[C vs C++] Difference Between C and C++ Programming

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[C vs C++] Difference Between C and C++ Programming
vinaykhatri

Vinay Khatri
Last updated on April 14, 2024

    C and C++ are the two most popular, oldest, and most prominent programming languages. While the former was developed in the 1970s, the latter was the day of light in the 1980s.

    According to the TIOBE Index for the top programming languages, C ranks in the 2nd position, while C++ is in the third position as of February 2023.

    Top programming languages according to TIOBE

    Both are basic languages and are considered great places to start learning to program. They have a wide range of applications, such as software development, database design, operating system development, embedded systems development, and many others.

    Though both these languages have a lot of similarities, they are different. The primary difference between C and C++ is that C++ is an extension of C. The primary purpose of designing C++ was to create a more flexible and efficient language similar to C.

    Many noobs often get confused in choosing one language over another. To clear up this confusion, this article aims to provide the detailed differences between C and C++.

    So, let us explore!

    What is C?

    Designed by Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs, C is a high-level programming language that first appeared in 1972. It follows the imperative and procedure-oriented ( procedural ) programming approach. The procedural approach makes it different from the other languages that came into existence afterward.

    The language is low-level, i.e., a computer’s native language. Primarily, it works close to the computer’s hardware components. Hence, it is used widely in developing operating systems, protocol stacks, and device drivers.

    Furthermore, the language has a small, fixed number of keywords and a large number of operators. It forms the basis for many later programming languages – C++, C#, Java, Go, JavaScript, etc. These programming languages derive many control structures and features from C.

    More interestingly, the language serves as the basis for learning later object-oriented programming languages.

    History

    Dennis Ritchie and Kem Thompson originally developed C in the assembly language on PDP-7 to build the utilities running on Unix. Hence, the development of the language is tied to the Unix systems.

    As Thompson wanted to create utilities for Unix, he first gave a try to write a Fortran compiler. Very soon, he gave up his try.

    Later, he observed that the official documentation of BPCL was not available, and the syntax of the language was also wordy. So, he created the cut-down of the BPCL systems programming language. He named the result B.

    Further, in 1971, Denis Ritchie worked on improving B and introduced a new character data type. He then called the language New B. Thompson started using NB to write the Unix kernel .

    In the following year, many new data types were added to the language. Also, it had pointers, all types of arrays, and types to be returned from functions. There was the inception of a new compiler. Finally, the language was renamed to C.

    C's latest and most stable version C17 is released in 2018.

    Features

    • Procedural Language

    With C being a procedural language, it executes a set of functions, instructions, and statements in a specific order to accomplish a particular task.

    • Mid-Level Programming Language

    The language was primarily designed for low-level programming. However, today, it also supports the features and functionalities of high-level programming. Hence, it is called a mid-level programming language. It combines the benefits of both – low-level and high-level programming.

    • Portability

    The language is compatible with various platforms and operating systems. C programs written on one machine can run on other machines with little to no machine-specific changes. In short, they are machine-independent.

    • Extensibility

    Adding new features to existing programs with a few manipulations is possible. You can extend your code to add new features without any hassle.

    • Statically-Typed

    It implies the type of a variable is checked at the compile time and not at the run time. Hence, programmers have to declare the data type of variables while writing programs explicitly.

    • Function-Rich Libraries

    The language has a rich set of libraries with built-in functions to accomplish specific programming tasks. Using these ready-to-use functions eliminates the need for writing code from the ground up.

    More interestingly, you can create your own functions and add them to libraries. This reflects the modular nature of the language.

    • Dynamic Memory Management

    The language supports the use and management of the size of supported data structures during runtime. It provides numerous built-in functions to work with memory allocation. These functions are alloc(), malloc(), realloc(), and free().

    • Pointers

    A pointer is a variable that stores the memory address of another variable as a value. Pointers help programmers operate with memory, arrays, functions, and structures.

    • Recursion

    Recursion is a function that itself repeatedly until the given condition is met. It functions similarly to loops in object-oriented programming languages. It ensures code reusability and backtracking.

    Check out in detail: Features of C

    Advantages

    • The language is more simple to comprehend than other high-level programming languages.
    • It serves as the foundation for many other programming languages.
    • A large number of data types and operators enables us to perform a wide range of operations.
    • As the language does not use complex structures such as loops, debugging is very straightforward.
    • It combines the best of both low-level and high-level languages.
    • With the use of a few instructions, the compilation of C programs is fast and quick.
    • The use of algorithms and data structures makes program computation easy and swift.

    Disadvantages

    • The language simply follows the procedural paradigm and not the object-oriented one.
    • The compiler checks the code in one go and provides errors all at once. Hence, it becomes difficult in the case of large systems.
    • It lacks the feature of the namespace.
    • The language does not exhibit the exception-handling feature.
    • There is no use of a constructor or deconstructor.
    • It has an extremely low level of data abstraction (data hiding).

