C++ is a popular programming language with powerful features. It’s used for everything from building operating systems to developing video games and creating 3D movies. If you’re wondering how to learn C++, the top choices for most developers are C++ courses and books.
Although C++ has been around since the 1980s, it remains one of the most useful programming skills to master. Many technology professionals would recommend learning C++ if you plan to work on software, operating systems, or game development. However, many also agree that C++ has a steep learning curve. As such, you may require in-depth training.
Whether you are looking to learn the fundamentals of programming or explore advanced coding languages like C++, this step-by-step guide can help show you how to learn C++ programming effectively.
What Is C++?
The C++ programming language was created by Bjarne Stroustrup. It was initially developed for the UNIX operating system and designed to make programming easier. The goal was to create a means to program something that works on any machine. Today, C++ is used to write programs compatible with Linux, macOS, and Windows operating systems.
This language is well-known for being created and tested by programmers throughout its history. This means that today, C++ has a number of features designed for specific use cases programmers have encountered over the years.
Many people are curious about what C++ is and how it differs from C. The simple answer is C++ is an extended version of C that includes all the latter’s features. It supports object-oriented programming, which is a type of development using objects and classes. This structure allows you to reduce repetition and increase efficiency in your code.
Why Should You Learn C++?
You should learn C++ because its syntax is similar to many other programming languages, such as Go. This means that once you’ve mastered C++, you should find it easier to start picking up other languages and expand your technical knowledge.
C++ is known for being a more difficult language to learn than others such as Java and Python. This is in large part because C++ has a more complex syntax. This can be challenging for those just starting with programming. With that said, investing the time to learn C++ can bring a number of benefits to you and your career.
Given the widespread use of the language, you should have no trouble finding a company hiring developers with advanced C++ programming skills. C++ is also used in both software and hardware development. As a programmer, this can give you a better sense of how both software and hardware work together. These are only a few good reasons why you should learn C++.
What Is C++ Used For?
C++ is used for various types of programming. It is a general-purpose, object oriented programming language, making it suitable for game development, systems engineering, web browser development, embedded systems, and more.
Programmers have all kinds of uses for C++ mainly because it is “close to hardware”. This affords the language a speed advantage. That’s why gaming engines like Unity Engine and Unreal Engine use C++ in their source code. The language is speedy and can optimize system resources well for applications that need a lot of power.
Because C++ was designed as a systems language, operating systems like Ubuntu and other versions of Linux rely, to some degree, on C++. C++ also powers popular embedded systems that we use in our daily lives like digital watches, domestic appliances, and central heating systems.
How Long Does it Take to Learn C++?
It does not take long to learn C++ for experienced programmers. You can expect to master the syntax of C++ in about two to three months if you devote about 10 hours every week to learning C++. However, to become highly proficient at programming in C++, expect to spend at least one year studying full-time.
Professional C++ developers, who are years into their careers, still find themselves learning something new about the language. This is because, like all programming languages, there are so many ways that C++ can be extended and refined that it is impossible to learn them all at once.
The bottom line is that it does not matter how long it takes to learn C++. Rather, you should evaluate your reasons for learning C++ and tailor a learning plan that can help you meet your objectives at the pace that you are comfortable with.
How to Learn C++ Fast
To get started, there are a lot of online tutorials that can help you learn C++ for free. This is how you can learn C++ fast. Online tutorials are great because they explore a range of C++ topics at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels without requiring much time or financial commitment.
Attending formal training like a degree program or a coding bootcamp may not be the fastest way to learn C++ but you acquire in-depth knowledge of the programming language. At the same time, some training providers also offer accelerated programs that can help you learn C++ fast. As such, it’s important to do your research and find the right program for you.
Is C++ Hard to Learn?
C++ is a hard language to learn. This is because it uses a range of paradigms. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with different programming concepts before you can efficiently use C++. Another reason why C++ is so hard is that it has an advanced syntax that may be confusing. The language also does not support automatic memory management.
Although you could argue that learning any programming language is not easy, C++ has a reputation for being particularly difficult for beginners. If you already have some programming experience, you should find it easier to learn C++ than you would without a technical background.
How to Learn C++
In spite of its notorious reputation for being challenging, there are several ways you can learn how to code in C++. As a beginner, it is recommended that you start with the basics and gradually work your way through advanced C++ topics. In this section, we will show you how to learn C++ in six simple steps.
Step 1: Prepare Your Technology
There are a few different concepts you’ll need to be familiar with before you start coding. The first step in learning how to code using C++ is to prepare the software and tools you need such as an integrated development environment (IDE). Here is a glossary of the main technologies you’ll need to prepare before learning C++ programming.
