13 Best IDEs For C++ You Should Use In 2021

A couple of decades earlier, developers used to go through a bit of struggle to create an application from scratch. It would take several sequential steps to develop a software program, starting from writing code to compiling and testing each module.

They had to install different packages to perform different phases of the software development cycle, which include coding, compiling, testing, and debugging. However, everything changed with the advent of the Integrated Development Environment (IDE): it became a lot easier to compile, debug, and execute code.

Do you know that HP Softbench was one of the first plug-in IDE released in 1989? It was based on the UNIX operating system.

Since then IDEs have evolved a lot. Modern IDEs contain at least one source code editor, debugger, and various automation tools. Some are integrated with a compiler, interpreter, and advanced features such as auto-code completion and build and deployment.

If you are a C++ programmer (which is still one of the most popular programming languages used by over 4.5 million developers worldwide), you can use the following tools for your project. We have listed some of the best IDEs for C++ that provide comprehensive facilities to ease the software development process.

9. Dev-C++

Pros
  • Supports GCC-based compilers
  • Integrated debugger
  • Customizable code editor
  • AStyle code formatting support
  • Templates for creating different types of projects
Cons
  • Contains some bugs
  • Not very effective for testing environments

Written In: Delphi
Platform
: Windows

Embarcadero Dev-C++ is a lightweight, full-featured IDE for C and C++ programming languages. It uses Mingw port of GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) as its compiler. It can also be used along with Cygwin or any other GCC-based compiler.

Since Dev-C++ is a native Windows app that doesn’t use Electron, it has a very low memory footprint. It doesn’t consume a lot of RAM and computing resources, even if you work on large projects.

Furthermore, you can download additional libraries or packages of code to extend the functionality of Dev-C++, such as compression, animation, graphics, and sound support.

8. Geany

Pros
  • Embedded terminal emulator
  • Quick search on large files
  • Built-in support for over 50 programming languages
  • Extensible via plugins
Cons
  • Not as popular as some other IDEs with plugin support

Written In: C, C++
Platform:
Linux | macOS | Windows

Geany is a lightweight and fast IDE. It is designed to have short load times with limited dependencies on separate packages. Since it uses only the GTK+ toolkit, you need only the GTK+ runtime libraries to run Geany.

The software is highly customizable: you can adjust it as per your requirements and preferences. And like all other IDEs, it features syntax highlighting, code folding, code navigation, and simple project management.

In addition to C, Java, JavaScript, Python, Perl, and PHP, Geany includes support for various useful filetypes like SQL files, Diff-output, and ini-style config files.

7. AppCode

Pros
  • Code analysis and quick-fixes
  • Integrated debugger
  • Unit testing support
  • Integrates with various issue tracking systems
Cons
  • Steep learning curve
  • Consumes a lot of computing resources when working on large files

Written In: Java and Kotlin
Platform
: macOS

AppCode is an intelligence IDE that enables programmers to write code faster and build applications for Apple devices including iPhones, iPads, and Macs.

Designed by JetBrains, this IDE supports all essential code editing and modifications functions, such as code completion, syntax highlighting, refactoring, and analysis.

The platform provides several code inspections for Swift, C, C++, and Objective-C. All inspections are performed on the fly. It examines your code structure and handles the repetitive tasks, saving your time.

AppCode also monitors the quality of your program. It notifies you of all types of errors while suggesting quick fixes to resolve them automatically. It natively supports C, C++, Objective-C, Swift, CSS, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Xpath.

The platform is fully compatible with Xcode (there is no need for additional configuration), and it seamlessly integrates with Jira, Git, Perforce, Reveal, CocoaPods, and Subversion.

As far as pricing is concerned, AppCode costs $8.90 per month for individual use and $19.90 per user per month for organizations. 30-day free trial is available.

6. Code::Blocks

Pros
  • Simple and easy to use
  • Free and open-source platform
  • Multiple compiler support
  • Extensible through plugins
Cons
  • UI looks outdated and dull

Written In: C++
Platform
: Linux | macOS | Windows

Code::Blocks is designed to be fully configurable and very extensible. Its functionality, such as event compiling and debugging functionality, can be extended by adding a plugin.

The platform is built to meet all demands of its users. It implements a custom build system with many crucial features such as superfast dependencies generation, parallel builds, and build queues.

Code::Blocks supports multiple compilers, including Visual C++, Clang, and GCC. It also supports code completion, interactive debugging, tabbed interface, parallel builds, and multi-target projects.

The latest version is equipped with an enhanced debugging subsystem, code/data breakpoints, automatic watches, memory dumps, and disassembly listing.

5. Eclipse

Eclipse

Pros
  • Easy to find everything you need for coding
  • Open-source platform
  • Support for different build systems like CMAKE
  • Lots of plugins and integrations
Cons
  • Takes up a lot of RAM when working with bigger projects

Written In: Java and C
Platform
: Linux | macOS | Windows

While Eclipse is known as a Java Integrated Development Environment, it can also be used for developing software programs in C and C++. You can even combine multiple languages and other features into any default package. The Eclipse Marketplace allows countless customizations and extensions.

