Using an IDE: Getting back to code faster

by May 23, 2018

A C++ IDE or an Integrated Development Environment is application development software written to give you a way to create or write C++ applications and programs. There is usually a single interface that incorporates all the tools you need to develop applications including:

  • Compiler
  • Debugger
  • Code Editor
  • UI Designer
  • Documentation

While some developers believe that you don’t necessarily need an IDE to write your applications they do have some exceptional common features that can prove beneficial. With an IDE, you have the added benefits of useful tools like syntax highlighting, linking, code insight, class browsers, intelligent code completion, documentation and so much more.

IDEs allow for a more comprehensive or integrated systems methodology that expands your application model. When you change a method and a series of red lines appear in your code, then you know that somewhere, something broke and you can easily navigate to find it. Using an IDE can provide you with control over each element in your application, as you are able to design your front-end to function with your backend and still have users not hate the experience.

Why C++ Devs should use IDEs

The number of C++ IDEs available now from Freeware to Proprietary is only second to the Python IDEs out there. When we write our applications in C++, we aren’t just writing and testing code for some application. We choose C++ for a reason. We want the portability. We want performance and speed. We want the power and control that comes with this language and it’s libraries as well as the ability to sufficiently debug our code. All properties or features that are incorporated into an IDE. Some other reasons C++ developers use IDEs include :

UI Design

With the rise in significance on UI design and user experience, we know that to develop great applications we can’t just look at the speed and performance, we have to have some way to generate (aesthetically pleasing) UIs. IDEs typically have great support for visual libraries that allow for you to couple your code to a front end user interface seamlessly for multiple targets. What’s more, you don’t have to start or compile your application just to see what it’s going to look like, so you can spend more time working on the backend and still have a good looking UI and if you happen to like UI, then by all means, spend more time developing the layout and styles for your application across a variety of different devices.


With businesses and services taking to IoT, MEAP and BYOD, the significance of mobile development is enormous today.  As C++ developers, we want to spend our time developing effective code for our apps but the idea of having to work with multiple different languages to develop an application can be quite tedious, especially when we give each platform. Many IDE’s allow for cross-platform support, the ability to write your code, design the UI and deploy to multiple target platforms like Windows, Android, iOS and MAC OS with less steps.  


Even though an IDE provides all the features required for your projects, you can integrate other tools. The process of writing code isn’t too difficult for programmers, it’s in the libraries that you choose, the tradeoff in specific algorithms that have to be implemented, and making sure that you can test connections to outside or external systems. Pre-built frameworks, such as VCL,  for expansive native Windows controls or cross-platform controls like FireMonkey (FMX) and data frameworks that allow you to connect to a multitude of databases natively, allow you to build high quality and high performance applications without sacrificing your underlying application code.

Benefits of using an IDE

The main goal and benefit to an IDE is increasing productivity. This is the typical answer from most people give when speaking to the reasons why a Software Developer should use an IDE, but it is true. Each IDE incorporates editor features with components or easy to install wizards that allow you to quickly add some new functionality to your application.

There are many other well known advantages, that I haven’t mentioned, of using an Integrated Development Environment to write your applications.

  • Code Insight
  • Easier to navigate through your or others’ code. Especially when tied to a user interface.
  • Allows you to continually  learn what’s going on in the community and evolve your best practices. You continually learn and stay up to date
    • With any programming language, we always look to the community, the larger a community the more support you can get. Typically IDEs will add new features that just show up with new release installations and convince you to use them by incorporating videos, new samples, community events and such into a welcome page.
  • Project Management : The ability to write/use single files, add them to a project, compile and see them in a logical window. The list of files and forms grouped into the project are easily accessible and you can perform many of the important tasks needed to run your files like compiling and cleaning builds.

When you build software that you want to distribute, there is so much more that goes into software development. You have to create visual behaviors and install scripts, figure out deployment mechanisms, create license files, add in bug reporting tools, provide content to your tech writers… and that’s only a slice of the list in the ever-evolving SDLC.

The greatest strength of an IDE is not only in your ability to write your code, debug, and test your applications, but in the integration of your editor, compiler, debugger and visual designer in one environment that makes the overall process of developing great C++ software faster. Just be sure to use the development environment that makes you and your team the most productive for the task at hand.

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