A text editor is a tool where you can write programs using lines of code. Think of a text editor as a Microsoft Word document, but for programmers. There are hundreds of text editors out there and the one you choose does not necessarily matter. However, at the start of your journey of learning C++, it is advisable to choose something simple. Here are a few recommendations:
- Visual Studio Code
- Sublime Text
You’ll also need to have a compiler on your computer. Keep in mind that programming languages are a way to communicate and set instructions for your computer. As such, the compiler will read your source code and convert your code into a format the computer can read and execute. Here are a few compilers you can use with C++:
- GCC (Windows, Mac, Linux)
- Visual Studio C++ Compiler (Windows)
- Clang (Windows)
Step 2: Master the Basics
Once you have your tools ready, you can start your journey of learning C++. One mistake that many new developers make is to start big and work their way back to more basic concepts. When you’re getting started, you should start from the beginning and aim to master the fundamentals. Here are some topics you’ll need to master in order to learn how to code in C++:
Step 3: Build a Project
Building C++ projects are a great way to practice the theory you’ve learned from books, free courses, and tutorials. When you build a project, you’ll have complete control over what you design and how it works. You can also use your C++ project to boost your portfolio.
The first thing you need to build a C++ project is an idea. You may be thinking about what to build, and this question is actually easier to answer than you’d expect.
While you can build anything you want, a good way to come up with a project is to think of how to solve problems. Specifically, consider the problems you encounter daily. Then, try to come up with a way to solve them using code. Consider starting with a tutorial or searching online for a common problem people deal with if you get stuck.
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The final idea you choose to work on should be one that interests you. That way, if you hit a roadblock, you’ll be more motivated to power through and keep going. Here are a few ideas for easy C++ projects:
- Car insurance system
- Clothing store management system
- Tic-tac-toe game
- Casino number guessing game
- C++ bank account management system
When you’re building a project, remember to start small, then work your way up to explore more advanced ideas. For example, your first project may use your knowledge of classes. Next, you could incorporate inheritance, return 0, class templates, standard libraries, function pointers, arrays and other data types, and more into your code.
As you slowly develop your skills through online tutorials and courses, you’ll create more complex programs and applications.
Step 4: Join a Free C++ Online Community
Another common mistake new developers make is to “code in isolation”. In other words, many people decide to learn to code by themselves, without seeking help from others.
Learning to code in C++ is not an easy task so you may feel like you are burdening other advanced programmers with basic questions. However, that is not the case. The best thing you can do is join a C++ community from an early stage and engage as frequently as possible.
Benefits of Joining a C++ Community
Here are a few of the benefits of joining a C++ community:
- Meet people who have been in your shoes. On developer forums, you’ll find programmers of all stripes, from beginners to experts. You’ll have no trouble finding someone who has been in your shoes before. This may help you better understand where you are and what you need to do to improve.
- Ask for help in a safe, supportive space. Developer communities are all about programmers helping one another. If you have a question, regardless of how basic you think it is, you should ask someone in a C++ community. It’s better to reach out for help than to worry about an issue on your own.
- Practice your skills by helping others. Once you’ve mastered the basics of C++, you’ll be qualified to help out people who are not as knowledgeable as you in certain topics. This will help you reinforce your skills and become a better developer.
The Best Communities for Beginner C++ Programmers
Here is a quick list of top C++ communities to help you get started:
- Dev.to: Dev.to is a community for developers of all skill levels to collaborate and communicate with one another. It is one of the most active C++ communities.
- GitHub: GitHub is a code-sharing platform for developers. It features a number of great projects to which you can learn and contribute.
- Stack Overflow: Stack Overflow is a community for developers to ask and respond to programming-related questions. If you have a question about C++ or looking to help someone else, Stack Overflow is the place to go.
Step 5: Practice, Then Practice More
The only way that you will be able to refine your C++ skills is to keep coding. Practicing makes it easier for you to keep learning, because the more you practice, the more you’ll learn about common challenges associated with C++ and ways to overcome them.
Some people enjoy working on exercises and quizzes to help improve their C++ skills. There are no specific ways in which you need to practice, but here are a few examples of C++ programming practice to get you going:
- Work on projects. Get busy with projects as often as possible. This gives you a bigger goal to focus on and allows you to reinforce your existing skills.
- Join Edabit. Edabit is similar to Duolingo, but for developers. On Edabit, you’ll find a number of fun coding challenges and exercises to join.
- Join Google Code Jam. Google Code Jam allows you to build your skills by competing with other developers on C++ projects.
