What is the best C++ IDE or editor for using on Windows? I use Notepad++, but am missing IntelliSense from Visual Studio.

+126  A: 

Um, that's because Visual Studio is the best IDE. Come back to the darkside.

as much as i dislike microsoft, i still cannot do without VS. god, i am so on the dark side.
Indeed. It is popular to dislike Microsoft and their products, however it is commonly agreed among the same programmers and tech-savvy folks who bash MS that Visual Studio and its counterparts are great software and wonderful to work with.
... especially if you use ViEmu with it!
more proof that StackOverflow has M$ bias
@Yada, nah just C# bias, but we're fixing that
Matt Joiner
The intellisense is easily broken when dealing with templates, even in the VS 2010 (which is already much better than previous version). And there is no refactoring support, even for just rename?
VS is a relatively significant reason to write C# instead of Java.
Dean J
Um, and you can still use makefiles and gcc instead of MSVC and just use Visual Studio for text editing ;-) See
Johannes Rudolph
This is why community wiki's shouldn't be allowed answers - this is obviously the overwhelmingly prevailing opinion, yet it's not at top...
BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft
Right. You forget to mention that Visual Studio 2010 has **no IntelliSense**, which largely defeats the point.
Dmitri Nesteruk
@Dmitri o it has no intellisense. Wow, somebody tell MS. Guess they're going to have to redo all their promotional material and give all the c++ devs their money back.
@Will actually, MS stated in advance that they won't do IntelliSense for the RTM release of VS2010. This problem is already on Connect and has been discussed by, like, a thousand people.
Dmitri Nesteruk
@Dmitri "no IntellisSense?" Really. You mean "no intellisense for any C++ project" or "no intellisense for c++/cli?" OP didn't say anything about c++/cli. Question was about c++ solely.
@Dean J, VS is missing so many features that have been in Eclipse and other Java IDEs for years. It's ridiculous.
Kaleb Brasee
@Kaleb I'd be interested to hear one or two...
@Kaleb Brasee; for the features I've used, VS does it better. It's incredibly subjective, I know, but VS just feels better to me.
Dean J
+19  A: 

I've found the latest release of NetBeans, which includes C/C++ support, to be excellent.

Ben Hoffstein
I use Netbeans for C++ development under Windows and I like it. The developers are pretty responsive when you file bug reports (I did a few).
+1  A: 

vi or gvim if you don't like terminals.

Emacs would like to question you regarding this answer. ;-)
Paul Nathan
Vi is not really an IDE though.
+11  A: 

There are the free "Express" versions of Visual Studio. Given that you like Visual Studio and that the "Express" editions are free, there is no reason to use any other editor.

There are plenty of reasons, for example, the express edition's stubborn refusal to integrate with any kind of SCM. That being said, VSExpress is still solid and I'm starting to use it more.
And you can't use plugins with it.
I'm not terribly thrilled by VS's SCM integration nor bothered by its lack from VSExpress - I mean how hard is it to use TortoiseHg/TortoiseSvn outside of the IDE?
Eamon Nerbonne

I have used Netbeans for java, and it works great. Not sure how it works with C++, though.

+8  A: 

I vote for Visual Studio, but it seems that C++ is treated like second class citizen (not the compiler and stuff but IDE support) compared to .NET languages like C#, but hopefully MS will do something about it by the next version of Visual Studio (new standard is coming and they promised that 10 should be new 6).

Mladen Jankovic
I wouldn't get my hopes up...
You can try the 2010 beta now I think.
Herb Sutter seems to think that the new 2010 will be the bees knees.
+2  A: 

SlickEdit is very cool, and does support something like intellisense. At my current company I now use Visual Studio, and I've mostly gotten used to it - but there are still some SlickEdit features I miss.

Brian Stewart
Carl Smotricz
+15  A: 

The Eclipse CDT works well for me. It supports MinGW and Cygwin as targets. It also integrates well with CVS and Subversion.

The latest build, Ganymede, is available here.

What I still don't understand is that such an industry focussed product does not support the leading Win32 compiler suite namely Visual C++. That's just embarrasing...
I've found Eclipse CDT is dog slow, to the point of being unusable. Your mileage may vary.
+4  A: 

There are some features in an IDE that are so transformative that you don't know how you lived without them. Integrated help was one. IntelliSense-like functionality was another. VS 6.0's Debug and Continue was absolutely killer. Visual Studio kicked butt for quite a while. Not bad, given the awful NeXTstep rip-off it all started as. (Or is it that memories of NeXTstep has faded until VS seems okay?)

Sure, there are much better EDITORS that VS, but as a complete package for Win32 development nothing seems to come close.

There are free Express editions now, but they seem pretty crippled.

I am quite enjoying Eclipse under Linux (and derivatives of it on Windows used in some FPGA vendor toolchains). I -really- don't like the lack of integrated MSDN-style help, though.

I think it's basically down to those two choices.

