Both C and C++ are general-purpose programming languages. In fact, C++ is a descendant of C, which means they share some features. However, over the last few years, C vs. C++ has become a hot topic because these programming languages started to differentiate more and more.
What is the difference between C and C++? Well, C++ is for handling complex tasks that C was not able to perform. For instance, C++ offers a stronger type checking and allows more programming styles than C.
Additionally, detecting bugs and other issues in the C++ code is easier than in C since C does not offer exceptions. The term exception refers to problems that appear while the program runs. In C++, the exception handling is a way to separate a portion of code and review it.
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This programming language is called C because it was based on a little-known language called B and the name C was an alphabetical joke. However, this improvement of B led to the creation of an entirely new programming language.
One difference between C and C++ is that C is a procedural language since it follows a step-by-step procedure consisting of functions. Additionally, C is a low-level language that is more complicated for beginners to learn than high-level languages like Python or C#.
In other words, C provides instructions for the computer in the top-down approach. In contrast, C++ is object-oriented instead of procedure-oriented. It means that C++ focuses on inheritance (when a class gets properties and characteristics from another class), code reusability, encapsulation (hiding information about objects), and creating objects.
C programs are usually high-speed. Why? Well, programming languages like Python offer additional procedures that make their programs slower. However, C is a language that lets developers handle computer hardware manually. While this is an advantage in terms of performance, it means that C developers have to prevent memory leaks and allocate memory themselves.
What is C used for? C is mostly involved in the creation of operating systems, language compilers or interpreters, embedded systems, microcontrollers, etc. For instance, C is very useful for machine learning as well. However, the leading language for ML is Python due to its simplicity and user-friendliness. Game development is also a rich area for C developers.
In terms of C vs. C++, the latter can do everything that C can. Both of them are general-purpose, low-level programming languages, and they have multiple similarities:
- They require the compilation in every operating system to work.
- Both support manual memory management. They do not offer garbage collectors that would free memory from unused objects.
- Due to the lack of additional processing (such as automatic garbage collection), C and C++ are more lightweight and offer high-performance.
- Since they both are general-purpose programming languages, their use cases are very broad (starting from the creation of operating systems and leading to machine learning).
- Both are low-level languages, meaning that they are closer to the hardware and provide more control over projects.
Main differences between C and C++
Comparing C++ vs. C reveals a few differences between these two programming languages:
- C is a procedural language, while C++ is object-oriented. This feature refers to the programming style that developers follow. For instance, procedural programming follows step-by-step guidelines of functions, while object-oriented programming focuses on objects, inheritance, etc.
- C++ has a well-designed exception handling (Try and Catch blocks), which makes the debugging process easier than in C. This feature is especially useful for finding difficult errors. In C, error handling occurs through functions.
- C++ also supports information hiding (closely related to encapsulation).
- Data is more secure in C++ than in C because C++ offers modifiers to limit user access.
- C++ supports function overloading, which means that a function with the same name can be declared for different purposes.
- C++ also uses namespaces, which let you organize code according to the desired scope. For instance, grouped entities can be put into a narrower scope referred to as namespace scope. C does not support this feature.
- Specialists relate C++ to the concept of multi-paradigm. Even though we classified C++ as an object-oriented language, it has features of procedural one as well. Therefore, C++ is more flexible than C since C only follows the procedural logic.
Therefore, the comparison of C vs. C++ syntax rules leads to a few important conclusions:
- The use of C and C++ differs in a way that you will follow different programming approaches.
- With C++, developers can follow both procedural and object-oriented programming.
- C allows only procedural programming.
- C++ offers more features such as error handling, data security, scope management, information hiding, etc.
- However, for beginners, C language might be more straightforward and helpful in terms of understanding the main concepts of low-level programming.
Comparing Objective-C to C++
Objective-C is a general-purpose programming language that enhances C with the Smalltalk-style messaging. It is mainly for creating applications for iOS and OS X operating systems. It is another variation of the C programming language.
The question of Objective-C vs. C++ emerges due to the fact they are both object-oriented languages that derived from C. Here is a comparison of these languages:
- Objective-C does not offer multiple inheritance while C++ does.
- There are differences in the way C++ and Objective-C code looks. For instance, C++ uses true and false for bool, while Objective-C works with YES and NO for BOOL.
- Objective-C has a Smalltalk feature, which is a messaging paradigm in which you transfer so-called messages to objects through functions or selectors.
- While C++ manages structs and classes the same, Objective-C treats them completely different.
- Objective-C is more dynamic than the static C++ programming language.
- In theory, Objective-C is slower than C++ because of the dynamic method dispatch.
- Objective-C is mostly for creating applications for Apple products, while C++ is a more diverse language applied in numerous development fields.
Which should you learn?
You might now ask: should I learn C or C++? Learning C++ first might seem like the best option because it has more to offer than C. However, C helps you understand how hardware, especially CPU, works due to the straightforwardness of this language.
You will get familiar with the low-level programming concept, learn about pointers, and proper memory allocation. Furthermore, C has fewer features that beginners will need to analyze.
However, the decision to learn C or C++ first depends on the way you want to work. There is no actual need to learn C before C++. Even if you start by learning C++, you will probably encounter some of the similar elements in syntax and semantics.
Developers that start with C often complain that they need to get rid of the habits they learned in C to use C++ correctly. Learning C first might make developers stick to procedural programming without exploring the object-oriented side. For instance, if your life-long dream is video game development, you are better off starting to learn C++ immediately.
Comparing C vs. C++ in terms of performance usually leads to the fact that C is faster than C++. However, in certain situations, C++ can win this race as well. Indeed, interpreted languages will never be faster than compiled ones. However, determining the speed difference of the two compiled languages is tricky.
C vs. C++ speed highly depends on the produced code overall. A well-written C++ code can perform better or the same as a well-written C code.
For instance, more robust programming will probably be quicker in C++ than in C. Therefore, specialists do not state that one language is faster than the other one. In the case of C vs. C++ performance, it is often stated that C++ is a match for C.
C++ indeed offers many features that might lead to poorer performance, but it is not necessary to use them. Even if you do, the speed difference thanks to modern compilers probably won’t be significant enough to favor one programming language.
Overall, the C vs. C++ battle does not have a clear winner as both languages have their pros and cons. However, you should remember that C is a procedural language that follows a step-by-step programming style.
On the other end, we have the object-oriented C++, which focuses on objects and such features as inheritance or information hiding. Additionally, C++ lets developers follow some principles of procedural programming as well.
In terms of the learning plan, it might be better to learn C first since that will help beginners to understand machine code, memory allocation, pointers, etc. Mastering these concepts with C is more beginner-friendly since C is a straightforward language. However, you can skip the part of learning C and start with C++ right away. This decision might help you in the future since programming habits in C highly differ from the ones in C++.
C++ vs. C in terms of speed should not be too much of a priority when deciding which language to learn. Both languages offer high-performance, and their differences are usually minimal. For instance, a well-written C++ code can even be faster than C in some cases.