3. Integrated Development Environment

On the basic level of functioning, the computer can execute only programs written in a primitive language called a machine language. This language is designed to make computers easier to build. Consequently, machine language is mostly maladjusted to programmers' needs. To get around this, a tool is required for translating programs from our programming language of choice to the machine language. This tool is called a compiler, being a program itself.

In fact, it would be best to use several tools to help us write programs. To make using all those tools easier, they come bundled together in a package called an integrated development environment, or IDE, for the language of our choice (in our case the C++ language). An IDE is a set of programs commonly containing at least:

  • a compiler – a central tool used to translate a program written in one language into a program in another language. In our case, it translates from the C++ language into a machine language of the central processing unit of your computer. That machine language is likely to be one of the variants of the x86 instruction set.
  • a text editor – used for writing the text of a program, more commonly called the source code. We would, of course, like the editor to help us format the source code; to color various elements of the code to make them easier to distinguish; and to automatically suggest and complete the words, relieving us of the need to remember them all. There is a lot of functionality for an editor to cover, so we would like to use a good one.
  • a debugger – used for pausing the program during program's execution so the errors can be found by inspecting the state of the program. It would be excellent to have a good debugger.
  • other common tools include a revision control system, profiler, source code browser, visual development tools, and many others.

The choice of an IDE largely depends on the choice of operating system and programming language. In our case the language obviously has to be be C++.

For Microsoft Windows operating systems we recommend an IDE called Visual Studio Community 2017. This IDE is available for free on the condition that you register it. The next section provides a download link.

If you prefer the GNU/Linux operating systems or OS X we would recommend the Code::Blocks IDE.

Installation instructions are provided on the next page.

Visual Studio 2015 in a darker theme

Visual C++ 2015 screenshot

Code::Blocks 13.12 default installation running on Linux Mint Xfce

Code::Blocks 13.12 screenshot