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Is C++ A Functional Programming Language?

Is C++ A Functional Programming Language

C++ is highly evolved and mature programming language. The C++ language has a great set of choices of modern C++ IDE and compilers all of which come with a lot of tools, GUI components and libraries. 

By using C++, you can create functional programs to solve complex engineering problems, you can simulate and analyze with 2D/3D graphics, create 3D environments, and add your custom 3D objects easily. You can also create things like a video player with few components, you can easily connect most popular known databases with few parameters, easily create REST-ful servers and REST clients, or develop IoT apps. In C++, you can create anything you dream within the limits of your device and its operating system.

In other words, C++ is a very functional language with its modern tools and IDE but all these features listed above don’t make it a Functional Programming Language in the formal computer science sense of the word. But the good news is, C++ is a Functional Programming Language too, let’s see why and how.

What is a functional programming language in C++ ?

In the programming world, functional programming is a software engineering model where programs are constructed by using functions that are composed and applied. In functional programming, functions can be bound to names (i.e., local identifiers), passed as arguments, and parameters returned from other functions. This is a declarative programming model where function definitions are trees of expressions that map values to other values. In other words, a functional programming language allows programs to be written in a declarative and composable way that sub -functions are combined in a modular manner.

Is C++ A Functional Programming Language? A young C++ developer

Functional programming is a programming or calculation model that its history started in the 1930’s with Lambda Calculus by Alonzo Church and continued with Turing Machines and Combinatory Logic.

Functional Programming requires code like mathematical functions where the functions are;

  • Neither dependent upon, nor change anything external to the function.
  • If there is a change in the function it will create a new one rather than changing existing members, everything is Immutable

In the scope of history of C/C++,

  • C language is a procedural and structured language that is still one of the most popular languages,
  • C++ is designed as an Object-Oriented version of evolved C language, C++ is also a Generic language
  • Since 2011 with the C++11 and above standards, C++ is a Functional Programming Language because of a lot of new features.

Is C++ a functional programming language in 2023?

The C Programming Language was developed in the 1970s and since 1970, there have been many programming languages and have been many changes in C language, like C+, C++, CLANG standards C++99, C++11, C++14, and C++17. C++ programming language includes C language and is powered by Object Oriented Programming features like Classes, Objects and Methods. Still, these two powerful languages are very popular, frequently appearing in the top 3 programming language choices – but if we consider its other variations and its usage on microchips and IoTs it is the most used programming language.

There are two types of programming languages: Interpreted and Non-Interpreted (Compiled). All computers work with something called machine code (code that can be directly executed by the computer’s CPU) that tells the computer what to do. This is the most native and fastest code, but it requires writing many lines for even quite simple things and is hard to generalize for all kinds of machines. It’s also not very easy to understand for humans. A Compiler (C or C++ Compiler, etc.) is a computer program that converts a program written in a ‘high level’ programming language such as C++ code into executable machine code. The high-level language looks more like English and is much easier to understand and less complicated.

Such code may not be as fast as assembler code (another name for machine code), but the difference in speed is usually very small because modern compilers are very good at producing the most efficient and optimal conversions of the high level language into the machine’s native instructions. This is one reason why C++ is the fastest and most powerful programming language since the C++ keywords are very closely related to the lower level machine code operations and can translate more precisely than a more abstract language such as Python, BASIC, or Java. Interpreted programming languages like Java and Python run inside executable ‘runtime’ applications which add a further layer of interpretation. This is why they are slower when executing operations as they need to use compiled libraries for faster operations. They mostly use C/C++ compilers to build these runtime libraries. Using an interpreted programming language is like being carried by a runner, while a compiled (non-interpreted) programming language is like running itself. This subtle difference turns into a huge gap when you run the same routine (i.e. for face recognition) millions of times a millisecond.

C++11 was a big step for functional programming, thus since 2011, even in 2023, C++ can be a Functional Programming Language.

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Is C++ 98 a Functional Programming Language?

If you are asking if C++98 is a Functional Programming Language, we can say no.

Most new features to support Functional Programming came after C++11. C++98 was effectively, an Object-Oriented version of the C language.

Is C++ 11 a Functional Programming Language?

C++11 was a big step for functional programming. It comes with the C++11 Standard Library and Threading Library with a lot of new features like Lambda expressions, Automatic type deduction (auto) and decltype, Uniform initialization syntax (mapping etc.), Deleted and defaulted functions, uniform initialization syntax, Rvalue References, New smart pointer classes, new C++ algorithms <algorithm>. Most of these features enable C++ to be a functional programming language. In some examples, typical C++ functions in functional programming: map, filter, and reduce. These are the functions std::transformstd::remove_if, and std::accumulate.

