C++ is a powerful, versatile programming language. It can also be a tough one master. That means it’s critical to have the right tools in your toolbelt to help you code more efficiently, effectively, and confidently. When it comes to finding the best IDE or code editor for C++ programming, where should you start? The list of IDE options is nearly infinite, and it can be hard to tell which will be the best CPP IDE for your software development needs.
Fortunately, this comprehensive list of the top 11 best C++ IDEs (and code editors) for 2023 has you covered.
We’ll discuss pros and cons for some of the most popular IDEs and code editors on the market, and cover the ideal use case for each. We’re confident that you’ll find the right C++ IDE for your use case and start coding more efficiently in no time.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
C++ mastery just got a lot less daunting.
Before we explore the 11 best C++ IDEs for 2023, we have to answer an important question: what is an IDE?
An IDE, or Integrated Development Environment, is a software application built to make writing code easier. IDEs are useful tools for any developer hoping to streamline the development process.
What do the best IDEs do?
Many IDEs will help you debug, refactor, consolidate, and compile your code. Some IDEs have fewer bells and whistles and are closer to a classic text editor. Other IDEs have a range of features, including tools like autocomplete and syntax highlighting that help you not only run code but actually write it. IDEs often allow plugins to give you even more features beyond what comes out of the box.
A particular IDE may make certain tasks easier in certain programming languages. That’s why it’s important to find an IDE that balances your needs with the needs of whichever language (or languages) you’re coding in.
We know better than most that C++ can be a tricky language to learn, so it’s important to have the right IDE to support your C++ development needs.
If you are curious about the best IDEs for other programming languages, check out these resources:
We have our thoughts on the best free IDEs for C++, which can take you pretty far. But if you need more features and more power, there are several fantastic C++ IDEs that might be worth your while to buy. It all depends on your needs and budget.
Fortunately, this comprehensive list of the top 11 IDEs for C++ in 2023 has you covered.
C++ is a general-purpose, object oriented programming language. C++ is used in a variety of applications, including to develop operating systems, web browsers, graphics-heavy games, and databases.
When considering the best IDE for C++ programming, you’ll need an IDE that suits your individual needs.
What are some of those considerations?
Every developer has different needs and preferences, so we’ve compiled our list of the best C++ IDEs (and code editors) for all different use cases. To make things even easier on you, we’ve listed pros and cons for each of the top IDEs.
In no particular order, here is our full list of the 11 best C++ IDEs (and code editors) for 2023.
Dev-C++ is a free, full-featured, integrated IDE. Written in Delphi, Dev-C++ is a long-standing starter IDE for beginner C++ developers. It’s a good option for quickly running code, but doesn’t have many features that support large-scale writing code. It’s not as complete as other IDEs on this list, and may not work as well for bigger projects.
Ultimately, Dev-C++ is a decent Windows-friendly, free option to get you started, but it’s not available for macOS or Linux and is a bit limited and outdated for developers who need more functionality.
Use case for Dev-C++
You’re a new developer who uses Windows and is looking to get started with a basic out-of-the-box IDE built specifically for C++.
Eclipse may be best known for its open-source Java IDE, but the Eclipse C/C++ IDE is a good option for C++ as well.
The fact that Eclipse is open-source, free, and supports cross-platform development makes it a solid option for programmers developing in a number of languages. It also offers a range of configurable features, from debugging and code compiling to diffing files and auto code completion. This configurability makes Eclipse a top IDE for C++ developers, as well as for multi-language developers interested in customizing their coding environment.
Use case for Eclipse
You’re a multi-language developer looking for an IDE that offers an extensive plugin environment and you don’t mind taking the time to customize your experience.
Code::Blocks is another free, open-source C/C++ IDE that was initially released in 2005. It was built specifically as an IDE for C and C++.
Code:: Blocks offers the essential features you might expect from any solid IDE: auto code completion, debugging, compiling. More features are available via configurable plugins, including profiling, code coverage, code analysis, drag-and-drop, and more. However, many of these features are somewhat simplistic relative to those of other more powerful and streamlined IDEs on the market.
Although it was built specifically for C++, which is ideal for beginners looking to start developing in C++ out of the box, Code::Blocks is somewhat simplistic and dated in some respects.
Use case for Code::Blocks
You’re a newer developer looking for a no-frills IDE built specifically for C++.
Visual Studio Code (VS Code) is an open-source, cross-platform source code editor created by Microsoft.
As an industry-leading code editor, VS Code remains a highly popular tool for development in many languages (not just C++), especially among Windows users. For a long time VS Code only supported development in Windows, but recently became available for Mac and Linux.
