Understanding the Similarities and Differences Between C# vs C++
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated August 17, 2022
Published May 17, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Whether you're just starting your computer programming career or looking for a job change, it's imperative to know the difference between different programming languages. C# and C++ are two programming languages that share a similar name, but both programming languages target different fields. Understanding the similarities and differences between the two languages makes it easier to determine which you should use at your workplace.
In this article, we will explore C# and C++, the similarities and differences between C# vs C++ with some tips for choosing between the two languages.
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Understanding the basics of C# vs C++
C# and C++ have similar code and both are object-oriented programming languages. C# is comparatively newer and was launched as a competitor to Java in 2000. Whereas C++ has been in use for many decades and many other programming languages have syntax based on C++. If you have an excellent grasp of C++, you're likely to learn a verbose language like Java much faster.
What is C#?
C#, or C sharp, is a programming language used for developing computer programs that execute on the .NET framework. Developers use this general-purpose programming language to develop a variety of desktop, web and mobile applications.
C# is a statically-typed language which means that first the code is checked for errors before converting into a program. Apart from features like strong typing that's declarative and imperative, C# is a component-oriented programming language.
For C# codes to function on web browsers, it's first converted to HTML using the .NET framework. This makes it essential to learn ASP.NET along with C#. Furthermore, when compared to C++, C# is an easy-to-learn language, making it a popular choice among developers.
Characteristics of C#
Here are a few characteristics of C#:
Modern programming language: it's a powerful programming language used for developing scalable and robust applications.
Type safety: C# has a type of safety code that allocates only that memory which the code has permission to execute. This helps in improving the security of a program.
Interoperable: it supports cross-language interoperability. Codes of C# can seamlessly work with codes produced by other languages. It helps maximize code reuse and increases the efficiency of the development process.
Security: it operates as a part of the .NET runtime, which offers many built-in security features.
Flexible: C# allows coding in both safe and unsafe mode.
Versioning: C# supports versioning that ensures easy deployment and management of applications.
What is C++?
C++, or C with classes, is a powerful C programming extension and introduces objects and classes. It's the language used to develop browsers, operating systems, games and console applications. Regarded as a middle-level language, C++ enjoys features of both high-level and low-level languages.
C++ is a compiled and free-form language that supports data abstraction, procedural programming, generic programming and object-oriented programming. In terms of complexity, the language is challenging to learn and master due to complex syntax, objects and classes. C++ is usually the first choice for developers who require a great deal of speed and efficiency in their application.
Characteristics of C++
Here are a few characteristics of C++:
Case sensitive: C++ is a case-sensitive programming language and all keywords and identifiers mean different things in a different case.
Free-form: the positing of the characters in the program text doesn't matter.
Procedural programming: programs are made up of procedures called functions, routines and subroutines.
Existence of libraries: the language offers a lot of built-in functions that make programming easier for developers.
Dynamic memory allocation: as C++ supports pointers, it allows the allocation of memory to storage components at runtime.
Similarities between C# and C++
Here are some significant similarities between the two languages:
Derived from C language: many syntax and symbols are derived from C language. From using brackets to divide the coding structure to using libraries, the syntax of both languages is similar.
Object-oriented: both languages support polymorphism (having many forms), classes and inheritance (creating new objects from existing ones).
Compiled languages: codes in both languages run through compilers before execution in a computer. C# and C++ codes convert into machine codes which a processor can quickly execute. The languages require rebuilding the program each time a developer makes a change. Executable (EXE) file is a perfect example of compiled files written in C# or C++.
Difference between C# vs C++
Even though the languages' syntax is similar, there are many areas where C# is different from C++. From the size of binaries, platform compatibility, memory management to speed and performance, understanding these key differentiation areas would help understand which language to learn and master.
Here are the key difference between C# and C++:
Size of binaries
Compiled languages turn codes in binary files on compilation. Before compilation, C# has numerous libraries and overheads. As a result, C# binaries are large. On the other hand, C++ compiles code in lightweight binary files that are small in size.
C# supports an automatic memory management system and the garbage collector tracks the memory allocation and management. Moreover, the garbage collector periodically cleans the memory that's not required. C++manually manages memory, meaning developers have to delete objects to free up the memory space.
Codes written in C# require a virtual machine and compatible compiler to work. As a result, it's not cross-platform and the use is limited to the Windows operating system. With C++, you can code on any platform, including Windows, Linux, Unix and Mac. This means that language can communicate with any hardware, making C++ a more versatile programming language.
With a well-defined class hierarchy, C# is easy to learn and understand than C++, which has overly complex features. Because C# is a high-level language, the codes are easy to read and interpret. This makes C# a preferred choice for a beginner who's likely to enjoy a simple class hierarchy.
The majority of C++ projects involve applications working directly on the hardware, whereas C# projects primarily focus on the web, mobile and desktop-based applications. A majority of C++ programs are server-side applications, gaming, networking and device drivers for computers. Moreover, C++ is capable of creating standalone applications, whereas C# cannot.
Codes in C++ convert to machine level codes on compilation, whereas C# codes convert to Common Language Runtime (CLR) on compilation. The Just In Time (JIT) compiler interprets the CLR.
It's a variable that holds the address of other variables. From reducing execution time and complexity of a program to providing an alternative way to pass an array, pointers are critical coding elements. C++ allows pointers anywhere in the program, whereas in C# pointers are valid only in the unsafe mode.
Inheritance and global functions
C# supports single inheritance and lacks global functions. This means that when using C#, you can create only static classes. On the other hand, C++ has global functions and supports multi-inheritance. The main advantage of inheritance is code reusability and readability.
As C++ has more control over the computer or server, developers prefer creating games using this language. However, C# can also handle game creation only when developers don't build it from scratch.
High-level programming languages like C# are slower than a middle-level language like C++. Furthermore, C# has an additional JIT step and a lot of overheads and libraries before compilation. This reduces the speed of C#. The language's speed should not be a deciding factor for a programmer because if you can reach goals faster with C#, you don't have to learn the complex features and principles of C++.
In C++, the compiler doesn't generate warnings unless the syntax is wrong. But in C#, the compiler generates warning messages, which helps in reducing runtime errors. This ensures you don't make serious compilation errors which could lead to an infinite loop.
Tips for choosing between C# and C++
Learning a programming language is not always about creating a finished software product. Understanding how a programming language builds logical thinking and computational thinking, and sharpens problem-solving skills. Before choosing between C# and C++, follow these tips:
Know your skills and determine the time you require to learn the language. If you're someone who likes easy-to-understand languages, choose C#. But if you already know C#, learning C++ would be a valuable addition to your resume.
Relevancy to your career path
If you want to build gaming consoles, C++ would be your ideal choice as it's in-line with your career path. But if you're happy developing mobile-based applications learning a less complex language like C# is beneficial.
First-time programs or beginners should always start with C# as learning C++ at the start of their career could prove to be an overwhelming experience. If you're an experienced programmer, it would be excellent to learn a foundational and versatile language like C++. It would open more job opportunities and accelerate your career graph.
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