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10 Best IDEs for C or C++ Developers in 2021

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  • Difficulty Level : Basic
  • Last Updated : 18 Mar, 2021
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No one can deny that C and C++ have been the first programming language of a large number of developers across the world. Even in today’s time, these two languages are recommended the most to beginners who want to get started with programming. And this recommendation is somehow justifiable also as when you opt to learn to program with C/C++, it helps you to understand various underlying mechanisms and core programming concepts that subsequently make you a proficient programmer and also makes it easier for you to learn other high-level programming languages.  


Though we’ve discussed much the importance and demand for C/C++ language – in this article, we’ll take a detailed look at a key prerequisite required for doing programming in C or C++ language i.e., a C/C++ IDE (Integrated Development Environment). If we generally talk about the IDEs, they are usually created to make things easier for the developers and increase their productivity by providing several useful features like code editor, debugging support, compiler, auto code completion, and many others.  

A C/C++ IDE provides you with a comprehensive set of tools for software development with C or C++ language. There are numerous C and C++ IDEs available for experienced developers as well as for newbie programmers to do programming without any hassle, and you can opt for any one of them as per your requirements.  

Meanwhile, to lessen your work, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best IDEs for C or C++ Developers that you can consider in the year 2021. So, let’s get started:

1. Visual Studio

First and foremost, here comes an enriching Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that is developed by the tech giant, Microsoft. The Visual Studio by Microsoft leverages you with several remarkable features such as intelligent code completion, code refactoring, syntax highlighting, support for multiple languages, and many others. Apart from C/C++ and C#, Visual Studio provides support for various other languages as well like JavaScript, TypeScript, XML, etc. along with Python, Ruby, etc. via plugins. Meanwhile, Visual Studio comes up with its three editions – Community, Professional, and Enterprise; where the Community Edition is available free of cost and the rest two are paid ones. Hence, if you’re looking forward to a standard C/C++ IDE, you can surely give it a try to any of the editions of Visual Studio as per your requirements.  

  • Compatible with: Windows, macOS, and Linux
  • Code completion using IntelliSense  
  • Built-in Git Integration
  • Easy Azure Development
  • Integrated Debugger and VCS support

2. CLion  

CLion is another most-recommended cross-platform C/C++ Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for the programmers that supports macOS, Linux & Windows integrated with the CMake build system. It is developed by JetBrains and provides you with various prominent features such as a smart C/C++ code editor for better code assistance, safe refactoring & quick documentation, which allows you to test individual units of source code, effective code and project management, etc. In addition, along with C/C++, several other languages are also supported by CLion such as Kotlin, Python, Swift, etc. via plugins. Though before opting for CLion – you need to know that it is a paid IDE, and you’ll be required to purchase the respective subscription to get ahead with it. However, you can explore their Education and Open Source subscription plan to use CLion without any charges.

  • Integrated debugger
  • On-the-fly code analysis
  • Supports Embedded Development
  • Supports CVS (Concurrent Versions System) & TFS (Team Foundation Server)
  • Compatible with: Windows, macOS, and Linux

3. Eclipse

Eclipse is quite a renowned name in the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) world. However, it is mostly known for the remarkable support to JAVA – Eclipse has proven itself as a worthwhile IDE for C and C++ as well. It provides you with several useful features for C/C++ development such as auto-completion of code, code refactoring, visual debugging tools, remote system explorer, and many others. In addition, you can extend the functionalities of Eclipse IDE by integrating various external plugins as per your requirements. If you’re already having any Eclipse environment, you can opt to add a CDT (C/C++ Development Tool) in it, or in case of the absence of Eclipse environment, you can directly install Eclipse CDT via downloading the Eclipse CDT package. The IDE is especially recommended to beginner to intermediate level C/C++ programmers due to better GUI and easy-to-use functionalities.  

  • Open-source & Rich Community
  • Compatible with: Windows, macOS, and Linux
  • Easier Project Creation
  • Supports Static Code Analysis
  • Easy Debugging

4. Code::Blocks  

Going down with the list, here comes Code::Blocks – an open-source C/C++ IDE that is being developed in C++ using wxWidgets, a GUI toolkit. Code::Blocks provides you with all those prominent features required for C and C++ development such as syntax highlighting, tabbed interface, code completion, code coverage, easy navigation, debugging support, etc. In addition, it allows you to enlist full breakpoint conditions i.e., you can terminate the code execution if the condition is true. Also, you need to know that you can access the source code of the Code::Blocks IDE and can make the relevant changes as per your preferences for a C/C++ Integrated Development Environment. You can also opt to debug the source code or come up with any new feature for contributing back to the Code::Blocks community.  

  • Compatible with: Windows, macOS, and Linux
  • Supports multiple compilers – GCC, Clang, and Visual C++
  • Extensible via plugins
  • Full Breakpoints Support
  • Open-source & Rich Community

5. CodeLite  

CodeLite is another open-source C and C++ Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that is being preferred by many of the developers. It provides better support for compilers with built-in support for GCC, Clang, and Visual C++ and is compatible with other languages as well, along with C/C++, such as PHP, JavaScript (Node.js), etc. CodeLite leverages you with numerous enriching features such as code refactoring, project management, source browsing, syntax highlighting, unit testing, and many others. Furthermore, there are several additional features that also come up with CodeLite such as clickable errors, clang-based code completion for C++ projects, etc. CodeLite also has its Rapid Application Development tool that allows you to create wxWidgets-based applications. As you can use all these features of CodeLite without any cost – you can surely try to explore this enriching C/C++ IDE in the year 2021.

