When coding in C++, the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) you use can make a huge difference in your productivity and efficiency. Developers have several excellent C++ IDEs with robust features and capabilities tailored for C++ development

Researching and choosing the best IDE can optimise your development workflow significantly. Today, we look at the top C++ IDE choices in 2024, focusing on usability, debugging, code completion, and integration with compilers and build tools. 

With an overview of the strengths and key highlights of leading C++ IDEs, you’ll be well-equipped to choose the best option to boost your coding experience this year.

What are IDEs and Why They Matter

An Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is a software application that serves as a central hub for professional C++ developers. It’s not just a simple text editor. It also offers many features to streamline your workflow and boost productivity. 

The world of C++ development has come a long way since the days of simple text editors. Early programmers relied on basic tools to write and compile C++ code, which was time-consuming and error-prone.

IDEs revolutionised the C++ development life cycle by combining a code editor, debugger, project management tools, and other functionalities into a unified platform. Here’s a glimpse into what IDEs bring to the table:

Code editing

 A good IDE provides a user-friendly code editor with syntax highlighting which colourises different code elements for better readability. Auto-completion suggests code snippets as you type, saving time and ensuring accuracy. Features like code folding and indentation further enhance code organisation.

Debugging and profiling

Inevitably, your C++ code will encounter bugs. A robust IDE equips you with a debugger, a tool that allows you to step through your code line by line, inspect variables, and identify the root cause of issues. On the other hand, profilers help you analyse your code’s performance, pinpointing bottlenecks and areas for optimisation.

Project management

As projects grow larger, managing multiple files becomes essential. IDEs offer features that help IT software project managers organise their codebase, compile all files with a single click, and integrate external libraries. Version control integration allows you to track changes, revert to previous versions, and collaborate effectively with other developers.

Additional tools

Many IDEs come packed with additional tools that further enhance your development experience:

What to Consider When Choosing the Right C++ IDE

With a grasp of the advantages IDEs offer, let’s delve into the key factors to consider when selecting the one for you:

#1: Skill Level

If you’re new to C++, prioritise an IDE with a user-friendly interface, built-in tutorials, and clear documentation. As you gain experience, features like advanced code completion, refactoring tools, and extensive customisation options become more valuable.

#2: Features

Make a list of the features essential for your workflow. Common must-haves include code editing, debugging, project management, and code completion.

Additional features like version control integration, unit testing frameworks, and code analysis tools can significantly enhance your development process.

#3: Platform Compatibility

Ensure that the IDE is compatible with your operating system, whether it’s Windows, Mac, or Linux. Some IDEs are cross-platform, offering flexibility if you work on multiple machines.

#4: Budget

Free and open-source IDEs like Code::Blocks and Eclipse CDT are excellent options for beginners or those on a tight budget. However, paid IDEs like Visual Studio and CLion often boast more advanced features, robust debugging capabilities, and exceptional code analysis tools.

To understand more about how your choice of IDE can affect your project’s budget, read our guide on Software Development Costs.

Top C++ IDEs in 2024: A Detailed Look

Now that you understand the key considerations, let’s explore some of the most popular C++ IDEs in 2024, categorised by platform.


Visual Studio (Free Community Edition, Paid Professional and Enterprise Editions)

Microsoft’s flagship IDE remains a powerhouse for C++ development. It offers IntelliSense for intelligent code completion, a comprehensive debugger, Git integration, and exceptional support for C++11/14/17/20 standards.

While the free Community Edition caters well to open-source projects and individual developers, paid editions unlock advanced features like performance profiling and parallel debugging.

A screenshot of Visual Studio, one of the best C++ IDEs.
(Source: https://visualstudio.microsoft.com/vs/features/cplusplus/)

Code::Blocks (Free, Open-source)

A lightweight and beginner-friendly IDE, Code::Blocks offers a user-friendly interface, code completion, syntax highlighting, project management, and integration with GCC and Clang compilers.

It’s a solid choice for those getting started with C++, especially due to its customisability and plugin support.

CLion (Free Community Edition, Paid Professional Editions)

Developed by JetBrains, CLion is a cross-platform IDE specifically designed for C and C++ development. It offers intelligent code completion beyond basic suggestions and provides context-aware recommendations and refactoring options. On-the-fly error detection and automated refactorings help you maintain clean and efficient code. 

A screenshot of CLion, one of the C++ IDEs.
(Source: https://www.jetbrains.com/clion/whatsnew/)

CLion integrates seamlessly with CMake and various compiler tools like GCC and Clang. The free Community Edition caters to open-source projects and students, while paid editions offer additional features like advanced code analysis and database integration.


Code::Blocks (Free, Open-source)

As mentioned earlier, Code::Blocks is a versatile, cross-platform IDE. As such, it serves Linux users as well. Its lightweight nature coupled with features like code completion, debugging, and project management, makes it a great choice for beginners. The extensive plugin ecosystem allows you to customise Code::Blocks to fit your needs.

KDevelop (Free, Open-source)

Primarily targeting KDE development, KDevelop is a powerful and feature-rich IDE that excels in C++ development. It boasts a clean and minimalistic interface with semantic syntax highlighting, autocompletion, debugging capabilities, and integration with version control systems like Git and Subversion.

KDevelop integrates well with Linux build systems, making it a popular choice for developers comfortable with the Linux environment.

Eclipse CDT (Free, Open-source)

The Eclipse CDT plugin transforms the popular Eclipse IDE into a full-fledged C/C++ development environment. It provides features like code completion, refactoring, debugging, and project management. Eclipse CDT integrates well with Linux toolchains and offers Git and CMake integration.