    Real-World Applications

    • Operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X, and Symbian
    • Embedded systems
    • Network drivers
    • Graphical user interface
    • Compilers and interpreters
    • Servers
    • Database management systems, like MySQL
    • Platforms for new languages, like MATLAB and Mathematica
    • Games such as Tic-Tac-Toe and Snake

    What is C++?

    An extension of C, C++ is a high-level programming language. Bjarne Stroustrup designed this language at Bell Labs, and it is called ‘C with classes’.

    With a similar syntax to its predecessor and the procedural programming paradigm, C++ also adheres to the object-oriented programming paradigm . This paradigm revolves around objects containing code and data. It helps solve real-time problems.

    Besides, the language is compiled and provides the provision for low-level manipulations. Performance, efficiency, and flexibility are at the core of its design philosophy.

    Stroustrup designed the language by keeping in mind systems programming and embedded, resource-constrained software systems – performance-critical applications, servers, desktop applications, and video games.

    History

    Bjarne Stroustrup, in 1979, commenced his work to design a new language. He discovered that the language, Simula , is equipped with features required to develop large software systems. However, it was extremely slow for practical use. On the other hand, BPCL was fast but too low level to develop large software systems.

    Further, Stroustrup started to work at AT&T Bell Labs. There he faced the problem of analyzing the Unix kernel concerning distributed computing. Then, he had an idea to develop a language similar to C but with the features of Simula.

    Stroustrup added many new features to C – virtual functions, operator overloading, function name, references, type-safe memory allocation, and many others. This resulted in C++. Further, he developed a new, standalone compiler, CFront .

    The latest and most stable version of C++ is C++20, released in 2020.

    Features

    • Object-Oriented Language

    Being an object-oriented language, C++ follows all the basic concepts of OOP – classes, objects, inheritance, abstraction, encapsulation, and polymorphism. It organizes programs around and not functions and logic.

    An object contains data and code, where the data is in the form of fields (properties of attributes), and the code contains methods or procedures.

    The primary aim of OOP is to reduce data redundancy, improve code readability and maintainability, and ensure flexibility and effective problem-solving.

    • Machine-Independent

    Be very careful while reading this. The language is machine-independent and not platform-independent. For instance, it is not possible if you compile a C++ program on Linux and run it on Windows. Hence, C++ executables are not platform-independent.

    Machine-independent means you write a program that works on all platforms – Windows, macOS, and Linux.

    • High-Level Language

    As a high-level language, the syntax of C++ is more human-comprehensible as it includes the English language, unlike low-level or mid-level languages.

    • Dynamic Memory Allocation

    It is the process of allocating the memory space to the variables during the execution time or runtime of a program. However, the deallocation of memory allocation to variables must be performed manually in C++. The language uses new and delete operators to allocate and deallocate memory.

    • Rich Library

    The language comes with a vast set of libraries containing built-in functions. Programmers can use those functions directly and save time creating them from scratch.

    • Static Type System

    Programmers need to explicitly define the data types of variables, as the language checks it during the compilation time.

    • Extensibility

    You can easily extend existing C++ programs by adding new features and functionalities. Hence, it is an extensible language.

    As C++ is a successor to C, it provides all features C provides, including pointers, recursion, and structured programming.

    Advantages

    • The object-oriented feature ensures code readability, reusability, and maintainability.
    • It allows programmers to have complete control over memory management.
    • Being a mid-level language, it supports low-level manipulations as well as the development of large software systems.
    • The language has a vast community of developers.
    • It is entirely compatible with its predecessor. Every error-free C program is a C++ program.
    • It enables the development of performance-critical and resource-intensive applications.

    Disadvantages

    • Using the object-orientated programming paradigm increases the complexity of the program. Thus, it becomes difficult to understand.
    • As it is platform-dependent, C++ executables run only on a specific platform.
    • It does not support garbage collection, and constant tracking of memory may result in memory corruption.
    • It provides less security.

    Real-World Applications

    • GUI-based applications
    • Operating systems
    • Games
    • Embedded systems
    • Databases
    • Web browsers
    • Compilers
    • Libraries
    • Distributed applications

    Check out: What is C++ used for?

    C vs C++: A Head-to-Head Comparison (25 Differences)

    Before delving into the differences, let us go through some similarities between the two languages:

    • Both languages have similar syntax and code structures.
    • The compilation process is the same.
    • C++ supports most C operators and keywords and functions exactly the same.
    • The memory model of both languages is the same, i.e., close to the hardware.
    • Both support multi-dimensional arrays.
    • They do not support dynamic-sized arrays.
    • You need to use the #include directive to import the header file.

    The following table highlights the key differences between C and C++:

    Paramaters

    C

    C++

    Type of Programming

    A procedural language that works around functions and logic. It is function-driven.

    An object-oriented language that works around objects. It is object-driven.