The Eclipse community has more than 200 open source projects, which can be conceptually organized into seven main categories:

  • Enterprise development
  • Rich client platform
  • Embedded and device development
  • Service-oriented architecture
  • Application frameworks
  • Rich internet applications
  • Application lifecycle management
  • Enterprise Development

This community is supported by a vast ecosystem of IT solution providers, universities and research institutions, startups, and individuals that extend and complement the Eclipse platform.

4. Visual Studio Code

Pros
  • Lightening fast UI
  • Highly customizable
  • Unparalleled debugging and diagnostics
  • Version control integration
  • Easily extensible
Cons
  • Consume a lot of memory
  • Sometimes extension management get complicated

Written In: TypeScript, JavaScript
Platform:
Linux | macOS | Windows

Visual Studio Code is a free IDE developed and managed by Microsoft. It contains tons of advanced features. For example, IntelliSense provides smart code completion based on function definitions, variable types, and imported modules.

You can use resumable functions, fold expressions, lambda expressions, inline variables, noexcept in type system, extended constexpr and C++ attributes, and many other modern features to write code efficiently.

Visualize your program with code tooltips, guidelines, syntax colorization, Class View or Call hierarchy. Jump to part of the code by declaration, definition, reference, and more. The platform also allows you to analyze your code for common issues, quickly repair problems, and refactor the code as per your requirements.

What’s more? You can install extensions to add new themes, programming languages, debuggers and to integrate the platform with additional services. All extensions run in separate processes so you won’t experience any lag.

3. C++Builder

Pros
  • Quickens lengthy compiles with highly optimized compilers
  • Integrated native debugging
  • Track and manage changes using version control systems
  • Packed with well-tested, highly optimized Windows and iOS libraries
Cons
  • Expensive

Written In: Object Pascal
Platform
: macOS | Windows | iOS | Android

C++Builder combines the IDE and Visual Component Library with various C++ compilers. It supports inline documentation, GoF design pattern, integrated unit testing, and audits to enhance your productivity.

More specifically, you can utilize code metrics to do a deep static analysis of your program, leverage code audits to enforce proper code methodologies and techniques within your codebase.

It is also integrated with a WYSIWYG graphical user interface builder and tools that enable drag-and-drop visual development. You can write code and see how your software program looks and behaves on different devices. Any changes made to the code will be instantly visible in the software program.

C++Builder is packed with dozens of useful libraries. FireDAC, for example, is a high-performance database layer that provides data connectivity to 17 key databases.

Overall, it’s a great platform for both small and enterprise-level projects. It is used by more than 3 million developers worldwide. Panasonic, Pfizer, Hitachi, Nikon, Morgan Stanley, 3M, Canon, and Honda are some of its biggest customers.

Unlike other IDEs, it doesn’t have a free version. The pro version (suitable for individual developers and small teams) costs $500 per year.

2. CodeLite

Pros
  • Features project management and source browsing
  • Open-source platform
  • Executes any third-party compiler
  • Subversion and cscope integration
Cons
  • GUI and documentation can be improved

Written In: C++
Platform
: Linux | macOS | Windows

CodeLite is a simple yet powerful IDE specifically build for writing code in C, C++, PHP, and JavaScript. It contains multiple code completion engines that can work simultaneously, allowing developers to get more work done in less time.

Unlike most free code editors available in the market, CodeLite is integrated with plenty of great functions, such as code refactoring, syntax highlighting, source growing, project management, Subversion integration, and UnitTest++ integration.

Since CodeLite is an open-source platform, it only uses free tools, such as GDB and MinGW, to compile and debug programs. It is also capable of efficiently executing third-party compilers or tools that have a command-line interface.

1. CLion

Pros
  • Smart editor boosts you productivity
  • Code analysis on the fly
  • Various on-chip debugging options
  • Supports the Google Test, Boost.Test, Doctest and Catch frameworks for unit testing
Cons
  • Thousands of options may cause some confusion

Written In: Java
Platform
: Linux | macOS | Windows

CLion uses the Cygwin toolset to develop and test C++ programs. It occupies about 950 MB on disk. This IDE boosts your productivity with instant navigation, smart code completion, and reliable refactorings.

CLion detects potential code issues almost instantly and allows you to fix those issues with just a click. Moreover, it runs code analysis, data flow analysis, other essential checks to identify unused and unreachable code, missing type casts, dangling pointers, and various other issues.

The platform also has handy keyboard shortcuts for nearly all its features, commands, actions. You can use the embedded terminal to run any command without leaving the IDE. After finishing the code, you can run and debug your application and perform unit tests locally, remotely, or on a chip.