Lambdas are one of the great addition to C++11 and has changed the way we write the code in C++. In general, most programmers argue that modern C++ code should be using lambdas that allows to create in-place anonymous functions and that makes C++ a Functional Programming Language.

Is C++ 14, C++17, or C++20 a Functional Programming Language?

C++ standards that come after C++11 can be called as Functional Programming Languages. These are C++14, C++17, C++20, C++23. Compilers of these standards also support previous features of C and C++ language features. That means, they have functional programming features in addition to an Object-Oriented version of evolved C language, it is Generic language too, and it also holds procedural and structured language features of C language too.

If you use C++ language, there is nothing to limit you!

C++ is mostly used to develop apps and games where pure processing speed and power are important (or even critical). It has a wide range of usages. I can say that “If you are good at C++, and the device that you use” there is no limit. You can develop very professional games, big applications, computational applications, AI related apps, engineering applications, mobile applications for mobile phones, tablets, smart watches, specific applications on IoTs or apps integrating with IoT devices. You can develop modules for other programming languages, for example for the Python language, where it can add a speed boost to what otherwise have been fairly slow in pure Python due to the way it is interpreted rather than fully compiled unlike C++.

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Is Dev – C++ a Functional IDE for the C++ Programming Language ?

Embarcadero Dev-C++ is a new and improved fork (sponsored by Embarcadero) of Bloodshed Dev-C++ and Orwell Dev-C++. It is a full-featured Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and code editor for the C/C++ programming language. It uses Mingw port of GCC (GNU Compiler Collection) as its compiler. Embarcadero Dev-C++ can also be used in combination with Cygwin or any other GCC based compiler. Embarcadero Dev-C++ is built using the latest version of Embarcadero Delphi. Dev-C++ has a low memory footprint because it is a native Windows application and does not use Electron or other frameworks.

Is C++ A Functional Programming Language? A screenshot of the Dev-C++ IDE
Dev-C++ IDE with C++11 and partial C++20 features

Dev-C++ was sponsored and released by Embarcadero with a more recent GCC 9.2.0 compiler with C++11 and partial C++20 support, new high DPI support, UTF8 file support, upgraded icons, dark theme, and additional changes. C++11 feature of Dev-C++ means Dev-C++ has Functional Programming features.

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Is C++ Builder a Functional IDE for the C++ Programming Language?

cbuilder_11_512x5121x-7286189-8695819

C++ Builder uses CLANG standards and supports C, C++11, C++14 and C++17 which means C++ Builder is using C++17 standard that supports Functional Programming Language features like lambdas, and some algorithms. It has functional programming features in addition to Object-Oriented programming features which is evolved from the original C language.

C++ is a powerful programming language with many features that enable you to write almost any app you could ever want. Using a fast and reliable C++ Compiler and IDE is very important for beginners and professionals to develop C++ apps for Windows and other operating systems. When a user wants to develop modern C++ applications, they should learn to use a professional IDE.

C++ Builder CE is the easiest and fastest C & C++ IDE for developing simple or professional applications on different operating systems. It is also easy for beginners to learn with its wide range of samples, tutorials, help files and LSP support. C++ Builder comes with Rapid Application Development Studio, also knowns as RAD Studio, and C++ Builder is one of the most professional IDEs that work under RAD Studio.

Is C++ A Functional Programming Language? - the RAD Studio IDE

C++ Builder IDE has mainly 5 Parts, the Code Editor Window and Form Designer, Projects Window, Palette Window, Structure Window, Object Inspector Window. You can find more , less commonly used windows from the main IDE menu as well as the right-click context menus. All the basic sections can be summarized in this IDE picture;

For example, as an example to Functional Programming, you can use Lambda Expressions as given below,

You can download the free C++ Builder Community Edition here: https://www.embarcadero.com/products/cbuilder/starter.

Professional developers can use the Professional, Architect or Enterprise versions of C++ Builder. Please visit https://www.embarcadero.com/products/cbuilder.

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About author

Dr. Yilmaz Yoru has 33+ years of coding with more than 30+ programming languages, mostly C++ on Windows, Android, Mac-OS, iOS, Linux, and some other operating systems. He was born in 1974, Eskisehir-Turkey, started coding in college and graduated from the department of Mechanical Engineering of Eskisehir Osmangazi University in 1997. He worked as a research assistant at the same university for more than 10 years. He received his MSc and PhD degrees from the same department at the same university. Since 2012, he is the founder and CEO of Esenja LLC Company. He has married and he is a father of a son. Some of his interests are Programming, Thermodynamics, Fluid Mechanics, Artificial Intelligence, 2D & 3D Designs, and high-end innovations.
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