Microsoft updates C++ compiler

Visual Studio will be able to support some aspects of C++11

Microsoft is updating its C++ compiler for its Visual Studio 12 IDE (integrated development environment) so that Windows application developers can use parts of the latest version of the programming language, C++11.

Friday afternoon, Herb Sutter, secretary of the ISO/ANSI C++ Standards Committee as well as a Microsoft platform evangelist, announced the release of the new batch compiler during a talk about the future of the language at the Microsoft Build conference, held in Redmond, Washington,

The company has released a compiler CTP (community technology preview) that supports some of the features in the latest C++, including variadic templates, uniform initialization and initializer_lists, delegating constructors, raw string literals, explicit conversion operators and default template arguments for function templates.

The release is the first of what will be a series of "out-of-band" releases, which periodically update the Visual Studio IDE with new features in between major releases, Sutter said. Microsoft will release additional C++ functionality in early 2013 in future out-of-band updates, Sutter said.

The CTP requires Microsoft Visual Studio 12 to run, though it can be run in a free version of the IDE, Desktop Express. Visual Studio 2012 built-in tools, such as Intellisense, debugger and static analysis do not yet support the new C++ features.

"We updated the batch compiler [but] the standard library has not been yet updated, so some of the new features that the standard library could use haven't been lit up yet," Sutter said. "That's just for the CTP. When we ship it, all those features will be in place."

Sutter said that while Microsoft CTPs tend to be pretty stable, it would not be advisable to use the compiler to produce production-ready programs.

As Sutter noted during his talk, there has been a lot of activity around the programming language of late. Microsoft, Intel, Google, IBM and other members of the C++ Committee have formed the Standard C++ Foundation, which will provide educational materials and encourage the correct use of C++ across different compilers.

The standard group has also commenced work on the next generation of the C++ language, C++17, due in 2017.

Developed in Bjarne Stroustrup in 1979, C++ brought object oriented features to the C programming language. It remains one of the most widely used programming languages, and is often used for large scale applications where performance is a critical factor. "We are built on C++, just as the whole industry runs on C and C++," Sutter said, referring to how much of Microsoft's latest operating systems, Windows 8 and Windows RT, was written in C++.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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