C++ Programming: Where to get a compiler

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Where to get a compiler[edit | edit source]

When you select your compiler you must take in consideration your system OS, your personal preferences and the documentation that you can get on using it.

In case you do not have, want or need a compiler installed on you machine, you can use a WEB free compiler available at http://ideone.com (or http://codepad.org but you will have to change the code not to require interactive input). You can always get one locally if you need it.

There are many compilers and even more IDEs available, some are free and open source. IDEs will often include in the installation the required compiler (being GCC the most common).

GCC[edit | edit source]

One of most mature and compatible C++ compiler is on GCC, also known as the GNU Compiler Collection. It is a free set of compilers developed by the Free Software Foundation, with Richard Stallman as one of the main architects.

There are many different pre-compiled GCC binaries on the Internet; some popular choices are listed below (with detailed steps for installation). You can easily find information on the GCC website on how to do it under another OS.

It is often common that the implementation language of a compiler to be C (since it is normally first the system language above assembly that new systems implement). GCC did in the end of May 2005, get the green light to start moving the core code-base to C++. Considering that this is the most commonly used compiler and an open source implementation, it was an extremely positive step for the compiler and the language in general.

IDE (Integrated development environment)[edit | edit source]

Graphical Vim under GTK2

Integrated development environment is a software development system, that often includes an editor, compiler and debugger in an integrated package that is distributed together. Some IDEs will require the user to make the integration of the components themselves, and others will refer as the IDE to the set of separated tools they use for programming.

A good IDE is one that permits the programmer to use it to abstract and accelerate some of the more common tasks and at the same time provide some help in reading and managing the code. Except for the compiler the C++ Standard has no control over the different implementations. Most IDEs are visually oriented, especially the new ones, they will offer graphical debuggers and other visual aids, but some people will still prefer the visual simplicity offered by potent text editors like Vim or Emacs.

When selecting an IDE, remember that you are also investing time to become proficient in its use. Completeness, stability and portability across OSs will be important.

For Microsoft Windows, you have also the Microsoft Visual Studio Community (latest version 2019), currently freely available and includes most features. It includes a C++ compiler that can be used from the command line or the supplied IDE.

In the book Appendix B:External References you will find references to other freely available compilers and IDEs you can use.

On Windows[edit | edit source]


  1. Go to http://www.cygwin.com and click on the "Install Cygwin Now" button in the upper right corner of the page.
  2. Click "run" in the window that pops up, and click "next" several times, accepting all the default settings.
  3. Choose any of the Download sites ("ftp.easynet.be", etc.) when that window comes up; press "next" and the Cygwin installer should start downloading.
  4. When the "Select Packages" window appears, scroll down to the heading "Devel" and click on the "+" by it. In the list of packages that now displays, scroll down and find the "gcc-c++" package; this is the compiler. Click once on the word "Skip", and it should change to some number like "3.4" etc. (the version number), and an "X" will appear next to "gcc-core" and several other required packages that will now be downloaded.
  5. Click "next" and the compiler as well as the Cygwin tools should start downloading; this could take a while. While you are waiting, go to http://www.crimsoneditor.com and download that free programmer's editor; it is powerful yet easy to use for beginners.
  6. Once the Cygwin downloads are finished and you have clicked "next", etc. to finish the installation, double-click the Cygwin icon on your desktop to begin the Cygwin "command prompt". Your home directory will automatically be set up in the Cygwin folder, which now should be at "C:\cygwin" (the Cygwin folder is in some ways like a small Unix/Linux computer on your Windows machine -- not technically of course, but it may be helpful to think of it that way).
  7. Type "g++" at the Cygwin prompt and press "enter"; if "g++: no input files" or something like it appears you have succeeded and now have the gcc C++ compiler on your computer (and congratulations -- you have also just received your first error message!).

MinGW + DevCpp-IDE

  1. Go to http://www.bloodshed.net/devcpp.html ,(Severly outdated last update 2005)(http://orwelldevcpp.blogspot.com/) (Updated Branch project) choose the version you want (eventually scrolling down), and click on the appropriate download link! For the most current version, you will be redirected to http://www.bloodshed.net/dev/devcpp.html
  2. Scroll down to read the license and then to the download links. Download a version with Mingw/GCC. It is much easier than to do this assembling yourself. With a very short delay (only some days) you will always get the most current version of MinGW packaged with the devcpp IDE. It is absolutely the same as with manual download of the required modules.
  3. You get an executable that can be executed at user level under any WinNT version. If you want it to be setup for all users, however, you need admin rights. It will install devcpp and mingw in folders of your wish.
  4. Start the IDE and experience your first project!
    You will find something mostly similar to MSVC, including menu and button placement. Of course, many things are somewhat different if you were familiar with the former, but it is as simple as a handful of clicks to let your first program run.
For DOS[edit | edit source]


  • Go to Delorie Software and download the GNU C++ compiler and other necessary tools. The site provides a Zip Picker in order to help identify which files you need, which is available from the main page.
  • Use unzip32 or other extraction utility to place files into the directory of your choice (i.e. C:\DJGPP).
  • Set the environment variables to configure DJGPP for compilation, by either adding lines to autoexec.bat or a custom batch file:
  • If you are running MS-DOS or Windows 3.1, you need to add a few lines to config.sys if they are not already present:
    shell=c:\dos\command.com c:\dos /e:2048 /p

Note: The GNU C++ compiler under DJGPP is named gpp.

For Linux[edit | edit source]
  • For Gentoo, GCC C++ is part of the system core (since everything in Gentoo is compiled)
  • For Redhat, get a gcc-c++ RPM, e.g. using Rpmfind and then install (as root) using rpm -ivh gcc-c++-version-release.arch.rpm
  • For Fedora, install the GCC C++ compiler (as root) by using dnf install gcc-c++
  • For Mandrake, install the GCC C++ compiler (as root) by using urpmi gcc-c++
  • For Debian, install the GCC C++ compiler (as root) by using apt-get install g++
  • For Ubuntu, install the GCC C++ compiler by using sudo apt-get install g++
  • For openSUSE, install the GCC C++ compiler (as root) by using zypper in gcc-c++
  • If you cannot become root, get the tarball from [1] and follow the instructions in it to compile and install in your home directory.
For Mac OS X[edit | edit source]

Xcode (IDE for Apple's OSX and iOS) above v4.1 uses Clang [2], a free and open source alternative to the GCC compiler and largely compatible with it (taking even the same command line arguments). The IDE also has an older version of the GCC C++ compiler bundled. It can be invoked from the Terminal in the same way as Linux, but can also be compiled in one of XCode's projects.

Clang is not the only alternative or even the only free alternative to GCC. Some other possibilities are included in the External References section of the book. Clang has gained increased adoption as it permits better code optimization and internal indexing that enables support to more complex features in IDEs, like code completion, highlights and other modern commodities that programmers now increasingly rely on. Those are also possible on GCC but require building and extra tools making them slower. While GCC is the still the default standard as the free, open source C++ compiler, Clang seems to be gaining momentum. Binaries are available for Linux (Ubuntu), FreeBSD, OSX and Windows (mingw) and can be downloaded from http://llvm.org/releases/download.html.