This lesson will teach you how to write your first simple C++ program that can display text and perform simple calculations.
We finished the previous lesson with the following code:
std::cout << "Hello, World!";
It displays the "Hello, World" text in the console.
The main function
All C++ programs have a core function usually called main. There are a few variants, we will be using the simpler one that looks like this:
The first line starts the function definition. It consists of a return type
int, the name
main, and its parameters inside the
() (none in our case).
While most of these terms aren't important now, all that you should pay attention to is the name
main. It will always look like this,
int main(). Your program must always contain the
main function specified in this format.
The computer runs the program line by line. When the program is run the first line inside
main is executed, then the second one and so on.
It’s important for the program to know where
main starts and ends. We use code blocks for this.
A code block in C++, is a set of instructions contained inside curly braces:
Everything between the curly braces counts as inside the code block and everything else is outside of it.
main function has a block of code, and everything between its curly braces will be executed top to bottom.
The content of the
main function is always the first code run by the program.
iostream header file
At the very beginning of the code there is a line:
This allows us to use the standard input and output tools provided by C++. The name
iostream is short for input/output stream.
In practice this will let the us output text that the user can see and take input text to change what the program does.
iostream is a header file, we will talk more about them and
#include in near future.
In most cases we put
#include <header_file> at the beginning of the file.
We'll tell more about
#include itself in the future. Enough for the moment.
iostream is a header file we will talk more about them and #include in the next chapter
The "console" or "terminal" is the most basic form of communication for a program. It allows for a simple, two-way text interface between the program and the user. You're going to become very familiar with this tool, as you will be using it every step of the way on your journey to becoming an expert programmer.
Below are some examples of running the same codein multiple environments. While not every terminal is the same, they will look very similar by only displaying simple text with little to no color.
As you can see many code editors like Visual Studio, VS Code, Replit.com, CLion, Vim, etc., have a console built-in into them.
Printing text to the console
To display text in the console we used the following statement inside the
std::cout << "Hello, World!";
cout stands for a character output. It is used to send text to the console.
We will mention the
std:: prefix in a minute.
For those who are curious 😉
cout is a so-called character output stream that writes the content to a standard output, which in this case is your console,
but you don't need to remember that for the moment.
If we copy this line a couple of times
std::cout << "Hello, World!1";
std::cout << "Hello, World!2";
std::cout << "Hello, World!3";
our output changes to this:
Hello, World!1Hello, World!2Hello, World!3
A semicolon (
;) separates instructions. The compiler doesn't care about instructions being written on separate lines.
The semicolon is treated as the end of the statement. For this reason, such code as below is acceptable but very illegible.
std::cout << "Hello, World!1"; std::cout << "Hello, World!2"; std::cout << "Hello, World!3";
Do not write code like this!
Presentation of the above-created program:
Note that the text was written to the console without any spaces, in a single line, and wrapped when it reached the end of the available space.
The program does exactly what it says in the code - no more, no less.
We told it that it should display the given characters... and it does.
We have to explicitly "break" the line in the right place. This will cause the following characters
to be displayed from the very beginning of the next line. To do this,
we put a special newline character inside the text:
\n, like this:
std::cout << "Hello, World!\n";
Note that we used the backslash (
\n), and not the forward slash (
This is how the program is being executed when we add newline characters:
\n sequence represents a single character for the program.
More on that later.
Prefix of the standard namespace
std:: is the prefix of the standard library namespace from which
Beginners often find typing
std:: to be unwieldy. It can be omitted if we give the appropriate line of code beforehand:
cout << "Hello, World!";
After the line that contains
using std::cout;, the
std:: prefix is no longer needed to use
It lasts until the end of the current code block (the
main function in this case).
In many other online tutorials and sources, it is extremely common to find usage of
using namespace std;
at the top of your file. While this is legal code in C++, it is strongly discouraged by nearly all experienced C++ programmers.
We will cover reasons for this later. For the time being, prefer the
using std::cout; approach we mentioned before.
Programming is used to automate certain activities. For example, we can have a computer do math for us:
std::cout << "120 * 120 + 540";
120 * 120 + 540
Pay attention to the result of the above program!
Everything in quotation marks is treated as text, not instructions.
Therefore, instead of displaying the result of the calculation, we got what we entered in the quotation marks. To say that we want to perform some calculation, we need to remove the quotes:
std::cout << 120 * 120 + 540;
After starting the program, we will get the correct result of the calculation in the code.
+adds two numbers together
-subtracts two numbers from each other
*multiplies two numbers by itself
/divides two numbers by itself
()parentheses order operations
C++ adheres to the "PEMDAS" order you may have learned in school.
- First Parentheses
- Then Multiplication/Division from left to right
- Finally Addition/Subtraction from left to right
You've learned about the structure of the first program's code.
For exercises visit this page.