There are many reasons to learn C++. Whether it’s to become an embedded systems engineer, game developer, or just learn for its practicality, C++ is a great programming language to learn.
C++ is one of the most popular programming languages in the world. It’s used for everything from building operating systems to crafting video games and creating 3D movies. While it may have a steeper learning curve than others, C++ has incredible potential.
This guide will discuss the best way to learn C++ online. We’ll take you through our step-by-step guide on how to learn C++ programming.
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.
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This language is well-known for being created and tested by programmers throughout its history. This means that the language today has a number of features designed for specific use cases programmers have encountered over the years.
C++ is an extended version of C which 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++?
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 starting with programming. With that said, investing the time to learn C++ can bring a number of benefits to you and your career.
The first benefit of starting with a new programming language like C++ is the syntax. This syntax is similar to many other programming technologies, such as Go. This means that, once you’ve mastered C++, you should find it easier to start picking up on more technologies, including modern ones.
That’s not all! C++ is used in both software and hardware development. Knowing how to code in C++ gives you a better sense of how both software and hardware work together. This is useful knowledge to have, no matter which path you pursue in technology.
C++ is also great to learn if you are interested in a career in technology. Given the widespread use of C++, you should have no trouble finding a company hiring talented developers. Because C++ is used for such a wide array of applications, careers from game development to software engineering are in your future.
What is C++ Used For?
C++ is a general-purpose language which means it has a range of uses. Today, C++ is used for games development, systems engineering, web browser development, embedded systems, and more.
C++ is so widely used because it is “close to hardware.” This affords the language a speed advantage. That’s why gaming engines like Unity Engine and Unreal Engine rely on C++. The language is speedy and can optimize system resources well for applications that need a lot of power.
You’ll find C++ in a range of systems. Because C++ was designed as a systems language, operating systems like Ubuntu and other flavors of Linux rely at least to some degree on C++. Some embedded systems like smart watches and home devices are known to rely on C++.
How Long Does it Take to Learn C++?
If you already have some experience programming, you should expect to master the syntax of C++ in about two to three months. But, to really learn the language, expect to spend at least a year studying.
Professional C++ developers who are years into their career still learn something new about the language often. This is because, like all programming languages, there are so many ways that C++ can be extended that it is impossible to learn them all.
If you devote about ten hours a week to learning C++, you’ll get a good grasp of the fundamentals in a few months. Those who study full-time will pick up the basics quicker.
Is C++ Hard to Learn?
C++ is one of the most difficult languages to learn. This is because C++ uses a range of paradigms. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with different programming concepts before you can efficiently use C++.
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 having a technical background.
How to Learn C++ Fast
Are you convinced that learning C++ is a good investment of your time? Great! The next step on your journey is to ask yourself: How do I learn C++?
The complex syntax used by C++ may make your journey feel intimidating, but don’t worry. Let’s explore a few tips to help you start your journey on the right foot.
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 your technology and integrated development environment. Here is a glossary of the main technology you’ll need to prepare before starting to code:
A text editor is a tool where you can write programs through code. Think of a text editor like a Microsoft Word document, but for programmers.
There are hundreds of text editors out there, and the specific one you end up choosing does not necessarily matter. However, at the start of your journey, it is advisable to choose something simple. Here are a few recommendations:
You’ll also need to have a compiler on your computer. The compiler will read your source code. Then, the compiler will 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)
Now you’ve prepared your tools, we can start talking about how to learn C++.
Step 2: Master the Basics
Once you have your technology ready, you can start on your journey to learning C++. One mistake that many new developers make is to start big and work their way back to more basic programming concepts. When you’re getting started, you should start from the beginning and aim to master the fundamentals.
To help you get started, let’s break down the main topics you’ll need to master in order to learn how to code in C++.
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 start to learn about variables. Variables are a feature of programming 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 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:
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 code five times over in your code, you can create a loop that runs a single block of code five times.