Step 6: Share Your Work
As soon as you feel comfortable doing so, you should start sharing your work with others. This is an important part of learning C++ because it will help you build more confidence in your work. This makes it easier for you to keep coding, even when you encounter a block.
When you’ve finished learning a concept, ask a friend or someone in a C++ developer community to quiz you on the concept. Or alternatively, you can build a project using the concepts you have learned and ask a friend to review it and give you feedback.
If you know other C++ developers, ask them to do a code review. Get help from more experienced programmers and learn how to incorporate best practices into your code.
C++ Basics: Master C++ Fundamentals
Learning C++ programming starts with a basic understanding of the core concepts. It can be more difficult to proceed to more advanced topics if you struggle with the foundational concepts of C++. This section will show you how to learn C++ fundamentals.
C++ Syntax and Variables
The first step to learning any programming language is to understand the language’s syntax. Syntax refers to the rules and procedures a language uses to interpret code. Then, you should learn about C++ variables. Variables are a feature that allows you to store data and can be manipulated over time to reflect changes in your code.
Here are the main topics you should explore when it comes to learning C++ syntax and variables:
- How to create a C++ program
- How to receive program output
- How to declare a variable
- How to chain variables
- How to use arithmetic operators
- How to accept user input into a variable
Programmers use a series of statements called conditionals to control the flow of their programs. Conditionals allow programmers to only run certain code when a condition or set of conditions are met.
Here is a list of the flow control topics you’ll need to know when learning C++ programming:
- Branching or conditional structure
- Iterative structure
- Sequential structure
- Jump statements
Loops allow you to execute a block of code multiple times over, and help you reduce repetition in your code. For instance, instead of copying the same lines of code five times over in your code, you can create a loop that runs a single block of code five times.
There are two types of loops in C++:
- while loops: while loops are used to continue executing a block of code for as long as the condition returns true
- for loops: for loops are used when you know the specific amount of times you want a block of code to be executed repeatedly
Functions are code blocks that run when they are called in a program. So, writing a function allows you to write a block of code that is only executed when you want it to be, and that block of code can be run as many times as you want throughout your program.
The main features of functions that you should know about when learning how to code in C++ are:
- Built-in vs. user-defined functions
- How to declare a function
- The void keyword
- How to return values
- How to use parameters and arguments
Classes and Objects
As we mentioned earlier, C++ is an object-oriented language. This means it relies on classes and objects. Classes are blueprints that store the structure of a part of a program, and objects use that structure to create a collection of data. A class may store the structure for a type of car. However, an object may store details about an individual type of car, like a 2020 BMW.
The most important features of classes and objects are as follows:
- How to create a class
- How to create an object
- Public and private statements
- How to use constructors
- C++ inheritance
Vectors are a type of list that can change in size. When you’re programming, you can use vectors to store lists of data. These can help you keep your code more organized and maintain its efficiency.
Here is a list of the main features of C++ vectors:
- Creating a C++ vector
- Adding and removing vector elements
- Changing values in a vector
Best Way to Learn C++ Online
The fact that C++ is so widely used is to your advantage. It means there are plenty of resources out there you can depend on to start learning to code in C++. There is no single best way to learn C++ as everyone has unique learning styles. However, you can find some great options for online C++ courses in the list below.
Online C++ Courses
If you are looking for a convenient way to learn C++ online, these C++ courses for beginners are an excellent place to start. Some of them are standalone courses that delve deeper into the fundamentals and advanced topics of C++, while others are a part of a bigger web or software development training program. Suffice to say that your options are limitless.
- Cost: Pluralsight membership ($24/month)
- Audience: Beginners
C++ Fundamentals offers six hours’ worth of learning material on C++. You’ll start at the basics with declaring variables. You’ll then move on to more advanced concepts. Unlike other courses, this one covers syntax additions. This means that you’ll get an insight into how the C++ language has evolved over time.
- Cost: $50
- Audience: All levels
In this course, you will be exposed to the basics of C++ programming as well as its features and use cases. It consists of 30.5 hours of on-demand video tutorials, 289 downloadable resources, and 48 coding exercises. This C++ course is recommended to both beginners and experienced programmers who wish to build a solid technical foundation.
- Cost: $11.99
- Audience: Beginners
This is one of the most popular C++ courses for beginners with a high user rating of 4.6. It has helped over 200,000 students learn how to program in C++. Students learn via online C++ tutorials and 46 hours of video instruction. It includes 53 downloadable resources and 37 coding exercises to help you become more proficient in C++.
Free C++ Courses
Free C++ courses are a great way to experiment when you are just starting your learning journey. They allow you to get a feel of what learning C++ is like and whether or not it would be a skill that can help you meet your particular career objectives. Below are our top three picks for free C++ courses.
