In an age where you have plenty of programming languages to choose from, it’s difficult to figure out which language to use when you set up your projects. Once you choose a language, it can be extremely difficult to switch to a new one, so consider your options carefully. You can work closely with your developer to choose a language for your application(s), but to help you make the right decision, here are some similarities and differences between two general-purpose programming languages, C# and C++.
Intro to C++ & C#
At a very basic level, both C# and C++ have similar code. C# is much newer to the game, however. It was introduced by Microsoft as a Java competitor in 2000 and is part of the ASP.NET ecosystem. C++ has been a foundation language for many other languages, and it was introduced way back in the 1980s by Bjarne Stroustrup as “C with classes.” Consequently, C++ has a much more prominent appearance in applications.
Both C++ and C# are object-oriented languages, although C++ is considered a harder language to work with. Both of them can be used in web and desktop applications, but C# is much more popular now for both applications. C++ is considered a more prestigious language used for applications such as games, operating systems, and very low-level programming that requires better control of hardware on the PC or server.
If your application is a simple web or desktop application, most developers will urge you to work with C# if it’s their language of choice. If you want an application that works directly with computer hardware or deals with application development that C# is not efficient with, your developer will likely urge you to go with C++.
What are the similarities between C++ and C#?
C# is a C-based language, so it makes the two syntaxes similar. The developer uses brackets to segment coding structures, and the C-style object-oriented code that includes dependencies and libraries are very similar. If the coder is familiar with Java or C++, it’s very easy to move on to C#. However, moving from C# to C++ is likely more difficult for a C# developer because it’s a much more low-level language. C# handles much of the overhead that must be considered in a C++ program. This is just one reason C++ is considered a more difficult language to learn in the development world.
Because C# was developed to compete against Java, it’s much more similar to the Java language, but it still has similarities with C++, which include:
- Object-oriented programming (OOP): Although the syntax is slightly different, the concept of classes, inheritance and polymorphism.
- Compiled languages: Both C# and C++ are compiled languages. This means that before an application is launched on a PC or the server, the code must be converted to binaries. An executable EXE file is an example of a compiled file that could be written in C++ or C#.
What are the differences between C++ and C#?
The similarities of C++ and C# are few, because the languages are much more different than they are similar. Although the syntax is similar, don’t assume that the languages are similar behind the scenes.
A list of differences between the C++ and C# include:
- Runtime: C# uses the common language runtime (CLR) provided by the .NET framework to convert C# into native code. C++ compiles directly into native code and does not require a universal runtime system. C++ libraries make direct system calls to the OS.
- Size of binaries: We mentioned that the two languages are compiled languages that turn your code into binary files. C# has a lot of overhead and libraries included before it will compile. C++ is much more lightweight. Therefore, C# binaries are much larger after it compiles compared to C++.
- Performance: C++ is widely used when higher level languages are not efficient. C++ code is much faster than C# code, which makes it a better solution for applications where performance is important. For instance, your network analysis software might need some C++ code, but performance is probably not a huge issue for a standard word processing application coded in C#.
- Garbage collection: With C#, you don’t have to worry much about garbage collection. With C++, you have no automatic garbage collection and must manually allocate and deallocate memory for your objects.
- Platform target: C# programs are usually targeted towards the Windows operating system, although Microsoft is working towards cross-platform support for C# programs. With C++, you can code for any platform including Mac, Windows and Linux.
- Types of projects: C++ programmers generally focus on applications that work directly with hardware or that need better performance than other languages can offer. C++ programs include server-side applications, networking, gaming, and even device drivers for your PC. C# is generally used for web, mobile and desktop applications.
- Compiler warnings: C++ will let you do almost anything provided the syntax is right. It’s a flexible language, but you can cause some real damage to the operating system. C# is much more protected and gives you compiler errors and warnings without allowing you to make some serious errors that C++ will allow.
C++ vs C#: Which one is better for speed performance?
When it comes to performance, the difference is in the extra compilation step needed by C# before converting to machine code. C++ is considered a native language because it compiles directly into machine code that can be understood by the underlying system. C# must first compile into Microsoft Intermediate Language (MSIL) before the just-in-time (JIT) compiler generates machine code. For this reason, C++ is typically faster than C#.
That said, there are many factors that go into an application’s performance beyond the innate performance of the underlying language. Factors such as how code is written, which framework is being used, and what the code is doing play a larger role than the innate performance advantage of C++.
C++ vs C#: Which one is better for game development?
Both C++ and C# are widely used in the video game industry. Naturally where native hardware performance is required, C++ is used for optimization. Generally speaking, you use C# for gaming if you are building for the .NET ecosystem or prefer one of the popular C# game development engines include Unity, Stride (formerly Xenko), and Wave.
If you prefer C++ for its tighter memory management and slight performance boost out-of-the-box, game engines such as Unreal, CryEngine, and GameMaker all utilize C++.
Should you use C# or C++ for your project?
C# developers and C++ developers have different skill sets, so you can post a project and determine which platform is the most efficient for your project after discussing it with both sides.
A general rule of thumb is that web and desktop development is done using a higher level language such as C#. C# is a part of the .NET language, which is especially targeted for web development, but it also works easily with a Windows-based program. Although Microsoft is trying to port their language to Linux systems, it’s best to stick with C# and Windows environments.
C++ is a lot more well-rounded in terms of platforms and target applications, but the developer pool is more limited since it’s not as popular for web and mobile applications. If your project is focused on extremely low-level processing, then you may need a C++ developer. You can also use C++ to create efficient, fast applications for server-side software. Ultimately, you can use C++ for much more than C# but it’s not always the most cost-efficient way to handle your project.
The best way to decide on the right language is to post your project and ask developers for their opinion. Developers and advocates for both languages will pitch their ideas and give you more information on your specific project to help you decide.
Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.
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