Many competing programming languages are fighting for prominence in the dynamic field of software engineering. Direct comparisons between languages can be difficult and inconclusive because they all employ distinct paradigms and have their own unique sets of strengths and downsides.

In other cases, however, when two languages share a similar syntax or a comparable area of concentration, it is useful to compare them. This article compares and contrasts two popular programming languages, C++ and C#.

C# and C++: A Short Overview

Bjarne Stroustrup, a Danish computer scientist, sought to employ Simula, the first object-oriented programming language, in his dissertation research in the 1970s. However, Stroustrup found that Simula was too sluggish, so he switched to C, the fastest language available.

Stroustrup’s exposure to Simula inspired him to create C++, an object-oriented variant of C. The language was released to the public in 1985.

Since he wanted widespread use of C++, he consciously decided to make it “as close to C as possible, but not closer.” Many of the best C programmers could transition to C++ by building upon their previous skills, as all C libraries were made immediately available.

Unfortunately, C++’s inherent closeness to C was also one of its weaknesses; like C, it had a high learning curve and was difficult to grasp, making programming difficult for unskilled developers.

That was a major impetus for Sun Microsystems to develop Java in the mid-1990s. Java shared some syntax with C++, but its streamlined language structures made it easier to avoid making mistakes. James Gosling and the Java team could do this by no longer maintaining C compatibility.

After Java’s introduction in 1998, Microsoft launched C# as an alternative in 2002. C# is an alternative to Java with a similar syntax but greater capabilities. Since their first releases, both C# and C++ have undergone extensive development.

Contradictions in Object-Oriented Languages

Most programming languages were procedure-oriented before C++ came along.

A program written in a procedural programming language is broken down into smaller modules called procedures. Every method represents a standardized operation employed (called from) by a more substantial whole.

A key feature of object-oriented programming languages is the code organization into modules based on the objects they manipulate. An object is a data storage mechanism as a logical entity with its own state.

In contrast to C++, which can contain both procedural and object-oriented code, C# is a pure object-oriented language.


Distinctions between C# and C++

Each is an object-oriented language of the C programming language. In addition, C# is founded on C++; hence the two are quite similar. A glance at the code may fool someone unfamiliar with either language into thinking it’s the other.

Both languages share characteristics of object-oriented languages, such as:

Encapsulation. Classes are logical containers for related pieces of code.

Hide data. Private data and code can only be accessible from inside the same class in which they are defined.

Inheritance. Code duplication may be reduced by having derived classes inherited from a common base class that contains all of the shared functionality.

Polymorphism. The code can modify an object of the base class, while objects of the derived classes have distinct responses.

Key Distinctions Between C# and C++

Some of C++’s most potent features confuse new users and can lead to bugs in the code. These capabilities were excluded on purpose from Java and later C#:

We see several instances of inheritance in this family. A derived class can inherit multiple base classes. C#, instead, has base classes that aren’t implemented. Interfaces are the C# term for these types of classes.

Pointers. C# supports the use of pointers, but any code that uses them must be tagged as “unsafe.” This is strongly discouraged and should be replaced with a reference.

Precision diminishes. In C#, you can’t resort to imprecise implicit type conversion. Explicit conversion is necessary if accuracy is likely to be lost.


Memory Management

Memory management is where C# and C++ diverge the most.

In C, the malloc function allocates memory that cannot be predicted in advance, and the free function frees up that memory. Manual memory management was demanded of programmers. Therefore, memory leaks were prevalent among C programming mistakes.

As a result, C++ has better memory management and can do some memory management tasks automatically. “Smart pointers” are objects used to avoid the need for manual memory deallocation by the programmer. While smart pointers are usually adequate to avoid memory leaks, there are certain circumstances (circular references) when they fall short.

Using a garbage collector (GC), C# automatically frees up RAM that is no longer being utilized. However, despite appearances, GC might make it hard to free up an object’s resources when holding onto something other than just memory (e.g., file handles or TCP connections). In such a scenario, a “resource leak” can occur, and the programmer will need to take the extra step of explicitly releasing the associated object’s hold on the leaked resources. In some exceptional cases, the non-deterministic nature of object destruction in C# makes deallocation more difficult than in C++.

Differences Between Binary and Bytecode Compilation

When you build C++, the machine-readable code is generated instantly. .NET takes the compiled C# bytecode and converts it to machine binaries. Formerly known as “.NET Core,” Microsoft’s.NET framework is a cutting-edge, platform-agnostic update to the original.NET.

Despite C++’s efficiency advantage in these alternative compilation strategies, C# offers a strong ” reflection ” feature that enables object creation and method invocation using the information collected at run time. As an illustration, it’s possible to invoke a method by name even if it wasn’t there at build time. Since C++ is instantaneously compiled, it can’t support reflection. Instead, C++ makes use of runtime type information (RTTI). Because it is limited to types containing virtual functions, this feature has significantly less utility.

Templates in C++ take the form of code that compiles automatically based on the data types of the variables. C# uses generics in place of templates. Unlike types, generics are resolved at runtime rather than compile time. Consequently, templates are quicker than generics. On the other hand, Generics saves you from allocating separate storage for each variable you introduce.


Which Is Better: C# or C++?

C++ is the fastest and uses the least memory compared to other languages. If a competent C# library exists but not a corresponding C++ library, then the C# solution may be quicker in the long run, while the C++ implementation may be slower.

In general, C# speeds up the development process. Using the simpler, less error-prone language makes sense if the program isn’t doing anything essential in real-time.

After Microsoft started pushing for open-source.NET implementations, C++ was no longer the go-to language for anything other than a Windows environment. C# is the language of choice to simplify portability since the same bytecode may execute on nearly any platform.

Libraries that require support for remote function calling or other features requiring code generation utilizing information accessible at run-time are best written in C# because of reflection.

Although both languages offer modular design, C++’s implementation is more difficult to maintain due to its reliance on C-style headers. As a result, C++ compilation often takes much longer than C# to bytecode conversion.

For this reason, it is easier for C++ programmers to transition to C# than for C# programmers to switch to C++. It is conceivable to combine C++ and C#, but only if your team has both types of programmers working on the project.


Selecting The Appropriate Language

Whenever you care about speed, C++ is the language to choose. High-performance code is what is meant here. You may not need to worry too much about your code’s performance if you’re using publicly available libraries for time-sensitive activities.

The time required for development is important, even if performance is not crucial. C# development is the way to go if you’re starting from scratch.

If you have some wiggle room in terms of development time, but performance is less of a concern, it comes down to developer preference. Consider how the level of fluency in your developers might affect the ease with which they maintain code in the future. Think about your team’s preferred language wherever feasible.