- Audience: Beginners
You’ll learn the basics of programming and C++ in this course. There is 18 hours worth of material to cover, touching on topics like object-oriented coding and syntax. This course is ideal for people who have little or no programming experience.
- Audience: Beginners
Codecademy has a reputation for delivering high-quality programming courses. In their library, you’ll find a course called Learn C++ which covers all the basics of the language. This course lasts 25 hours in total and comes with challenges and projects you can use to build your skills.
- Audience: Intermediate
If you already know how to code in another programming language and wish to learn C++, this is the course for you. This self-paced course comprises nine lessons and can be completed in about three weeks. You also have the chance to practice your coding skills through interactive exercises on the platform.
Online C++ Books
There are a wide variety of C++ books for beginners that can help you take that first step into learning C++ programming. They typically focus on a specific area of C++ so you can easily find a quality resource to help you tackle any area of interest. Below are some book recommendations for C++ beginners.
C++ Primer (5th Edition) by Stanley B. Lippman
This book is a good introduction to the C++ standard library. You’ll learn the basics of C++ syntax and how to write basic programs. This book comes with a range of examples you can use to extend your knowledge.
Starting Out with C++ by Tony Gaddis
This is a guided introduction to working with C++ which makes it an excellent C++ book for beginners. You’ll learn all the basics like arrays and control structures. Then, you’ll move on to learn about more advanced topics like classes. This book is packed with real-world examples and exercises for you to work on.
C++ Pocket Reference
C++ Pocket Reference is a good reference guide for any C++ developer, whether you are experienced or looking to learn C++ programming. This book makes it easy to find out more about the concepts you are learning.
Online C++ Resources
In this modern age, some of the best C++ learning resources can be found online. Some of them consist of multi-part tutorials which peel the C++ layer one at a time. This makes for a buildable learning experience, encouraging you to keep developing your C++ programming skills as a beginner.
This online tutorial offers a range of guides on learning C++. You’ll start by learning about the basic syntax and the role of compilers. Then, you’ll cover more advanced topics like using databases with C++ and object-oriented application design.
LearnCPP.com provides free guides on how to code in C++, making it one of the best resources to learn C++. This site is good for anyone learning C++, even if you already have some programming experience. There are dozens of tutorials across the 18 chapters on this site, ranging from data types to input and outputs.
Cprogramming.com has a range of tutorials on C++. The site starts with basic C++ features and covers everything you need to know about C++. You’ll find C++ tips, book recommendations, quizzes, and other learning resources on this site.
On the Cprogramming website, you will learn about the topics you need to build a solid footing in C++. These are a few of the many resources out there that can help you learn C++ for free. You’ll cover everything from conditional statements to loops to memory management and computation programming in these courses.
Should I Learn C++?
Yes, you should learn C++. C++ may be more difficult to learn than other languages like Python or Java, but the language is still absolutely worth learning. Whether you want to become a game developer, work on creating web browsers, or become an embedded systems engineer, learning C++ is incredibly useful.
The long history of C++, as well as its widespread use, means that there is no shortage of resources out there. There are many tutorials and online resources to help with learning programming. Due to C++’s popularity, there are a number of businesses hiring developers in various fields and industries.
Learning C++ is a long-term investment in your skills and your career. The best way to learn C++ is to get started as soon as you can. Follow the tips in this article and you’ll be a master in C++ in no time.
How to Learn C++ FAQ
Many programmers agree that C++ is easy to learn if you already have some experience with coding. C++’s advanced syntax can prove to be a challenge and as such, familiarity with other programming languages might come in handy. The easiest way to learn C++ is to sign up for an in-depth course that can teach you everything you need to know to master C++.
Can you teach yourself C++?
Yes, you can teach yourself C++, especially if you’re already familiar with coding. However, it may take longer than attending a course, for example. This is because you may struggle with foreign concepts. You then have to consult various resources to seek viable solutions. It is possible to teach yourself C++ but the journey may be a long and tedious one.
Is C++ in demand?
Yes, C++ is an in-demand language. Glassdoor reports that the average C++ developer in the US commands a salary of $89,736. Because of its versatility, C++ skills can be used in game development, software development, and even embedded systems which can spell out job opportunities. It is listed as the fourth most popular programming language in the TIOBE index.
Why C++ is a good first language to learn?
C++ is a good first programming language to learn because it’s a low-level language that allows you to understand the building blocks of programming. Since its inception in the 1980s, C++ has powered some of the most popular technologies to have existed today such as search engines, applications, and embedded systems. It also has a complex syntax that can train you to become a skilled programmer.
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