C++: What Is It and What Can It Do?

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Keep reading if you’re trying to determine if C++ is the right programming language for you.

[Featured Image] Two programmers sit at a laptop to discuss the features of C++.

C++ is a popular programming language that is versatile enough to be used in various contexts and has several features that make detail-oriented projects possible. Data from Statista shows that it’s in the top 10 most-used programming languages worldwide, with 22.55 percent of developers using it [1]. It’s also among the top languages, generating interest among programmers and aspiring developers in India. 

If you’re new to C++, you may wonder why it is so popular. After reading this article, you will understand what C++ programming is, its benefits, how it differs from the C programming language, and its most popular features. 

What is C++?

When it was developed in 1979, C++ ushered in a new era for programming. This comprehensive language was first designed to extend the capacity of the original C programming language and make programming more straightforward and accessible to the average user. Over time, C++ has become a popular programming language due to its versatility and many other traits, which we will discuss below. 

Why should I use C++?

C++ has many benefits. Below are a few reasons to consider using it for your programming needs. 


Because it is faster than most other programming languages, C++ is often the first choice of many programmers. This speed makes it easy to use in almost any application. 


Whether you are utilising it for a simple or complex project, you can trust that the C++ programming language can handle it. Additionally, if you intend to update your project and increase its size, C++ can scale projects up or down. The combination of each of its features is what makes C++ a powerful and reliable programming language.  


C++ has various features that combine the most valuable tools from several other programming languages. Because of this, it can be used for numerous applications. 

Widely used

As mentioned, C++ is fast, reliable, and versatile, making it the most common programming language choice among programmers. Due to its many benefits, a large community has started to support using the C++ programming language, including how-to videos, tutorials, and forums to help others just starting with the language. 

This makes it highly accessible to new programmers, another reason for its popularity. However, one of the most significant reasons for C++'s popularity is that it is the base language for many other object-oriented programming languages.  

Features of C++

Because the C++ programming language was created as an extension of the C language, it includes all the features of the original C language and many additional features that make it a powerful and versatile tool for any programmer. 


The C++ programming language is an object-oriented programming language. This is one of the most significant differences between the C and C++ languages. Object-oriented programming languages are much simpler to develop and maintain, which is part of why they are so widely used.

Several concepts within object-oriented programming languages help make them such powerful tools, which we will explain below.   

Data abstraction

Data abstraction helps prevent the end user from becoming overwhelmed with unnecessary information by hiding anything irrelevant to their work. 

It works similarly to a search engine. You don't get links to every website created when you enter a word or phrase into the search engine. Instead, you get specific results related to your search, with all unimportant information removed. 

Data encapsulation

Data encapsulation is like a package of build-your-own furniture. All the pieces of data and associated methods are packaged together into one block, making data abstraction quicker and easier. 


Inheritance is when one class is allowed to inherit the features of another class. The purpose of this is to ensure the reliability of the code and reduce redundancy. 

Data hiding

Data hiding is a form of data security. It’s like a safe for data that is only accessible to the authorised. 


Polymorphism is part of what makes C++ such a flexible programming language. It allows data to be displayed in multiple forms, thus removing the need for code duplication.


Like the written word, case sensitivity affects the outcome depending on whether letters are uppercase or lowercase. This means that “shift” and “SHIFT” have two distinct meanings, producing two very different results within a code. When using a programming language that features case sensitivity, paying close attention to your code to ensure it delivers the desired results is important.


Compilation and execution go hand in hand with compiler-based programming languages. You can’t have one without the other. This is much faster than using Python or Java, which are interpreter-based.

Integration and extensibility

Integration and extensibility mean that the C++ operating language can be used and added to various applications. The extensive applications in which C++ has been used and the regular updates to the language prove this feature's value. 

Machine-independent but platform-dependent

Machine-independent, aka portable, means that a program written in C++ can be used on multiple machines. On the flip side, however, it is platform-dependent. This means that programs developed in C++ can only be executed within C++ and no other language. 

Memory management

C++ is unique because it uses dynamic memory allocation, which allows memory to be opened up or “freed” at any time, including during run time. Managing memory is valuable, especially when working on a large project because it allows for peak performance regardless of program size.  

Mid-level programming language

C++ is a mid-level programming language, but its versatility is just one of its many features. Mid-level languages include features from low-level and high-level languages and can be used in simple and complex applications. 


Pointers make accessing information quicker because they essentially bookmark a variable's address. This supports the speed of C++ and the simplicity of use as it also reduces redundant coding. 

Powerful and fast

Several features of the C++ programming language make it a powerful and fast option, including pointers, compiler-based, rich library, and mid-level programming language. 

As we’ve discussed, the C++ programming language has features from several other languages, which gives it an edge. C++ takes the most valuable features from different languages and compiles them into one, which makes it a fast, powerful, and popular option. 


Recursion can be a complicated concept to understand. Simply put, recursion allows a function to call itself rather than needing multiple functions to exist. The most significant benefit of recursion is that it reduces code redundancy. The same line of code can call a function for various purposes instead of needing multiple lines of similar code. Because of this, recursion saves time, conserves memory, and maintains code cleanliness.

Rich library

A rich library of in-built functions makes programming in C++ quick and straightforward. Anyone can easily access these libraries by using headers. This simplifies the coding process because many commonly used codes can be copied from the library and pasted where you need to use them. 


Many features of the C++ programming language make it so simple, many of which we have already mentioned. The rich libraries we just covered are a prime example. Being an object-oriented language also aids in its ease of use. C++ is also a structured programming language, which we will expand on in a minute, making it much more user-friendly. 

Structured programming language

Structured programming languages allow code to be broken down into smaller, more straightforward sections, which can then be used to connect other pieces of code neatly and orderly.

C vs. C++ 

The two are similar because C++ originated from the original C programming language. However, they also have many differences, making the purpose for using each highly unique. Look at the chart below to compare the similarities and differences between the two languages. 

Both C and C++CC++
Compiler-based languagesProcedural languageObject-oriented language
Rich librariesTop-down approach to programmingBottom-to-top approach to programming
Dynamic memory allocationFile extension: .cFile extension: .cpp
Case sensitiveVariables need to be defined at the beginningVariables can be defined at anytime
SpeedHeader file: <studio.h>Header file: <iostream.h>
PortableNo access modifiers usedAccess modifiers are used
SimpleDoes not support inheritanceSupports inheritance
Focuses on methods and processesFocuses on data
Easy to be manipulated by outside codeProtects code using encapsulation
Support built-in data typesSupports user-defined data types
Supports exception handling
Suitable for low-level applicationsSuitable for high-level applications
Supports inline functions

What's next?

While C and C++ have many similarities, C++ was created to build and improve the C language. Which programming language you choose will be based on what you need. That being said, if you’ve already worked in the C language, learning C++ would be simple. Additionally, the power and versatility of C++ would open you up to endless possibilities. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the C++ programming language, a great place to start is with 

Coding for Everyone: C and C++ Specialisation, which looks at C and C++. To further your knowledge of C++, you may like to check out C++ Programming for Unreal Game Development Specialisation or Object-Oriented Data Structures in C++, delivered by the University of Illinois. 

Looking to learn about a different programming language? You can search through our extensive database of Courses to find the right one for you. 

Article sources

  1. Statista. “Most used languages among software developers globally 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/793628/worldwide-developer-survey-most-used-languages/.” Accessed May 6, 2024.

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