Here are the main topics you’ll need to know about:
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 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 object 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
- How to change values in a vector
Best Way to Learn C++ Online
We’ve discussed both the value of learning C++ and the main topics that you should learn. Now, we need to ask: Where can you learn these skills?
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. Those resources support all different learning styles.
So, if you prefer interactive tutorials, there is something for you. However, if you prefer books, there are many from which you can choose.
Online C++ Courses
- Cost: Free
- Audience: Beginners
You’ll learn the basics of programming and C++ in this course. There is 18 hours worth of material to cover, touching topics like object-oriented coding and syntax. This course is ideal for people who have little or no programming experience.
- Cost: Pluralsight membership ($24 / month)
- Audience: Beginners
C++ Fundamentals has six hours worth of course material on C++. You’ll start at the basics: declaring variabels. 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: Free
- 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.
Online C++ Books
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 book is a guided introduction to working with C++. 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 new to the language or have some experience. This book makes it easy to find out more about the concepts you are learning. It is small so you can carry it around whenever you think you may need it.
Online C++ Resources
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++. This site is good for anyone learning C++, even if you already have some programming experience.
There are dozens of tutorials across the eighteen chapters on this site, ranging from data types to input and outputs.
Started in 1996 with a focus on C, 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.
In these courses, 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.
Build a Project
Building 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.
The first thing you need to build a 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 search online for a common problem people deal with if you get stuck.
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 basic project ideas for beginner C++ developers:
- 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 developer your skills through online tutorials and courses, you’ll create more complex programs and applications.
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.
It makes sense why some developers do this—learning to code is difficult. You may feel like you are burdening others with basic questions. But that’s not the case!
The best thing you can do is join a developer community from an early stage and engage as frequently as possible.
Benefits of Joining a C++ Community
Here are a few of the benefits that come with joining a 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 where you need to go to improve.
- It’s a safe place to ask for help. Developer communities are all about programmers helping other coders. If you have a question, instead of worrying about it yourself, you can ask someone in a community.
- You can 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
Now, you may be asking: What communities can I join? 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 discuss. Their C++ community is particularly active.
- GitHub: GitHub is a code-sharing platform for developers, and features a number of great projects to which you can contribute.
- Stack Overflow: Stack Overflow is a community for developers to ask questions and respond to those questions. If you have a question about C++—or want to help someone else—Stack Overflow is the place to go.
Practice, Then Practice More
The only way that you will be able to refine your skills is to practice and to practice some more.
C++ has a steeper learning curve than other languages. Many people wonder if C++ is hard to learn. You’ll likely end up asking yourself, “should I quit?” a couple of times throughout your journey.
The answer to that question is always, “No!” If you keep going and practice daily, you’ll become a better programmer.
Practicing makes it easier for you to keep learning, because the more you practice, the more you’ll learn about common challenges associated with programming. There are no specific ways in which you need to practice, but here are a few ideas 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.
- Google Code Jam: Google Code Jam allows you to build your skills by competing with other developers on C++ projects.
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 barrier.
When you’ve finished learning a concept, ask a friend or someone in a developer community to quiz you on the concept. Or, alternatively, you could 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 and learn how to incorporate best practices into your code.
Completing Your C++ Journey
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.
Do you still have questions about learning how to code in C++? Here are a few frequently asked questions that you may find useful:
Technically, there’s no point at which you’ve “learned” a programming language—things change all the time, and there’s always more to learn. However, if you work hard, there’s no reason to say that you can’t master the basics in a few weeks or months. You may be ready for a job using C++ in a year or two.
We touched on this earlier, but the main difference between C and C++ is that C++ is object-oriented. This means the language supports classes and objects.
Many modern programming languages like PHP, Rust, and C# were based on C and C++. So, it’s likely that as you explore other programming languages, you’ll be able to find a few similarities.
Yes, C++ is an in-demand skill. At the time of writing, Glassdoor reports that the average C++ developer in the U.S. commands a salary of $76,526.
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