    Programming Approach

    Follows the top-down approach that concerns more about the steps rather than data.

    Follows the bottom-up approach that focuses more on data rather than the procedure.

    Keywords

    There are 32 keywords.

    There are 57 keywords.

    Program Division

    Divides a program into multiple blocks called functions. Each function is an individual program component.

    A program consists of objects and classes.

    File Extension

    C program files have the .c extension.

    C++ program files have the .cpp extension.

    Application Development

    Suitable for embedded systems, network drivers, operating systems, and low-level implementations.

    Suitable for high-end programming, including games, network applications, embedded systems, and server-side applications.

    Exception Handling

    Does not support exception handling.

    Supports exception handling during errors and incorrect codes.

    Data types

    Supports only primitive and fixed built-in data types

    The language supports generic or user-defined data types along with built-in data types.

    Compatibility with Each Other

    It is fully compatible with C++. You can run a C program on a C++ compiler .

    As it is a superset of C, you cannot run C++ programs on C compilers.

    Ease of Coding

    It is a hands-on language allowing programmers to write code how they want, and it is easy.

    Being a high-level language, it requires programmers to use fixed constructs and structures.

    Data Security

    As there is no concept of encapsulation, there is no data security.

    It supports data encapsulation and provides less security than other high-level languages.

    Standard I/O Operations

    Uses ‘printf’ and ‘scanf’ to write and read data, respectively.

    Uses ‘cout’ and ‘cin’ to write and read data, respectively.

    Inline Function

    Does not support the inline function.

    Supports the inline function.

    Variable Declaration

    You should declare variables at the beginning of the program.

    You can declare variables anywhere in a program.

    Header Files

    Uses the <studio.h> header file.

    Uses the <iostream.h> header file.

    GUI Programming

    It uses the Gtk tool .

    It uses the Qt tool .

    Memory Management

    Provides alloc(), malloc(), dealloc(), and free() functions for memory management.

    Provides new and delete operators for memory management.

    Used By MySQL, Oracle database, Telegram Messenger, Windows Kerne, etc. Google Chrome, Torque 3-D game, Microsoft Office, etc.

    C vs C++ - Features

    Parameters

    C

    C++

    Access Modifiers

    No

    Yes

    Function Overloading

    Not supported

    Supported

    Inheritance

    Not supported

    Supported

    Namespace

    Not supported

    Supported

    Abstraction

    Not supported

    Supported

    Virtual and Friend Functions

    Not supported

    Supported

    C vs C++ - Code

    C Program

    Let us write a program to calculate the sum of two integers:

    #include <stdio.h>
    
    int main() {
    
    int a, b, sum = 0;
    
    printf("Enter two integers a and b: ");
    
    scanf("%d %d", &a, &b);
    
    sum = a+b;
    
    printf("The sum of the two numbers is: %d", sum);
    
    return 0;
    
    }

    Output

    Enter two integers a and b: 10 20
    
    The sum of the two numbers is: 30

    C++ Program

    Let us write the same above program in CPP:

    #include <iostream>
    
    using namespace std;
    
    int main() {
    
    int a, b, sum=0;
    
    cout << "Enter two numbers a and b: ";
    
    cin>>a>>b;
    
    sum = a+b;
    
    cout<<"The sum of the two numbers is: "<<sum;
    
    return 0;
    
    }

    Output

    Enter two numbers a and b: 10 20
    
    The sum of the two numbers is: 30

    Which is Better – C or C++?

    From the above table, you might have understood that C is a simple language and forms a basis for all other languages. However, C++ is an extension of C with more added features and use cases.

    If you are working with complex, performance-critical, and large applications, C++ is a perfect choice. Go with C if you want to develop low-level applications.

    Conclusion

    C vs C++ is a topic of eternal debate. Although C++ is more popular than its predecessor, both are among the most popular programming languages. You can learn both these languages independently. However, having knowledge of C would be beneficial while learning C++.

    Both languages have many similarities and common use cases. Still, C is ideal for low-level programming applications, and C++ is the best bet for large, critical, and resource-intensive applications.

    If you have any queries related to this or want to add any other differences to the above table, do let us know in the comments .

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    FAQs


    While C is a procedural and function-driven language, C++ is an object-oriented and class-driven language. C++ is an extension of the C language, and hence, it is referred to as 'C with Classes.'

    Being a procedural language, C does not support polymorphism, abstraction, inheritance, encapsulation, classes, and objects. Meanwhile, C++ supports all these concepts.

    No, there is no need to learn C before C++. However, learning C would be beneficial for understanding basic programming concepts.

    C is a programming language close to hardware and is machine-dependent. It is used for developing operating systems, graphical user interfaces, and embedded systems, designing compilers, and developing new programming languages.

    With C++, you can build desktop and web applications, operating systems, embedded systems, web browsers, GUI-based applications, games, banking and finance applications, libraries, cloud systems, graphics, and computations.

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