When you are writing a program in a language like C++, you mostly write it as text. Although most computers and other devices can easily read text files, when it comes to executing instructions in a text file, every computer falls short of expectations.
These text files that contain your programming code first need to be converted into a set of machine language instructions before they can be understood by a computer or any other machine that behaves like a computer (for example your mobile phone).
Sometimes a compiler is inbuilt into the software that you’re using to write your program. Sometimes they need to be run separately as standalone tools. Whether a compiler is inbuilt or you need to use it as a separate, stand-alone tool, whenever you want to run your program on a computer or a mobile phone, it needs to be first compiled and changed into some sort of machine code.
It needs to be compiled. What you write is the source code. What the compiler generates is the machine code. The compiler can also check your code for errors. There are some compilers that can generate machine language directly and there are some compilers that first translate the high-level language you have written your program in, into an intermediate “assembly language” that is later translated into machine code by an assembly program or an assembler.
In plain language, the compiler converts a program written in a human-understandable-readable format into a machine-readable format. There may be separate compilers for different operating systems like Windows or Mac OS.
Since these machines have different architectures, you may need to write different versions of your program before they can be compiled for the individual machine architecture. For example, the compiler that compiles for Mac OS won’t be able to generate program files for the Windows operating system.
Similarly, the compiler that compiles for the Windows operating system won’t be able to create programs for Mac OS.
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Table of Contents
Difference between a compiler and an interpreter
The programs that you write can be run in 2 ways: through a compiler and an interpreter. What’s the difference? Suppose you want to interact with someone who knows Japanese but you speak English.
You don’t know Japanese and the person who knows Japanese doesn’t know English. If you first learn Japanese and then talk to that person, you have compiled the way you speak in another language.
If the other person learns English and then talks to you, she has compiled a way she speaks in another language. What if the other person doesn’t want to learn English and you don’t want to learn Japanese but still both of you want to interact?
You use an interpreter. The same happens with the programs that you write. There are some interpreter-based languages and there are some compiler-based languages. The languages that are compiler-based cannot be run through interpreters.
One of the biggest differences between the compiler and an interpreter is that when you run a program through a compiler, it creates a standalone program. As long as the executable file can run on the designated operating system, it doesn’t need anything else (unless it is using some third-party apps or extra tools).
It is an interpreter-based language. An interpreter translates your entire program, one line at a time. The compiler on the other hand scans your entire program and then converts it into the machine code in lump-sum.
Without going into the pros and cons of using an interpreter or a compiler, the basic difference is that an interpreter translates your program one line at a time and then executes it whereas a compiler first translates the complete program into the machine language, and only then you can run the program.
Why does the C++ programming language need a compiler?
C++ is a low-level language. In the beginning, it was used to write embedded programs for intelligent systems and later on, programmers started using it to develop mainstream applications.
A big reason why the C++ programming language needs a compiler is that it is a structured programming language. It may take several calls to different macros, functions, and references and they need to be decoded before the program can be executed and hence, they need to be taken care of in advance otherwise your program can crash or may not even compile.
This way, an error can be detected by a compiler even when those particular lines of code haven’t yet been executed. In the case of an interpreter, since every line is executed one line at a time, if there is an error, it manifests only when that particular erroneous line is executed.
Every C++ source file that you write first needs to be compiled into an object file. This object file may link to multiple source files and headers. They are all included when an executable is generated.
Many people believe that C++ is a high-level language which might be correct, but it is also a low-level language or at least, a mid-level language. Unlike assembly language, it cannot be directly written to be executed but it isn’t even as simple as to be interpreted.
To execute the code, you have to go deep and only compilation can help you in this regard.
The history of C++
The C++ programming language is known to have been developed by Bjarne Stroustrup and the concept came to him when he was working on his Ph.D. thesis. Those days extensive work was being done in a language called Simula.
This language was primarily used for designing simulations. One of its variants, Simula 67, is known to be one of the first object-oriented programming languages or at least, used the object-oriented programming paradigm.
Stroustrup wanted to add object-oriented programming into the C programming language. Initially, he called it “C with Classes”. Since C was one of the most efficient languages for its low-level functionality, he didn’t want to move to another language and whatever features he needed, he wanted to incorporate into C itself.
This new version of C with Classes came to be known as Cfront. Perhaps, the compiler that was written for this new version of C was one of the first examples of recursion. The compiler for Cfront was Cpre that had a very unique capability of compiling itself.
Although the idea of Cfront was abandoned in 1993 due to various shortcomings, it contributed hugely to the development of many new compilers and the UNIX operating system.
“C with Classes” became C++ in 1983. The plus attribute of the name comes from one of the operators in the C++ language that can increment a variable without the standard mathematical operator.
In 1985 C++ was implemented as a commercial product. The 1989 version of the language included protected and static members. It also supported inheritance from various classes. Many programmers would remember working in the Turbo C++ compiler that was introduced in 1990.
