Share via

Getting Started with C++ in Visual Studio


This article applies to Visual Studio 2015. If you're looking for the latest Visual Studio documentation, see Visual Studio documentation. We recommend upgrading to the latest version of Visual Studio. Download it here

By completing this walkthrough, you’ll become familiar with many of the tools and dialog boxes that you can use when you develop applications with Visual Studio. You’ll create a simple "Hello, World"-style application while you learn more about working in the integrated development environment (IDE).

This topic contains the following sections:

Sign In to Visual Studio

Create a simple application

Add Code to the Application

Debug and Test the application

Build a release version of the app

Sign In to Visual Studio

When you start Visual Studio for the first time, you are given the chance to sign in using a Microsoft account such as Live or Outlook. Signing in allows your settings to be synchronized across all your devices. For more information, see Signing in to Visual Studio

Figure 1: Visual Studio IDE

IDE with Visual C++ settings applied

After you open Visual Studio, you can see the three basic parts of the IDE: tool windows, menus and toolbars, and the main window space. Tool windows are docked on the left and right sides of the app window, with Quick Launch, the menu bar, and the standard toolbar at the top. The center of the application window contains the Start Page. When you open a solution or project, editors and designers appear in this space. When you develop an application, you’ll spend most of your time in this central area.

Create a simple application

When you create an app in Visual Studio, you first create a project and a solution. For this example, you’ll create a Windows console application.

To create a console app

  1. On the menu bar, choose File, New, Project.

    On the menu bar, choose File, New, Project

  2. In the Visual C++ category, choose the Win32 Console Application template, and then name the project GreetingsConsoleApp.

    Win32 Console application template

  3. When the Win32 Application Wizard appears, choose the Finish button.

    Win32 Console application wizard

    The GreetingsConsoleApp project and solution, with the basic files for a Win32 console app, are created and automatically loaded into Solution Explorer. The GreetingsConsoleApp.cpp file is opened in the code editor. The following items appear in Solution Explorer:

    Figure 4: Project items

    Files for the solution in Solution Explorer

Add Code to the Application

Next, you'll add code to display the word "Hello" in the console window.

To display “Hello” in the console window

  1. In the GreetingsConsoleApp.cpp file, enter a blank line before the line return 0; and then enter the following code:

    cout << "Hello\n";

    A red squiggly line appears under cout. An error message appears if you point to it.

    Error text for cout

    The error message also appears in the Error List window. You can display the window by, on the menu bar, choosing View, Error List.

    cout is included in the <iostream> header file.

  2. To include the iostream header, enter the following code after #include "stdafx.h":

    #include \<iostream\>
    using namespace std;

    You probably noticed that a box appeared as you entered code, providing suggestions for the characters that you entered. This box is part of C++ IntelliSense, which provides coding prompts, including listing class or interface members and parameter information. You can also use code snippets, which are pre-defined blocks of code. For more information, see Using IntelliSense and Code Snippets.

    The red squiggly line under cout disappears when you fix the error.

  3. Save the changes to the file.

    Code that fixes cout error

Debug and Test the application

You can debug GreetingsConsoleApp to see whether the word "Hello" appears in the console window.

To debug the application

  • Start the debugger.

    Start Debugging command on the Debug menu

    The debugger starts and runs the code. The console window (a separate window that looks like a command prompt) appears for a few seconds but closes quickly when the debugger stops running. To see the text, you need to set a breakpoint to stop program execution.

To add a breakpoint

  1. Add a breakpoint from the menu bar at the line return 0;. You can also just click in the left margin to set a breakpoint.

    Toggle Breakpoint command on the Debug menu

    A red circle appears next to the line of code in the far left margin of the editor window.

  2. Choose the F5 key to start debugging.

    The debugger starts, and a console window appears showing the word Hello.

    Hello text in the Windows Command Prompt window

  3. Press SHIFT + F5 to stop debugging.

    For more information, see Console Projects.

Build a release version of the app

Now that you’ve verified that everything works, you can prepare a release build of the application.

To clean the solution files and build a release version

  1. From the menu bar, delete intermediate files and output files that were created during previous builds.

    The Clean Solution command on the Build menu

  2. Change the build configuration for GreetingsConsoleApp from Debug to Release.

    Build a release version of the application

  3. Build the solution.

    Build Solution command on the Build menu

    Congratulations on completing this walkthrough! If you want to explore more examples, see Visual Studio Samples.

See Also

Walkthrough: Create a Simple Application Productivity Tips Visual Studio Samples Get Started Developing with Visual Studio