VS Code is light enough to work on older hardware, yet has a robust suite of features including debugging, task running, syntax highlighting, code navigation, and version control. For more complex workflows, however, Microsoft’s IDE counterpart Visual Studio may be a better option.
There’s a free version that will work for most needs, as well as an enterprise version with additional features and support.
There are also plenty of downloadable extensions for all your needs, which you can read more about in this list of the top VS Code extensions.
Overall, VS Code’s efficiency and portability balanced with its powerful array of features makes it one of the best all-around code editors for development in C++ and beyond—and likely the best free source code editor on the market.
Use case for Visual Studio Code
You’re a professional developer who needs a cross-platform, multi-language source code editor that is light and efficient yet still has enough features to get you through your standard edit-build-debug cycle.
Microsoft Visual Studio is the more robust IDE counterpart to Visual Studio Code. As a full IDE, Visual Studio is better for more complex systems than its lighter, more portable counterpart, VS Code.
Updated as recently as 2021 (with a brand new release due in 2022), Visual Studio is a powerful option for developers coding in C++ and beyond. Visual Studio was only recently released for Linux but doesn’t have a new stable macOS version.
Use case for Visual Studio 2019
You’re a dedicated developer who changes languages regularly, wants to learn one tool for all your programming needs, and needs more power and features than what a lighter source code editor like VS Code can provide.
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CLion is a C/C++ IDE created by JetBrains, a reputable IDE creator. CLion is a trusted option for professional developers coding in C++, especially for bigger, more complex projects. It is a proprietary software, however, so it costs money to buy a license.
Even though CLion is built mainly for C++, it supports plugins for development in other languages (Python, Rust, and Swift, among others). Though CLion is a heavy IDE that can drain CPU and RAM, it is relatively easy to set up, contains great features out of the box, and supports CMake integration.
Use case for CLion
You’re a professional developer using newer hardware and coding mainly in C++ who doesn’t mind paying for a complete C++ IDE that will support complex workflows.
CodeLite is relatively easy to use and lightweight, which makes it a good option for debugging and testing in C++. Like Code::Blocks, CodeLite uses the wxWidgets toolkit, and you can debug and compile using free tools including MinGW and GNU debugger.
Use case for CodeLite
You’re a newer developer who wants a simple, straightforward free IDE built specifically for C++.
Apache NetBeans is another free, cross-platform IDE with a solid mix of features and plugins. NetBeans gained popularity as a top Java IDE but supports a number of other languages including CSS, HTML, and PHP, as well as C++, thanks to its C/C++ pack.
NetBeans offers a range of features including code refactoring, a debugger interface, language-aware symbol and source navigation, autocompletion, compiler configuration, and static analysis.
Use case for NetBeans
You’re a Java developer who needs to be able to code in C++ and wants to do so in a familiar environment.
Thanks to the incorporation of QT Designer, QT Creator was built to support both Graphical User Interface (GUI) design and programming. QT Creator also contains a range of standard IDE features including debugging, autocompletion, and syntax highlighting.
Use case for QT Creator
You are interested in developing a cross-platform desktop application and want a good C++ IDE that specializes in GUI design and programming.
XCode is Apple’s free IDE for Mac. XCode supports C++, as well as a host of other languages, including C, Objective-C, Objective-C++, Java, Python, Ruby, and Swift.
Unsurprisingly, XCode is a great option for macOS users, as it is the only officially supported IDE for macOS, iOS, and beyond (XCode also offers package signing and certificates).
Use case for XCode
You’re an Apple user interested in developing specifically for macOS or iOS.
Atom is a powerful text editor developed by GitHub. Though Atom will work out of the box for development in R and Python, with a bit of customization, Atom can be used for development in C++ as well as for a host of other languages.
Atom is highly hackable, so you can use CSS to customize Atom to your needs. You’ll just need to download a compiler for C++, for which there is a gpp compiler package available.
Similar to another popular source code editor, Sublime Text 3, Atom offers a wide range of plugins and extensions. However, here’s the kicker: Atom is free to use, whereas Sublime pricing starts at $80.
Use case for Atom
You’re a developer with a foundation in Python or R who is interested in customizing their coding environment to accommodate C++ but doesn’t need a full IDE.
Now that you’ve learned about the best IDEs for C++, (and hopefully have a better sense of which C++ IDEs are best for you), it’s time to get coding.
Of course, you don’t even need an IDE or code editor to get started with Educative’s hands-on C++ lessons. Educative requires no setup, no videos, no downloads, no IDEs, and no hassle. Check out Educative’s C++ tutorials and courses built by developers for developers like you.
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