The original language has gone through many evolutions. Microsoft has its own version of Visual C++.
Why is C++ so popular?
You can call C++ one of the original languages. Most of the geeky programmers know how to code in C/C++. Most of the operating systems have been written in C or C++. Many seasoned programmers think that the commercial use of the C++ programming language may have begun to wane especially when there are so many other, much more friendly languages available, for example, Rust, among students of computer science, C++ still remains one of the most popular and one of the most necessary-to-learn languages.
In fact, many believe that it is the hardest language for students to master (and one of the main reasons why many students get their C++ programming homework get done online). Many legacy software applications and operating systems have been coded in C++.
They cannot be simply overhauled for new languages and when new features are to be added or existing features need to be modified, it is the programmers proficient in the C++ programming language who come in handy, and therefore, highly sought after.
The C++ programming language is used by approximately 4.4 million developers worldwide. The average salary of a C++ programmer is around $103,000 per year. The language has a vast library since it has been around since the early seventies.
Whatever you want to do on computers, you can do it in C++. There is also a large community of developers that you can find online. Millions of lines of code have been shared by developers as open-source libraries.
Do you know that most of the database servers and setups have been written in C++, including MySQL, MongoDB, and MemSQL? C++ can easily handle modern features such as exceptions and Lambda expressions and this is why it is perfect for writing modern-day databases.
Since these databases are actively used by mainstream services such as Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, and YouTube, these services invariably depend a lot on C++. Although a lot of credit behind Android goes to Java, a big portion of the mobile operating system is written in C++.
Not just Android, other operating systems like Windows, Linux, iOS, and Ubuntu owe a lot to C++. Most of the mainstream Windows applications are written in C++. Browsers like Chrome, Safari, and Firefox have been written in C++.
C++ and its predecessor, C, have been extensively used for programming embedded systems. Hence, they are extensively used in smartwatches, MP3 players, and GPS systems.
What are the main features of the C++ programming language?
To see how compilers conceive the C++ programming language, it is important that you know its main features. What makes C++ so special? Let’s quickly go through some main features of the C++ programming language.
Of course, it is one of the first languages that supported object-oriented programming and in fact, it was one of the pioneering languages in this realm. Programming languages or procedural and object-oriented. In object-oriented programming, you build programs using classes and objects.
In procedural programming, you build your programs using functions and procedures. Since object-oriented programming is a subject in itself, we are not going to go very deep into the topic, but object-oriented programming has the following attributes:
Through various libraries, you can extend the capabilities of C++. There are many inbuilt functions that you can use in C++ but for many other functions, you can use libraries. One of the biggest benefits of using libraries is that if you think that you don’t require certain features, there is no need to include those libraries, and hence, this way, you can reduce the size of the program.
For example, if you want to use the standard C++ input-output functions, at the beginning of the program you can use the iostream library. If you’re going to perform many mathematical functions, you can use the cmath library.
If you plan to manipulate time and date, you can include the ctime library. This way, if there are some certain features that you don’t need, you can avoid their libraries. This brings at your disposal massive capabilities without bloating your program with needless code that you’re never going to use.
Powerful and fast
C++ gives you lots of control over how to use computer resources, and this helps you, provided you know how to leverage its capabilities. By judicially using different computer resources, you can speed up and optimize your programs.
Another reason, and sometimes this reason annoys many programmers, is that the C++ programming language is very particular about the variables that you define in your programs.
The data type policies in C++ are very strict. This saves the program from making its own decisions and when the program is being run or being compiled, it knows exactly what you’re trying to achieve.
Since C++ extensively uses the native capabilities of the machines it is being run on, it is a platform-dependent programming language. What does this mean? If you are writing a program for the Windows operating system, you won’t be able to run it on a Linux system or a Mac OS system.
Similarly, if you have written a program for one of the Apple computers, you won’t be able to run it on a Windows computer.
You cannot run a C++ program simply by using the source code file. With interpreter-based languages, you can do that, but not with C++. You need to compile a C++ program and change it into machine code before you can use it.
This is the job of the compiler and that’s why, to really use a C++ program, you need to run it through a compiler.
The relationship between a compiler and a machine architecture
In the beginning days of the computers, the languages were quite a low level. It means programmers wrote in a language that was understandable to the machines but not to humans.
These were very cryptic languages. Although high-level languages made it easier to program, it became difficult for computers to understand them, and hence, interpreters and compilers were needed that would bridge the gap.
A compiler is software that turns the source code of your file into a machine-readable file based on the underlying hardware computer architecture. While most of the compiler is language-specific, it is hardware that plays a significant role in the design of the compiler.
Taking into consideration the capabilities of the computer architecture help the developers make effective compilers. This is one of the biggest reasons why compilers are so architecture-centered.