With its extensive plugin ecosystem, you can customise Eclipse CDT to suit your workflow. However, the initial setup can be complex for beginners compared to other options.



As Apple’s IDE, Xcode is a great choice for C++ development on Mac. It’s free to download and has everything you need to build C++ apps for macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS.

Xcode provides an editor for coding, a debugger, and a visual interface builder. It also has a huge collection of templates to get you started with C++ development.


NetBeans is another free, open-source IDE option, for C++ on Mac. It supports C++11 and beyond, has an interactive debugger, and integrates with CMake. NetBeans works on Windows, macOS, Linux, and Solaris. Although not as fully featured as some other IDEs, NetBeans is a capable, customizable IDE for C++.

While there are many great C++ IDE options for Mac, Xcode, CLion, Qt Creator, and Code::Blocks are some of the top, free choices available with powerful features for C++ development. Try them out and see which one suits your needs and style best. The right IDE can make programming in C++ on Mac much more productive and enjoyable.


General-purpose IDEs
Visual StudioFree (Community Edition), PaidNot availableNot available
C/C++ Focused IDEs
CLionFree (Community Edition), PaidFree (Community Edition), PaidFree (Community Edition), Paid
Qt Development
Qt CreatorFreeFreeFree

Beyond the Top Choices: Exploring Additional Options

While the IDEs above represent some of the most popular and feature-rich options, here are a few additional noteworthy contenders:

How to Set Up a C++ Development Environment

If you want to start programming in C++, but you’re not sure what tools you need – don’t worry, setting up your dev environment is pretty straightforward. Here are the essentials:

Code Editor

An editor to write your C++ code is the first thing you’ll need. Some of the most popular free options are Visual Studio Code, Atom, and Sublime Text. These are lightweight, easy to use, and have built-in support for C++. Install one of these editors and you’ll be ready to start writing code.


Next, you need a C++ compiler to translate human-readable code into machine-executable programs. The most popular compilers are GCC (GNU Compiler Collection) and Clang. They’re available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can install GCC or Clang directly, or use an IDE (see below) that bundles a compiler.

IDE (Optional)

An integrated development environment or IDE provides an all-in-one interface for C++ development. It will include a code editor, compiler, debugger, and other tools. Two of the most popular free IDEs for C++ are Code::Blocks and Visual Studio Community. An IDE is optional but can make development more streamlined for beginners.

Debugger (Optional)

Allows you to examine your code line by line to diagnose issues and fix bugs. Most IDEs like Code::Blocks and Visual Studio include a built-in debugger. If you’re not using an IDE, you can use a standalone debugger like GDB. Using a debugger is optional, but can be extremely helpful, especially when learning C++.

With these basic tools installed, you’ll have everything you need to start writing, compiling, and debugging C++ programs. While the setup seems simple, C++ is an immensely powerful language, so there’s a lot to learn. With a little practice and patience, you’ll soon be coding like a pro!


While choosing an IDE to help you code, you probably have questions about what’s out there:

Which is the best free C++ IDE?

Two of the most popular free C++ IDEs are Code::Blocks and Visual Studio Code. Code::Blocks is an open-source IDE specifically geared toward C and C++ development. Visual Studio Code is a lightweight but powerful source code editor from Microsoft with strong C++ support with extensions. Either one is a great choice for getting started with C++ for free.

Do I need an IDE to code in C++?

No, you don’t necessarily need an IDE to code in C++. You can use a simple text editor like Notepad++, Sublime Text or Vim and compile your code on the command line. However, an IDE provides many useful features that can help boost your productivity and make coding more efficient. Things like syntax highlighting, auto-completion, integrated debugging, and project organization are huge benefits of an IDE. So while not strictly required, an IDE is highly recommended for C++ development.

What is the difference between an IDE and a text editor?

An IDE (integrated development environment) is a software application that provides comprehensive facilities to computer programmers for software development. A text editor is a program used to edit plain text files. Text editors are usually basic while IDEs are more complex, with features like:
– Syntax highlighting
– Auto code completion
– Integrated compiler/debugger
– Project organisation and management
– Integration with version control systems
– And more…
So in short, an IDE is like a souped-up text editor on steroids, with lots of built-in tools to help you code more efficiently. For a complex language like C++, an IDE is typically a much better choice than a basic text editor.

What are the system requirements for C++ IDEs?

System requirements will vary depending on the specific C++ IDE, but generally, you will need:
– A reasonably modern Windows, Mac or Linux computer. C++ IDEs are available for all major platforms.
– At least a few gigabytes of RAM. Most IDEs will run better with 4-8GB or more.
– A decent amount of hard drive space, especially if you install tools like Git, compilers, debuggers, etc. within the IDE.
– An up-to-date C++ compiler like GCC (GNU Compiler Collection) or Clang. The IDE will either come bundled with a compiler or let you integrate one.
– Optional: Version control system.

Start Experimenting and Find Your Perfect Match

The ideal C++ IDE is ultimately a matter of personal preference and workflow. Don’t hesitate to experiment with different options to discover the one that best suits your needs. Consider your skill level, desired features, budget, and operating system compatibility as the most relevant factors.

Remember, a good IDE is an invaluable tool that can significantly enhance your C++ development experience and empower you to write efficient, maintainable, quality code.

Interested in how C++ stacks up against other programming languages? Check out our detailed comparison of C++ vs Python.

Additional Resources: