Finding the right C++ compiler can feel kind of like buying your first car.
Some of them are flashier than others. Some promise to give you an easy ride. Some have tons of history behind them and a great reputation for being reliable.
But, to a beginner, most of them look pretty similar – until you look under the hood at the specs and features.
If you want to find the best online compiler for your C++ code, you’ll need to figure out which capabilities you need most on a day-to-day basis.
So let’s take a look at some of the most popular features of online C++ compilers on the market right now.
The 10 most important features of online C++ compilers
In this blog, we’re going to focus on online C++ compilers, rather than offline desktop-based compilers. These cloud-based compilers are growing increasingly popular – mostly because they’re easier to set up, more flexible, and easier for C++ devs to use.
However, many of these features cross over into offline compilers, so bear them in mind if you’re on the hunt for a desktop option instead.
If you want to code fast, then auto-completion or auto-suggestion is going to be invaluable. This feature analyzes your code as you type and predicts what you want to type next. The best compilers will use AI to learn more about how you code, so the predictions become more accurate over time.
2. Auto-close brackets
Typing out the closing parentheses in your code every single time can quickly get annoying, not to mention time-consuming. This feature will automatically add a closing bracket at the end of a function if you add an opening bracket at the beginning of it. However, some devs find this feature frustrating and prone to creating typos in their code – it’s all down to preference!
3. Save source code
The best compilers will automatically save your source code and any changes you make to it, even while the build is in progress. This not only saves time but reduces the risk that you’ll lose everything in the event that something crashes.
4. Code debugger
Some compilers come with a built-in debugger that scans your code for errors as it compiles. This can be a huge time-saver – and also means you don’t have to add an extra extension or a separate piece of software to a potentially already overflowing tech stack.
5. Highlighting feature
Once your code is compiled, it can be difficult to track which line of the newly-generated binary code matches up with each line of your source code. This can cause problems when it comes to debugging or amending later on.
This feature means that, when you click a line of your binary code, the compiler will automatically highlight the corresponding line of your source code – or vice versa.
Ok, so speed isn’t exactly a feature – but it’s still important to understand how fast you need your code to compile. C++ naturally takes longer to compile than a language like C# or Java, so you’ll probably want to look for a solution that offers at least a decent compilation speed – but do you always need it to compile as fast as possible?
Faster compilation can sometimes mean trade-offs in terms of capability or reliability, so your mileage will vary here. The most important thing is to figure out which balance of speed and capability or reliability is right for you.
Of course, there are ways to make your compiler run faster without sacrificing any other benefits – but we’ll get to that below.
7. Quick execution
Again, this isn’t really a feature, but it’s an important element to consider: once your code has been compiled, how long does it take for the object file to be loaded and run?
How fast your code needs to be executed largely depends on what you’re coding. If you’re building a video game, then slow execution can lead to lagging, juddering and majorly disgruntled players. But, if you’re just writing a web application that shows today’s weather, you can probably afford to let the execution take longer.
8. URL sharing
Some compilers make it easy to collaborate with colleagues by generating a URL that you can use to share your code. The best compilers will make this more secure by allowing you to set permissions for your code when you share it, so you can choose whether the recipient can edit your code or just view it.
9. Customization of screen settings
Prefer to code in a certain color, or can only work on a certain background? Some compilers allow you to customize the interface to suit your preferences. You can apply full custom themes, add new fonts, or edit styling rules – anything you need to make the compiler suit your preferences and your ways of working.
10. Support for other programming languages
If you use multiple programming languages, you might want to look for a compiler that supports at least two of them, so that you don’t have to switch compilers every time you start a new project. Some compilers even allow you to use multiple programming languages in a single file, provided they’re similar enough (think C and C++).
Get all the features you need most – and still compile fast
So, the best online IDE and compiler for C++ is subjective; it depends heavily on how you like to program, the context in which you’re working, and what you’re building.
In the past, you might have had to deprioritize compilation speed in favor of other features – and just accept that getting those extra capabilities meant spending hours waiting for your code to compile.
But that’s not the case anymore.
Through powerful distributed processing and unique build caching acceleration, Incredibuild turns every computer into a supercomputer and makes a huge dent in compilation times – one of our customers saved their programmers between two and eight hours a week on compilation alone.
Better yet, it integrates with most popular compilers and build systems. Plus, it’s the only acceleration solution that’s bundled as part of Microsoft Visual Studio.
All so you can pick the compiler that’s best for you, without ever having to worry about slow compilation.