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Once you choose a language for your software project, you’re pretty tied to it unless you perform a major overhaul to your software at some point down the line—something you don’t want to have to do. That’s why choosing the right language is imperative to your success. You’ve probably done a little research into the right language, but it’s difficult for someone without software development expertise to determine which one is right.

Here’s a look at Java vs. C++, two of the most popular general purpose programming languages. A software developer can help you best decide between the two based on your project, but here are some basics to help you make the right decision.

The Basics

Both Java and C++ have been in production for years. They both have similar syntax, and they both power some of the biggest enterprise platforms on the market. As a matter of fact, most C++ programmers will tell you that converting to a Java project is easy for them since style and syntax are very similar.

Even with the similarities, however, the two languages are worlds apart. Java is an interpreted language—”write once, run anywhere”—while C++ is a compiled language. This dissimilarity will play a huge role in your future project.

Both of these programs can power a wide variety of applications. Java is the foundation program for Android applications, so it’s the general choice for mobile developers. C++ is a low level language used to power hardware and low-level programs such as device drivers and network analysis tools. Because they both can perform similar functionality, it can be difficult for a client to determine the right platform.

C vs. Java: Major Similarities

C++ and Java have a few similarities. These similarities are more relevant to a developer using the language than a client looking for a developer. You should generally look for a developer who excels in his language of choice, but the similarities between languages are useful should you find a developer you like to work with and need to edit code in a different language.

  • Syntax: Looping structures, classes, defining variables, and conditional operators are very similar in both languages. This makes it easy for developers to work cross-platform should you have several projects that use both languages.
  • Entry points: When your program starts, the compiler or interpreter looks for where it needs to begin execution. Both Java and C++ look for the “main” entry point.
  • Object-oriented: The idea of object orientation is that the languages use classes that represent components of your program. Each class then contains methods and properties that define it. Both C++ and Java are object-oriented languages, which makes your program much more modular so you can reuse code for other programs.

C and Java Differences

A common misconception is that if a language is similar to another, then it must be similar in functionality. While Java and C++ are similar in syntax, they are far more dissimilar in the way they execute and process.

  • Interpreted vs. compiled: Java is an interpreted language, which means it is “translated” to binary at the time of execution. This allows it to run on any operating system regardless of where it was written. C++ is a compiled language, which means your program is compiled on a specific operating system and runs only on that particular operating system. If you want it compatible with another operating system, you must compile your program on it.
  • Memory safe: Java is a memory-safe language, which means if you attempt to assign values outside of the given array parameters, the programmer receives an error. C++ is much more flexible, but this comes at a price. C++ will allow the programmer to assign values outside of the allocated memory resources, but this can later cause bugs and serious crashes during run-time.
  • Performance: Java is a favorite among developers, but because the code must first be interpreted during run-time, it’s also slower. C++ is compiled to binaries, so it runs immediately and therefore faster than Java programs.
  • Pointers: Pointers are a C++ construct that allows you to manage values directly in memory spaces. Java does not support pointers, so you are only able to pass values using value references.
  • Overloading: Overloading is a concept that “redefines” the functionality of a method or operator. Java allows method overloading while C++ allows you to overload operators.

Which One is Right for Your Project?

Both Java and C++ can be used to create a wide variety of programs. However, the language you use is determined by what you want developed.

C++ is generally reserved for software that needs “hardware-level” manipulation. One difference between C++ and Java is that C++ is closest to machine language, which makes it much more viable for software that needs to run quickly and requires the ability to work directly with your computer’s memory, hard drive, CPU or other devices. C++ is also common with gaming applications where speed is necessary.

You can manipulate hardware with Java, but it’s not a common language for low-level programming since it’s a “safer” language. Because Java won’t allow you to perform certain functions to protect the PC, it’s preferred for higher level applications.

Java is the foundation for Android development, so if you want a mobile application specifically for Android, then Java will be your language of choice. Java is also common for web and desktop apps as well as applications that run on servers. Java is more widely known and versatile, so it’s also easier to find a Java developer than a “harder” language such as C++.

Overall, C++ can be used for almost anything but it’s not always necessary to use it. Java is usually sufficient and can be much more effective for your project. You can find more developers who know Java, and you’ll be able to find more developers to pick up where your former developer left off if you part ways.

The best way to make a firm decision is to post your project and ask developers for their opinions. They can tell you which language is right for your project to help guide you to the right solution.

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