builder. I develop my main apps with C++ Builder and sometimes, you have some temporary C and C++ codes, headers, or other texts related to your main development. At this point, sometimes, in some cases, I like to use Notepad to edit, copy and paste these kinds of temporary codes to use in my real development in C++ Builder.

Get to know the basic features of Visual Studio C++ as well as the rich collection of String operations in this article.

C and C++ IDE’s in 2022 and more

It looks like Embarcadero, a cross-platform app development software company, will keep supporting these 2 main C and C++ IDE and compilers – C++ Builder 11 Editions, Dev-C++. These 2 compilers are free to use and there are more options and features for professional usage. VS Code and Eclipse are other free options to use in C and C++ programming. For simple usage, you can keep using the latest NotePad++.

There are more brands and new editors coming with. Generally they are heavy, less support, not sustainable, or ended in development, some require a lot of space to download a simple IDE without a C or C++ compiler. Some are generally designed for other languages and support C with few features. Some IDE’s are only for GNU C/C++ or can be used in a shell. This is why we don’t list more IDE’s here.

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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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