C++ sucks less than you think it does

C++ seems to be the quickest language to get a knee-jerk “it sucks!” reaction out of people. The common reasons they list:

C++ is a very powerful, very complex language. Being a multi-paradigm (procedural-, functional-, object-oriented–, and meta-programming) language that implores the coder to always use the best tool for the job, C++ forces you to think differently than other popular languages and will take the average coder years of working with it before they start to get truly good at it.

C++ does have its flaws. Some are fixable, some aren’t. Most of what is fixable is being addressed in a new standard due some time next year (2009).

Its biggest problem is that newcomers tend to only see its complexity and syntax, not its power. The primary reason for this is education. In introductory and advanced courses, students are taught an underwhelming amount of templates without any of the useful practices that can make them so epically powerful. Use of the interesting parts of the standard library, such as iterators and functional programming, are put aside in favor of object-oriented design and basic data structures which, while useful, is only a small part of what C++ is about. RAII, an easy zero-cost design pattern that makes resource leaks almost impossible, is virtually untaught.

C++ does tend to produce larger executables. This is a trade off – do you want smaller executables or faster code? Whereas in C you might use callbacks for something (as shown by the qsort and bsearch functions in the standard library) and produce less code, in C++ everything is specialized with a template that gives improved performance. This follows C++’s “don’t pay for what you don’t use” philosophy.

Don’t get me wrong, C++ is not the right tool for all jobs. But among all the languages I have used, C++ stands out from the crowd as one that is almost never a bad choice, and a lot of times is the best choice. It might take longer to get good at than most other languages, but once you’ve got it down its power is hard to match.

Posted on January 10, 2008 in C++, Coding, RAII

Related Posts