  • Compatible with: Windows, macOS, and Linux
  • Project Management
  • Interactive Debugger
  • Valgrind Support
  • Supports Static Code Analysis

6. NetBeans

NetBeans, developed by Apache Software Foundation – Oracle Corporation, is also one of the most widely used IDE by the C/C++ developers. This free and open-source Integrated Development Environment allows you to create C and C++ applications with dynamic and static libraries. NetBeans offers numerous enriching features for C/C++ development such as code refactoring, bracket matching, automatic indentation, unit testing, and many others. In addition, it offers great support for multiple compilers like Oracle Solaris Studio, GNU, CLang/LLVM, Cygwin, MinGW, etc. Other than that, features like easier file navigation, source inspection, packaging, etc. are also provided by NetBeans. Like Eclipse, NetBeans also comes up with better drag and drop functionalities and that’s the reason it is strongly recommended to the students or beginner-level C/C++ developers.

  • Free and Open Source
  • Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Linux, and Solaris
  • Qt Toolkit Support
  • Supports Remote Development
  • Efficient Project Management

7. Qt Creator

Now, let’s move to another worthwhile Integrated Development Environment for C and C++ developers – Qt Creator. This cross-platform IDE allows you to develop GUI-based applications for mobile, desktop, embedded platforms, etc. The Qt Creator comes up with numerous enriching features such as code completion, syntax highlighting, refactoring, built-in documentation, and many more. And its advanced code editor not only allows you to code in C++ but supports JavaScript, Python, and other languages as well. Other than that, it easily integrates with various popular version control systems such as Git, Subversion, Mercurial, etc. and you can deploy your applications across different platforms with Qt’s wide support for compilers and build systems. Though Qt Creator is not free, and you need to purchase the required plan, you can access their free trial version for one month.

  • Compatible with: Windows, macOS, and Linux
  • Static Code Analysis
  • Integrated UI Design
  • Project & Build Management
  • Visual Debugger

8. Dev C++

Dev C++ is one of the popular open-source IDEs for C and C++ development. This Integrated Development Environment is particularly designed for C/C++ programming and comes up with numerous prominent features such as code completion, profiling support, function listing, class browser, templates for creating your own project types, and many others. In addition, Dev C++ provides you with a customizable code editor and supports various GCC-based compilers such as Mingw, Cygwin, etc. Several other fascinating features provided by Dev C++ are – edit and compile resource files, find and replace facilities, tools manager, print support, Makefile generation, and others. Though one of the major cons of using Dev C++ is that it can only be used on Windows OS as it does not support other operating systems like macOS or Linux.

  • Open-source and lightweight IDE
  • Compatible with Windows Systems
  • Integrated Debugger
  • CVS support
  • Customizable Code Editor

9. Xcode

If you’re one of those C/C++ developers who use macOS then you can try to explore this enriching IDE, Xcode. Like Dev C++ for Windows, Xcode supports only macOS platforms with C++, Objective-C, Swift, and other programming languages. Some of the noticeable features provided by Xcode are – interactive UI, smart code completion, code folding, syntax highlighting, quick apps testing, multi-platform app templates, and many more. Also, it provides you with built-in support for source code management using the Git version control system. Other than that, its built-in Interface Builder allows you to design and test your UI efficiently without writing a single line of code and graphically connect your interface to the source within the Xcode editor. In simple words, if you use macOS for C/C++ programming or want to develop an app for Apple’s App Store then Xcode would be the right choice for you!

  • Compatible with macOS
  • Graphical Debugger
  • Static Code Analysis
  • Complete Documentation
  • Continuous Integration

10. KDevelop

Last but not least, here comes KDevelop. This cross-platform Integrated Development Environment is developed on modern open source technology and provides a seamless development environment to C/C++ programmers. Along with C/C++, the IDE provides support to various other languages as well such as PHP, Python, Ruby, etc. via plugins. KDevelop provides various remarkable features such as syntax highlighting, automatic indentation, automatic code completion, quick code navigation, complete documentation, etc. Moreover, it integrates with several popular version control systems such as Git, Subversion, CVS, Mercurial, etc. Some of the additional features of KDevelop are – rainbow highlighting that highlights every occurrence of the same variable with a particular color, powerful find and replace feature, shortcuts assigning to any action in the IDE, external script support, and much more.

  • Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Linux, etc.
  • Project Management
  • Unit Test Integration
  • Graphical Debugger Support
  • Built-in Doxygen Support

So, these are the most-recommended IDEs mentioned-above along with their respective features and advantages for C and C++ developers in the year 2021. However, before opting for any of the IDE – you first need to identify your requirements as it matters a lot! For instance, if you need a C++ IDE for macOS then you can prefer Xcode, or if you are a beginner-level programmer and want some better drag & drop functionalities you can go with either NetBeans or Eclipse, and so on.


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