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Tips for Learning C++ at University

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Tips for Learning C++ at University

Learning C++ programming from scratch is not easy, and we decided to present some tips that can help you structure the learning process at university.

Start with a syntax

Let’s start with the fact that the C++ language is compiled; that is, the translation of code from a high-level language to machine code instructions occurs not at the time of execution but during the creation of an executable file. Variable declaration in C++ is standard, namely:

/*data type*/ /*identifier*/;

The data type can be anything, be it int, bool, or char, and variables must follow the C/C++ variable naming conventions. The variable name must not:

  • start with a number
  • include characters such as /, :, *, ?, “, <, >, |.

Anything that starts with a # character is called a preprocessor directive in C++. Each such directive is written on a separate line. Let’s say #include <iostream> includes the ability to work with keyboard input and screen output. #include in C++ is the same as an import in Java or Python.

At the same time, in C++, unlike many other programming languages, little is available by default. With the exception of a very basic set, almost everything requires #include. using namespace std includes the std namespace.

Without this line, many standard functions, types, variables, and more would have to be written with the std:: prefix.

In C++, however, a reference is a variable type that acts as an alias for another object or value. In total, the language supports three types of links:

  1. References to non-constant values.
  2. References to constant values.
  3. rvalue references.

If you start learning syntax and face some problems while doing C++ assignments, it is better to get help. A programming expert knows everything about syntax and other topics related to C++.

Study Object Oriented Programming from scratch

C++ programming is subject to the principles of OOP, and if you don’t know about them, we recommend that you study the topic from scratch. Everything is the same as in other OOP languages. But what else is important to know?

  • A constructor is a special class method for initializing class members with some initial values.
  • A destructor is a special class method for destroying class members. Most often, they are used when creating an object of a class, a piece of memory was dynamically allocated in the constructor, and this memory needs to be cleared.

Before continuing your deep dive into C++ development from scratch, learn about operator overloading and function overloading.

Learn operating systems

Binary units in C++ include:

  1. An executable file containing a program that can be executed by a computer.
  2. A static library that consists of subroutines that are compiled and linked with the program.
  3. A dynamic library that consists of subroutines that are loaded into the program during its execution.

The pluses include static, automatic, and dynamic memory allocation. Let’s dwell on the latter in a little more detail.

When you dynamically allocate memory, you are asking the OS to reserve some of that memory for your program to use.

If the operating system can fulfill this request, then the address of that memory is returned back to your program.

From now on, your program will be able to use this memory. When the memory is no longer needed, return it back to the OS for distribution, among other requests.

Unlike static or automatic memory allocation, the program itself is responsible for requesting and returning dynamically allocated memory. We advise you to learn the principles of working with the stack and heap.

Study exceptions and multithreading

In C++, the throw statement signals an exception or error. To use this operator, the throw keyword and the value of any data type that you want to use are written. Typically, this value is an error code, a description of the problem, or a custom exception class.

The search for exceptions is implemented through the try/catch construct, which is standard for most programming languages.

The try block acts as an observer looking for exceptions that were thrown by any of the statements in the same block. catch, in turn, is used to define a block of code that handles exceptions of a particular data type.

Learn frameworks and libraries

This is a much more specific topic. Let’s touch on the most interesting aspects of it.

Boost

It is a set of libraries that extend the functionality of C++. It provides a convenient cross-platform interface.

Boost is still very popular, although much has been integrated into the new C++ standards. Thus, in C++ 20, there are even time zones for which Boost was previously actively used.

OpenCV, ITK, VTK

This is the classic solution for the implementation of computer vision. Even with the use of neural networks, a lot of pre- and post-processing is required. OpenCV, ITK and VTK are the most convenient libraries for these tasks.

Tensorflow and PyTorch

Both tools are frameworks for evaluating neural networks. They can also be used to train neural networks, but this is rare in C++.

It is much easier to train a neural network in a higher-level language (almost Python).

But when you already have a trained neural network, you can write an assessment of the quality of training of the model in C++.

Tensorflow and PyTorch are powerful tools with their own advantages and disadvantages.

PyTorch is becoming popular in R&D fields, while Tensorflow is the only choice for working with many TPUs (Tensor Processing Units such as Google Coral and Jetson Nano).

pybind or pybind11

If you need to bind C++ objects to Python, this is the most popular and easiest way.

Protobuf

It gains popularity. Protobuf is a binary-based serialization engine, so it’s fast and compact. It was proposed by Google as an efficient binary alternative to the XML text format.

MKL and OpenBLAS

When it comes to implementing computationally intensive math algorithms that need to work with a large amount of data, one of these libraries is a must. MKL is the standard for the Windows environment, while OpenBLAS is more popular when an open-source license is required.

Conclusions

This material does not carry a significant educational load but only demonstrates the development path of a C++ developer while simultaneously explaining some of the basics.

Use this roadmap to learn C++ programming from scratch quickly and successfully move to the practical application of the knowledge gained.

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