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So you’ve decided to start C++? That’s great! 
You’ve taken the huge first step, but where do you go next? Writing code in C++ looks as hard as picking up Japanese. You could always self-study, but getting qualified instruction will speed up your learning process. Read on for our tips on starting your C++ journey.

What Is C++?

Let’s first provide some context on C++, the language you’ve chosen to master. In 1979, Bjarne Stroustrup began developing C++ as an extension of the C programming language. It’s gone through three significant updates over the years and is now one of the world’s most popular programming languages.

Here’s an example of C++ code:

int main ()
  int y = 10;
  while (y > 0)
    cout << y << "!" << ", ";
  cout << "BLAST OFF!\n";

Running this simple code outputs the following:

10!, 9!, 8!, 7!, 6!, 5!, 4!, 3!, 2!, 1!, BLAST OFF!

While this C++ code is only a countdown, C++ is even being used to send rockets into space.

Why Is C++ a Great First Language To Learn?

C++ is a high-level language, allowing you to quickly write even complex programs. That being said, you’ll still find yourself quite connected to the details of how your program works. From specifying types to managing memory, you’ll be able to learn more about the underlying CPU and memory.

With C++ being such a popular programming language, the internet is rife with examples of code you can use to test and improve upon your skills. If you want to learn to code something, there’s a very good chance it’s been done somewhere already. For example, if we wanted to build X in C++, we could easily look up the process for doing so at Y.

Since C++ code grew out of C, it was developed to expand on C’s capabilities, but without a specific use in mind. As a result, developers use C++ to create all sorts of programs, including operating systems, games, browsers and so much more. As a further bonus, it’s similar to other languages like C# and Java, which can further enhance your skillset as a programmer. These two points alone show just how far your mastery of C++ could take you. 

Ready To Start? Find Yourself a Good IDE

An IDE (short for “integrated development environment”) is a tool that many programmers use to write their code. IDEs contain all the components a programmer needs to write, edit and even run their code. 

Booting up an IDE for the first time puts you at a blank screen with infinite potential. All it takes are a few keystrokes to turn that empty space into a fully functioning program. IDEs typically have some extra features to help even senior programmers write quickly and efficiently.

By highlighting different syntax types in different colors, an IDE will help you keep track of keywords and declarations. This can be a huge time-saver when you’re looking for a specific line of code once your program has gotten long. An autocomplete feature can anticipate what you’re going to type next to speed the process along.

Perhaps most importantly, an IDE should come with a debugging feature that will help you figure out why your code didn’t compile. Some IDEs even help with potential errors before compiling your code. Parsing through a thousand lines of code for a missing semicolon is no one’s cup of tea.

Some IDEs can handle more than one programming language, so be sure the IDE you choose knows C++. Our list of the best C++ IDEs is a great place to start.

Best Ways To Learn C++

As computer programming educators, we believe there are three fantastic ways to start your C++ journey (we’re a bit biased on #2 being the best)

Contribute to Open Source Projects

Sometimes the best way to learn is just to jump in and get your hands dirty. If you’re unsure of how to start your own project or simply not ready to take that plunge, consider contributing to open-source projects on a site like GitHub.

There you can find projects tagged with text like good-first-issue that will get you programming and helping others at the same time. This gist has several tags you can use to find content to work on. You can also search for projects you’re interested in (filter by language) and see if they have any tags for beginner issues.

Take a Course on Udacity

Udacity has a C++ Nanodegree course that breaks down the critical facets of the programming language over a four-month period. The course starts with the foundations of developing, compiling and executing C++ programs before covering more advanced topics like memory management. You’ll also get to code five real-world projects, finishing with a capstone project to implement what you’ve learned.

Trial and Error

No matter how you choose to start learning C++, never forget that learning something new takes time. Make sure you get enough coding practice and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. After all, C++ is a language, and you’re not going to start speaking any new language overnight.

Use the IDE’s compiler to provide feedback on your code and test your functions to see what happens. Approach coding with an experimentation mindset. Learn from those mistakes, improve, and do a little better the next time. Most importantly, do not allow yourself to get frustrated if your code gets stuck in an infinite loop that you can’t find a way out of.

If as a programmer you can get into the habit of working on C++ code regularly, you’ll continue to improve over time. Progress may be slow going at first; don’t expect you’ll be able to build an interface after week one. Keep at it, you may just surprise yourself with what you can do after just a few short months.

Ways C++ Can Help Out in Everyday Life

As you start down the path to becoming a C++ expert, think about how C++ code can start giving back to you. Are there organizational tools you can create to simplify data entry by generating spreadsheet values for you? Do you need a program that can convert currencies for you? What about a command-line tool for calendar, email or notes? The power to create these programs will be at your fingertips.

Learn C++ Today

Learning C++ will be a challenge, but one that will open many doors. In this post, we already introduced our expert-taught nanodegree program as the best way for you to get started. With our comprehensive curriculum and emphasis on real-world application, you take all the guesswork out of learning C++. Enroll in our C++ Nanodegree today! 

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