Unfortunately, CLion isn’t free. It costs $8.90 per month for individual use and $19.90 per user per month for organizations.

Read: 20 Most Useful C and C++ Cheat Sheets

Other Equally Good C++ IDEs

10. Qt Creator

Written In: C++
Platform
: Linux | macOS | Windows

Qt Creator simplifies GUI application development. It comes with integrated visual editors for developing C++ widget-based apps or Qt Quick-based animated UIs with ready-made controls.

The platform supports C++, Python, JavaScript, QML, and various other programming languages. It features syntax highlighting, code completion, refactoring, and has pre-designed documentation at your fingertips.

It allows you to compile source code into native machine code, improve UI performance, and protect your source code and intellectual property.

Overall, the software is ideal for companies with commercial development projects. And since it is built for businesses, it costs more than other IDEs: $329 per user per month.

11. SlickEdit

Written In: C++
Platform
: Linux | macOS | Windows

SlickEdit is a cross-platform, multi-language IDE, with support for more than 60 programming languages on 9 platforms. It is equipped with features like intelligent code completion, syntax highlighting, code navigation, third-party tool integration, and over 14 keyboard emulations.

The integrated debugging provides an intuitive frontend for numerous debuggers. View variables, set breakpoints, inspect the stack — it has every function you expect from a quality debugger.

The best thing about SlickEdit is it handles large files very well. You can read and save a maximum file size of 2 TB.

The standard version, which is great for single file-oriented tasks and one-off scripts, costs $100 (one-time fee).

12. Xcode

Written In: C, C++, Objective-C
Platform
: macOS | iPadOS | iOS | watchOS

Xcode has a lot to offer and can seem very intimidating for beginners. Since it is built by Apple, it is mostly used for developing iOS and Mac applications with Swift, C, C++, and Objective-C languages.

It has several in-built cloud-based tools for developing, testing, and delivering applications. You can run tests in parallel in the cloud, edit workflows, and distribute builds automatically to testers.

The latest version includes a new concurrency model, a Metal-accelerated GPU timeline view, and improved support for version control providers such as GitHub. Plus, the new network tracing system allows programmers and privacy researchers to debug and analyze HTTP-based network traffic.

13. Ultimate++

Written In: C++
Platform:
Linux | macOS | Windows

Ultimate++ focuses on developers’ productivity. It minimizes the code complexity of desktop applications by exploiting C++ features.

The IDE is packed with a BLITZ-build system to speed up C++ rebuilds up to four times, a Topic++ system for documenting code properly, a full-featured debugger, and a powerful code analyzer that features code navigation, completion, and transformation. It works with Clang, MinGW, GCC, and Visual C++.

Applications developed on Ultimate++ can work on various hardware architectures and operating systems without the need to write platform-specific code.

Read: 14 Best Programming Software For Writing Code

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an IDE and a text editor?

An IDE, short for Integrated Development Environment, contains a set of tools (such as text editor, compiler, and debugger) that work together to improve programmers’ productivity.

In general, all IDEs are tied to certain programming languages or frameworks. For example, Visual Studio focuses on .Net, IntelliJ on Java, and RubyMine on Ruby. Depending on the language and platform, the IDE may include unit testing tools, source control management, class/variable refactoring, etc.

Text editors, on the other hand, tend to go for a wider approach. Instead of specializing in a particular language, they are able to edit many different types of files. Almost all popular file editors (such as Notepad++ and Sublime) feature multi-file editing, syntax highlighting, and guided indentation.

Is Notepad ++ an IDE?

No. Notepad is just a text and source code editor. Written in C++, Notepad++ utilizes pure Win32 API and STL to ensure a higher executing speed and smaller program size.

It features code folding, syntax highlighting, and limited autocompletion for programming and markup languages. The latest version can highlight the elements of over 75 languages and scripts.

Read: Notepad++ For Mac | 9 Best Alternatives

What C++ is used for?

While C++ was created in 1979, it is still the language of choice for certain kinds of software programs. It is widely used to develop large software infrastructure and apps that run on limited resources.

Since C++ can directly manipulate the hardware that it runs on, developers can configure their code to run efficiently on various machines. It is considered an excellent programming language for developing fast and reliable applications that can perform critical tasks, even when there are limited computing resources.

C++ is mostly used to develop games, video editing apps, browsers, AR/VR applications, database tools (such as MySQL and MongoDB), and machine learning tools (like TensorFlow).

Read: 8 Best Artificial Intelligence Programming Language

In fact, NASA uses C++ to develop autonomous driving systems to navigate unknown terrain on celestial bodies. Some components of the International Space Station are programmed using C++.

At CERN, physicists use C++ to analyze data on subatomic particles as well.

Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a professional science and technology journalist and a big fan of AI, machines, and space exploration. He received a Master's degree in computer science from GGSIPU University. To find out about his latest projects, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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