How to compile your C++ code in Visual Studio Code

C++ is a statically-typed, free-form, (usually) compiled, multi-paradigm, intermediate-level general-purpose middle-level programming language.”

In simple terms, C++ is a sophisticated, efficient and general-purpose programming language based on C.

It was developed by Bjarne Stroustrup in 1979.

One of C++'s main feature is the compiler. This is used to compile and run C++ code.

A compiler is a special program that processes statements written in a particular programming language like C++ and turns them into machine language or "code" that a computer's processor uses.

I actually wrote this article because I had a C++ assignment which required using a compiler. As usual, everyone was using the CodeBlocks IDE and Visual Studio IDE. But I was already used to Visual Studio Code for all my programming stuff.

I then set out to find a way of compiling C++ directly inside my own VsCode Editor and hence this article :).

In this article, I'll show you how to set up your compiler in VsCode and at the end give you some links to some of the best C++ resources.


Prerequisite

  • Prior knowledge of C++ (I assume you're learning C++, about to start learning or just reading this for fun, this article is not a C++ 101 tutorial, some understanding of C++ is needed.)
  • Visual Studio Code Editor Download here and read the setup docs for Windows, Linux and Mac
  • Internet connection (!important)
  • Your geek glasses :).

Disclaimer!

I would be using a Windows OS throughout this article but I'll provide links to resources that would aid those using other Operating systems.


Now let's get started!

Download and install a C++ compiler

  • Head to www.mingw.org and click the “Download/Installer” link to download the MinGW setup file or click here for windows, here for Linux. and here for Mac

MinGW is a contraction of "Minimalist GNU for Windows", is a minimalist development environment for native Microsoft Windows applications.

  • After downloading, install MinGW and wait for the “MinGW Installation Manager” to show up.

  • When the “MinGW Installation Manager” shows up, click on mingw32-gcc-g++ then select “Mark for Installation”

  • In the menu at the top left corner, click on “Installation > Apply Changes”

  • Wait and allow to install completely. Ensure you have a stable internet during this process.

Edit your PATH environment variable to include the directory where the C++ compiler is located

PATH is an environment variable on Unix-like operating systems, DOS, OS/2, and Microsoft Windows, specifying a set of directories where executable programs are located. In general, each executing process or user session has its own PATH setting. - Wikipedia)

After installing MinGW, it was installed in C:\MinGW\bin. Now you have to include this directory in your environment variable PATH. if you've been using computers for a while now, you should know how to do this already, but if you don't, here are a few resources:

  • Click here for Windows OS guide
  • Click here for Linux
  • Click here for Mac OS guide

Install Code Runner extension in VS Code

Now we have our compiler set up, let's install Code Runner

Code Runner allows you to Run code snippet or code file for multiple languages: C, C++, Java, JavaScript, PHP, Python, Perl, Perl 6, Ruby, Go, Lua, Groovy, PowerShell, BAT/CMD, BASH/SH, F# Script, F# (.NET Core), C# Script, C# (.NET Core), VBScript, TypeScript, CoffeeScript, Scala, Swift, Julia, Crystal, OCaml Script, R, AppleScript, Elixir, Visual Basic .NET, Clojure, Haxe, Objective-C, Rust, Racket, AutoHotkey, AutoIt, Kotlin, Dart, Free Pascal, Haskell, Nim, D, Lisp, Kit, and custom command.

  • Click here to download
  • Or search in VsCode marketplace tab

  • After installation, restart VsCode
  • Open your C++ file in Vscode. Here's a basic hello world program below:
#include <iostream>
using namespace std;
int main() 
{
    cout << "Hello world!";
    return 0;
}

Save this file as test.cpp

Run your code using Code Runner

  • Use the shortcut Ctrl+Alt+N
  • Or press F1 and then select/type Run Code
  • Or right-click the Text Editor and then click Run Code in the editor context menu

    The code will run and the output will be shown in the Output Window. Open the output window with `Ctrl+ shortcut.

To stop the running code

  • Use the shortcut Ctrl+Alt+M
  • Or press F1 and then select/type Stop Code Run
  • Or right-click the Output Channel and then click Stop Code Run in the context menu

Hurray, you just successfully set up your C++ environment in VsCode.

Conclusion

Here's a quick hint: By default VsCode output terminal is read-only, If you're running a code that requires user input like:

#include <iostream>
using namespace std;

const double pi = 3.14159; 

void calculate()
{
  double area; 
  double radius;

  cout<<"Enter Radius: "<<endl; 
  cin>>radius;

  area = pi * radius * radius; 

  cout<<"area is: "<<area<<endl;
 }

int main()
{
  calculate(); 
  return 0;
}

you won't be able to type into the terminal, Cannot edit in read-only terminal. To fix this, you need to manually enable read-write.

  • In VsCode, Go to File > Preference > Setting.
  • In the User tab on the left panel, find the extensions section
  • Scroll and find 'Run Code Configuration'
  • Scroll and find a checkbox Run in Terminal (Whether to run code in Integrated Terminal) Check the box.

OR

  • In your setting.json file, add:
"code-runner.runInTerminal": true

Hurray, you're done and ready to roll :).

C++ resources

Here are some C++ resources you can use to get started with learning C++

Credits

Thank you for reading!

Bolaji Ayodeji

Hi, I'm Bolaji Ayodeji, I write technical articles on web and front-end development.

Get notified when I write something cool. 👌
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