Java vs. C++ Comparison: What Are the Differences in These Programming Languages?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Are you interested in becoming a developer? If you want to create computer software, produce apps, or develop the next popular video game, you will need to write code—but which one should you learn?

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There are a handful of different programming languages out there, so how do you know which one you should learn? From Python to Kotlin and Java to C++, every developer must decide which language to adopt. For many, the choice comes down to Java or C++.

This article takes a deeper look into these two languages to hopefully give you some guidance in making the choice that best fits your plans.

Which is easier to learn?

Most experts will tell you that Java is easier to learn. It’s a newer language than C++ and isn’t as complex in its principles or execution. However, there’s more to consider than a language’s learning curve. Selecting a programming language comes down to what you want to do with it. 

If you want to create mobile apps from your couch, then Java is your answer, but if designing software used inside military planes, C++ is a better choice. To make an informed decision, you need more information, which is why we’ll compare the two languages to help you decide which is best for you. 

What is Java?  

Java is the most common programming language used by developers. It’s a high-level, class-based, object-oriented language that takes a program from concept to completion. 

What are the uses for Java? 

Developers use different languages for different reasons. To pick between languages, you need to think about your goals. What do you want to create? What kind of job do you want? Your response will steer your decision. 

Developers often use Java to: 

  • Develop Android apps

  • Create enterprise software

  • Create scientific computing applications

  • Manage application servers

  • Design wearable tech

  • Launch Ecommerce portals

What are the advantages of Java?

There are some advantages to learning Java, which include: 

  • Small learning curve

While some coding languages are complex and challenging to learn, Java is not. Developers say the language is easy to pick up. Its syntax is straightforward, making it easy to understand, write, and maintain. 

  • WORA

With Java, developers can write once and run anywhere (WORA). In other words, Java can run on any machine regardless of its operating system. This independence is one of the big reasons developers use it. 

  • Object-oriented programming

Java is an object-oriented language (OOP), which organizes the software design around objects instead of functions or logic. Simply put, it makes it easier for developers to write the code and reuse pieces of it, which aids in efficiency and scalability. 

What are the disadvantages of Java?

There are downsides to this language too, which include: 

  • Speed

Java requires a lot of memory to function, making its computing speed fairly slow. Other languages, including C++, are faster. 

  • Mediocre GUI

When it comes to the graphical user interface (GUI), Java can be lacking. Plenty of frameworks can improve the GUI, like Swing and JavaFX, but none can create a complex user interface. 

  • No backup

Java utilizes storage and doesn’t provide any backups. It makes it difficult for a developer to revert to a previous version of a code. It’s a significant drawback for some developers who see the value of backups.

History Lesson: What is the history of Java?

Back in the 1990s, coding expert James Gosling set out to create a more straightforward programming language. Initially, he planned to improve the existing C++ language but decided to start from scratch. Originally named OAK, Gosling and his team changed the name to Java before releasing it to the public in 1995. 

Soon after its release, major web browsers started using it. From there, the language was adopted quickly and today even remains one of the most used programming languages.

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What is C++?

C++ is an object-oriented programming language that has evolved from a family of C programming languages. Some call C++ “C with Class” because it’s the first to introduce object-oriented programming, which uses classes as a core programming principle, something the older C programming languages lacked. 

What are the uses for C++?

Considering which programming language to learn can be a challenge, but if your ideal job focuses on any of these categories, C++ could be right for you: 

  • Creation of operating systems

  • Video game development

  • IoT devices

  • Databases

  • Web browsers

  • AR/VR applications

What are the advantages of C++?

The upsides of learning C++ include: 

  • High paying jobs

In general, developers are high-paying jobs. The average salary for a software developer, for example, is just south of $100,000, according to Glassdoor [1]. However, C++ developers are considered specialized, so salary tends to be a bit higher than Java developers. 

  • Library support

C++ has a Standard Template Library (STL) that can help developers write code quickly and efficiently. These templates can ease some of the burden during the creation process since programs aren’t created from scratch. 

  • Large community of support

Since this coding language has been around for decades, a full community of developers is available who can offer aspiring developers support. This support can offer solutions when developers hit a roadblock. 

What are the disadvantages of C++?

Like Java, there are challenges with C++ as well.

  • Lack of security

Experts say C++ isn’t as secure as other languages like Java. C++ has what experts refer to as “memory unsafety,” which refers to vulnerabilities in the memory codes. Many developers don’t consider security when they’re selecting a programming language, but it has become more prevalent in the wake of security breaches like HeartBleed, according to Fossbytes [2].

  • No garbage collector

A garbage collector finds and removes unnecessary data from a computer’s memory. It’s an automatic process that usually goes on in the background, except if you’re working with C++. This programming language forces developers to identify unneeded properties and remove them independently. 

  • Use of pointers

C++ and its related programs use pointers, which “point to” the variable whose address they store. If that sounds complicated, you’re right. Developers agree that pointers in the C++ language are difficult to comprehend and utilize throughout the code. 

History Lesson: What is the history of C++?

C++ dates back to the late 1970s. Ph.D. student Bjarne Stroustrup wrote his thesis on the need for a coding language that could be used for practical applications. As the name suggests, Stroustrup had experience with Simula 67 language, which is meant for simulations. Still, he knew there was a demand for a programming language that was faster and more functional.  Later, Stroustrup started combining pieces of Simula with C language to include object-oriented programming, which later became C++. 

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Additional specifics to consider when choosing between learning Java and C++

  • Programmers with C++ knowledge are more likely to work with a team of developers on large-scale projects.

  • C++ is used more in large-scale development, like for banks or governments, whereas Java creates more consumer products like apps, software, and video games.

  • Java is ideal for creating simple mobile applications, so if your ideal job is to become a freelance app creator, Java is where you should start. 

  • Big-name companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple use C++. If your dream job is to work for one of these tech giants, consider learning C++.

  • It’s common for programmers to learn more than one language.

  • Java’s syntax is borrowed from C++, so if you learn C++ first, it’s easy to pick up Java.

How to learn coding languages

There are many options to choose from when you’re ready to grow your skill set by learning a coding language. You might consider getting a four-year degree in an area like computer science or application development, or you can take online courses to start building your knowledge now. 

Read more: Bachelor’s Degree Guide: Resources for Your Undergraduate Education

Here are a couple of options that are available on Coursera to help get you started on your way.

Introduction to Java

This beginner’s course, Introduction to Java offered by Learn Quest, includes hands-on practice to give students knowledge of the Java language. After completing this course, you should be able to identify Java’s benefits, program in basic Java syntax using Java data types, and incorporate branches and loops.

Programming in C++: A Hands-on Introduction 

This beginner Specialization, Programming in C++: A Hands-on Introduction, is intended for aspiring developers with no existing coding knowledge. Throughout the four classes included in the course offered by Codio, you will be exposed to everything from fundamentals to object-oriented design. 

The language you choose will likely depend on the career you’d like to achieve. Fortunately, platforms like Coursera can help you start obtaining the skills you need quickly.

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Article Sources

1. Glassdoor. "Software Developer Salaries: How Much Does a Software Developer Make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/software-developer-salary-SRCH_KO0,18.htm." Accessed February 15, 2022.

2. Fossbytes. "The Huge Security Problem With C/C++ And Why You Shouldn’t Use It, https://fossbytes.com/security-problem-with-c-c-and-why-you-shouldnt-use-it/." Accessed February 15, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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