Eclipse JDT has a few killer features too, which will probably never make it to C++-environments, such as "drop-to-frame" (reset machine state to a given frame on the stack). Not to speak about the superior refactoring-support.
How'd this end up as the one entry with a negative total? It seems a lot more informative than most.
+7  A: 

I prefer to use Microsoft Visual C++ express on windows. Though the 2008 ide is fine, the 2005 express has better support for many of the open projects which you might want to participate in. It's a pain to compile Firefox or a half life 2 mod on 2008. Also as a general tip when looking for software, I like to search wikipedia for "comparison of " In this case you would search comparison of Integrated Development Environments.

Hope that was helpful.


Dev-C++ is a complete stand alone debugger compiler and linker, and also offers "IntelliSense". If you want to break away from VS (that also includes VS express) i suggest using this tool.

Roman M
DEV-C++ is decent, but it hasn't been updated in years...
+3  A: 

As a complete all-in one package, Visual Studio 2008 is the best IDE for C++ development with Windows

+1 for answering the question and to offset the -1.
+6  A: 

I think the debugger in Visual Studio (Express) is the killer thing that prevents me from using another IDE.

Chris Mayer
+24  A: 

I personally like Visual Studio combined with a third party add-in such as Visual Assist ( I've tried a few of the others and always ended up back with Visual Studio. Plus, Visual Studio is a widely used product in development industries, so having experience using it can only be a plus.

Stephen Edmonds
+1 for Visual Assist: it makes Intellisense usable!
+6  A: 

VIsual studio is by far the best IDE but you can also take a look at Code::Blocks


I would recommend C++Builder, from Embarcadero, for C++ work and there is also a free version available. If you prefer Visual Studio, download one of free express editions.

+2  A: 

Emacs. Xemacs works fine under Windows. For using it as an IDE, I recommend running it under Cygwin.

Brian Carlton
Instead of Xemacs, use the new GTK+-based emacs:
+1  A: 

Visual studio is the most up to date and probably "best" free ide. Dev C++ is a little dated, and mingw doesn't compile most of boost, (except regex). Most of the other compilers are dated and fading, like mars and borland. But you can use whatever you like!

dev-cpp includes an ancient version of MinGW, has nothing to do with the IDE itself.
Dev C++ was last updated in 2005 last time I checked. If you like MinGW try Code::Blocks
+1  A: 

Visual studio is great, but there are few tricks you can enhance it with. SonicFileFinder is one - helps you to search source files by partial match. You can map solution-tree to Alt+1, partial filename search to alt+2, and properties-window to alt+3. These are the three most used windows.

Another great tool that is ofter misunderstood is ctrl+shift+F shortcut for searching file contents. People dont use because it's so slow, but my advice is - deal with it. Searching the whole solution (or even all files in project folder) is only slow the first time you use it. Consequitive searches are as fast as jump-to-definition-feature.

+1  A: 

I've tried SlickEdit, Notepad++, emacs, jEdit and Visual Studio. VS wins hands-down for Best Windows IDE.

jEdit is probably the best GUI cross-platform editor/almost-IDE, and emacs is probably the best terminal cross-platform editor/almost-IDE. The advantage with using these is that when you jump to a Mac or Linux box, you know how they work.

I tried Eclipse, but it ran like a no-legged dog it was so slow, so I didn't use it much. Maybe tech is better now, but eh.

Paul Nathan

Personally, I have found bloodshed's dev-c++ to be very good. However, I do not recall an update in a very long time. I have, because of this, switched over to netbeans for everything.

Dev-C++: bloodshed DOT net slash devcpp.html

Nathan Lawrence
+4  A: 

Visual Studio + Visual Assist X (

Yes excellent solution !
+5  A: 

If you are interested in doing Qt development, then Qt Creator works fine and is free.

This is even a very good option when doing non-Qt development. I use QtCreator all the time. It has everything: project management (qmake/cmake), version control (svn, cvs, git), "intellisense", debugger integration (although I've never used it, people say it is not as good as VS, which I have to believe ;) ).
+2  A: 

One that hasn't been mentioned is CodeLite, a powerful open-source, cross platform IDE. It has code completion amongst other features.

Rob Kam
Probably my favorite C++ ide.
+1  A: 

With Intellisense, code folding, edit and continue, and a whole host of other features, Visual Studio is certainly the best IDE. However, for simple code editing, I often use UltraEdit. It has some great features not found in Visual Studio. One surprisingly useful feature is being able to select a column in the editor. You can find and replace within the column (useful for tabs vs. spaces wars...) delete the column, etc...

+1  A: 

Here's another vote for Visual Studio. The debugger and Intellisense are definitely it's hallmarks. While other IDE's offer code-completion, I've often found them to be somewhat sluggish in this area for some reason (sluggish being a reference to the speed at which code-completion occurs and offers selections).

Other than VS, NetBeans is a good polished IDE and is updated on a very regular cycle.