The basic structure of the compiler consists of the front-end compiler and the back-end compiler. It is the back-end compiler that heavily depends on the architectural framework of the machine or the system the program is designated to run on.
The processor speed, the number of CPU registers, the number of complex instructions that a computer can process, the number of arithmetic and logical units as well as floating-point units a certain microprocessor can handle and the fundamental cash and memory transfer rates, have a strong bearing on how a compiler performs.
Precisely this is the reason program that is run through compilers are more efficient compared to those run through interpreters. The compiler adopts the source code exactly the way the host computer would prefer it.
A source code that has been compiled according to a specific architecture is more capable of using the resources of the computer optimally.
The list of mainstream C++ compilers
By now you already have an idea of why you need a compiler to run C++ programs. What are the best C++ compilers available that you can use to generate optimized machine language code?
Listed below are some mainstream C++ compilers. Some are free sources; some are commercial and you can choose them according to your requirement.
This is one of the oldest and as of now, one of the cheapest compilers. It was a hit during the MS-DOS days but right now, more evolved compilers are available. It comes with its own IDE. This means you can write C++ code using one of its editors and then compile your code in real-time.
It also allows you to run your code within the IDE window without compiling it.
The IBM C++ compiler
IBM has multiple compilers and for the C++ programming language, it has its own dedicated compiler. They mostly cater to open-source infrastructure. The IBM compiler is available for Linux as well as Windows environments.
Visual C++ compiler
This is a completely visual software development environment that gives you drag-and-drop features for making advanced applications. It normally comes under Visual Studio. It gives you many components for building advanced desktop applications, mobile applications, web-based applications, Linux software, and even video games.
It gives you options for adding more components as your requirement expands. The compiler is inbuilt within the Visual Studio environment. Its code editor, called Visual Studio Code is available as a separate source code editing application.
Oracle C++ compiler
This compiler is shipped with the overall Oracle Developer Studio and it allows you to compile software using C, C++, Fortran as well as Java. It gives you a NetBeans-based IDE that majorly caters to developing cloud-based applications.
It is also available for Oracle Solaris and Linux. Oracle Solaris is Oracle’s own operating system facilitating SQL and Java applications.
Xcode C++ compiler for iOS and Mac OS
If you want to develop software applications and mobile apps for the Apple ecosystem, you will be working in mostly Objective C++ and Swift. For C++, you use the Xcode C++ compiler. As is the case with all the major mainstream C++ compilers, Xcode C++ comes with its own dedicated IDE but even the programmers who use it regularly advise that you should use an IDE of your preference rather than using the inbuilt Xcode C++ IDE.
Dev C++ compiler
This is a free, full-featured integrated development environment available under the General Public License. You can use it to write programs in C and C++. This too is one of the original C and C++ programming environments.
It comes with its own, as mentioned above, integrated programming environment along with the compiler.
Intel C++ compiler
It incorporates all the new Intel architecture features and is best suited for building applications that will run on Intel machines. It is available under a commercial license. It runs along with Intel Parallel Studio XE Composer Edition.
It can also be integrated with Visual Studio. You can use it to compile software applications for Linux and Windows. Initially, it was also available for Mac OS but in recent releases, this feature has been abandoned.
Famous applications built with C++ programming
Some of the software tools and applications that have been coded using C++ have already been mentioned above, for example, multiple operating systems like Windows and Mac OS, as well as Android, Linux, UNIX, and Ubuntu.
Microsoft Office has been almost entirely written in C++. In fact, other office suites including Apache OpenOffice and Corel Office, have also been written in C++. Major components of YouTube, Amazon, Netflix, Salesforce, and Spotify have been written in C++.
You will be surprised to know that Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator have been completely written in C++. Google search was initially written in Java and Python but now big portions of it have been revamped using C and C++.
Google Earth has been completely developed using C++. Most of the compilers themselves have been written in C++. Embedded systems for the Internet of Things devices are extensively being written using C++.
Many enterprise solutions in healthcare, large-scale production, shipping corporations, banking institutions, colleges and universities, research centers, and space development programs have been written in C++.
The VLC media player, Microsoft Windows Media Player, and the Apple iPod software have all been written in C++. Major RDBMS including Oracle database, IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, IBM Informix, SAP DB/MaxDB, and MySQL, have been written in C++.
What about video games? Major video games used in PlayStation and Windows Xbox have been written in C++.
The benefits of getting C++ programming homework help online
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Learning to program, especially in a language as advanced as C++, takes lots of time. Sure, working on your homework assignment on your own gives your ample practice, but if learning computers isn’t your full-time job, and you need to submit your assignments to improve your class grades, then the best option for you is to get your homework done from an online service like DoMyProgrammingHomework.io.
Once your homework is delivered, you can go through it and clarify many of your concepts that will otherwise be difficult to grasp if you work on those programs independently. It enhances your learning; it saves your time and improves your class grades. What else do you need?