Lloyd McFarlin
+1  A: 

I will quote myself from this question:

Someone already said this before me, but QtCreator is really good for Qt4 development.

Not only it has a really good code completion support. It also knows a little more about the code and what to complete then I thought I needed. For example it knows about slots/signals. This means that connecting slots/signals via code is much easier then before.

The code editing is really nice. I remember that when refactoring code, (a few variables starting with underscore) it remembered the cursor position between lines and this made the refactoring much easier. The code indentation is smart enough to not get in my way (KDevelop was configurable, but QtCreator learns how I code. At least it feels like it does).

Then there are the cool key combinations. Most of the functionality of the IDE can be accessed using shortcuts. The "control+k" thingie is a nice thing, which some command line users would like, but I am more GUI oriented. I don't use it.

What I really like, is the split window command. Yes, KDevelop3 does it, but not as nice as QtCreator. My favorite is control+e,3 which I use to display the header and implementations of my classes. Once again, the navigation here is the best I have seen (control+e,o).

It also has a nice SCM integration. I usually use SVN, and quite frankly it's not as good as I need: no shortcut to diff the project, no diff to commit the whole project, no option to commit several files.

I also don't like the "total integration of external tools". I still like the external QtAssistant - control+tab is easier to read large articles. But.... when you define a QString s, and 3 lines bellow you want to read the interface of QString, you put your cursor on "s" and press F1 - the assistant comes as a sidebar with QString's documentation. A huge advantage.

Want to follow a definition? F2 to the help. F4? Changes header/implementation (yes, eclipse does this better...).

The debugger is good. It's not as good as VisualStudio but ... it has support for Qt4 internals (you can see the value of QString and QList!).

I can continue... but IMHO you will need to give it a second and third try. It really is a good product. Not as flexible as Eclipse (hi ryansstack), but it's a really small, fast and young project. I stopped developing QDevelop because I really found what I was looking for.

ps: yes, I mean stopped developing QDevelop. I was in the development team.

My response is for Qt4 development only. Be warned.

+1  A: 

I think it's largely a matter of taste, but I would recommend begginers to stick to a pure editor (vi, emacs...) instead of a full fledged IDE so they can figure out the whole toolchain that modern IDEs hide.

Just for the record, my weapon of choice is Emacs.


notepad++ or codeblocks for large projects

+1  A: 

personally i dont like microsoft......I hate to admit that visual studio is the best IDE i ever use.....Netbeans is gud but drasticaly slow....other free IDEs are useless.. so people try to stick with VS....

+1  A: 

M$ VS2008 is a better IDE for this.


I think the anwser to this question depends on following question: Do you want to develop cross-platform applications ?
If the anwser to this question is a clear YES, than you should start right away with some IDE that support cross-platform compilers like gcc/mingw.

Personally ive tried CodeBlocks and QtCreator beside VS... If developing cross-platform software using Qt, surely QtCreator is the best choice. Since QtCreator is still a quite new IDE, it still has some bugs... for example it's "intelli-sense" doesnt support namespace aliaces yet.. but i think it will evolve pretty fast, to a very good and complete IDE.
Codeblocks is a quite "small" IDE, but has everything an IDE needs. Still its "Intelli-Sense" (especially when dealing with meta-programming stuff like boost), and debugger is less powerful than VS's.


QT and NetBeans are the best cpp IDE's that I've ever used.

Ivelin Zhekov

My favorite IDE was good old msdev.exe, a.k.a., Microsoft Development Studio, a.k.a., Microsoft Visual C++ 6. It was the last version of Visual C++ that didn't require me to get new hardware just to run it.

However, the compiler wasn't standard-compliant. Not even remotely.

Eduardo León

Visual Studio BUT...

Go get ReSharper plugin from I'm a Java developer who uses IntelliJ and ReSharper gives a lot of the IntelliJ functionality to Visual Studio.


Hi guys, Dev C++ is also a nice IDE. It's not so user friendly, but it's usefull.

Sergiu Vazdautan

It looks like you did not mention Ultimate++ iDE. It is quite fast. It is not perfect as Visual Studio but it has several useful features such as function list, it shows which function you are in,searches, multiple releases, package system, a gui designer a faster container library. Code completion...


The question says specifically IDE so I am guessing thats what you want. In that case, the main options are Visual Studio and Eclipse CDT as stated above. Of those, I personally prefer Eclipse. However, don't necessarily limit yourself to an IDE. I prefer to use vim as my editor and WinDbg as my debugger. For compilation, your project will probably dictate this. I currently use NMAke on the command line.


I'm a bit surprised because nobody has mentioned Codeblocks: I think it is probably one of the best IDE's for C++. It is specially useful if you do multiplatform programming, since it is available for Linux, Mac and Windows, and it uses the same project files for all versions. It works perfectly with mingw, allowing you to even perform cross-compiling. It also directly supports wxWidgets visual development.