Microsoft Visual C++ .NET 2003 Tutorial


This short tutorial is intended to lead the reader through the  basics of writing, compiling, linking and running simple console C++ programs using Microsoft Visual C++ .NET. 2003 / 2005

Creating a Microsoft Visual C++ .NET Project

Microsoft Visual C++ .NET needs a project folder in order to store most of the data related to the compilation and linking (object files, executables, resources, ...). Therefore, the first thing you will want to do is create a project, even if your source code is extremely simple. Here is how you will create your project:

-         After having started Microsoft Visual C++ .NET, Open the "File" menu, and Hover over "New", then select "Project..." (You can also press the key combination Control + Shift + N instead) to bring up the "New Project" setup window, which is used by Microsoft Visual C++ .NET to launch all the Wizards dedicated to the creation of new projects.

-         Since we are experimenting on console C++ programs, select "Win32 Console Application" from the list. You might of course try the other types of projects, once you are done with this tutorial, but it would be outside of our scope to describe them all.

-         Give a meaningful name to your project, then browse to the hard disk location you want it to be stored to. Please take note that Microsoft Visual C++ .NET will take care of creating the project directory if it does not already exist.

-         Click "OK" to validate your input, and start the project creation Wizard.

-         Select "Application Settings"

-         Although you might find interesting to try out sample applications offered by the Wizard, we will in our present case be completely satisfied by an empty project. We will add files to it later.

-         After having clicked the "Finish" button, you will finally be able to start adding files to your newly created project.

Creating a new source code file

The project having been created, we will now start adding files to it. Microsoft Visual C++ .NET gives the possibility to add existing files to a project (Via the "Project" menu), but we will in our tutorial restrict ourselves to the creation of a new empty source code file. Here are the steps required to achieve this:

-         Bring up the "Add New Item" setup window by right-clicking or "Source Files" folder on left hand side view, then selecting "Add >" - "New Item" (or selecting the "New..." option from the "File" menu, or by pressing Control + N key combination)

-         From the main panel, select the list item labeled C++ File (.cpp), then give it a meaningful name.

-         Once you have submitted your input by clicking the "Add" button, Microsoft Visual C++ .NET fires the source code editor, and updates the Solution Explorer (the tab on the left hand side showing you the list of files and resources attached to the project).

-         Finally, type the content you wish into the file, using the editor.

-         Select "Save all" from the "File" menu to save all the data related to the project. Please note that this step is done automatically before compiling the project (see next section for compiling instructions) if the project had not been saved already.

Compiling, Building and Running a program

The following instructions work for most of Microsoft Visual C++ .NET projects, except rare exceptions. The "Build" menu is the place where you will find everything related to Compiling, Building and Running the program generated by your source code. Here are the steps to go through to achieve this:

-         Open "Build" menu, then select "Build Solution" (Or press F7) to compile and build the project in a single step. Please note that this action will save all the modifications to project files before proceeding, if they have been modified since their last save. This step is done automatically before running the resulting executable (see next step for running the executable), if it had not been built already.

-         If Microsoft Visual C++ .NET did not report any building error, that means the program has been built successfully, and you can now start it from within Microsoft Visual C++ .NET. To do so, open "Debug" menu, and select "Start Without Debugging" (resp. "Start Debugging" if you want a step by step execution) (or use the key combination Control + F5 (resp. F5)). Please note that this will build the program before proceeding, if it had not been built already. From this point on, Microsoft Visual C++ .NET will launch a command-line shell, and start running the program into it. You can set additional parameters (Command line parameters for example) for the program, using Project settings ("Project" menu, or Alt + F7).

-         After having ran the program, Microsoft Visual C++ .NET will pause the execution until you press a key, so that you get the possibility to view eventual results before the execution window closes itself. Please note that Microsoft Visual C++ .NET is the one forcing this pause. If you plan to start the built executable independently from Microsoft Visual C++ .NET, you will have to insert this pause if you want to prevent the application from closing itself before the user gets the chance to see eventual output, in case the application would not be started from the command-line.

As a short summary for this section, simply note that it is usually enough to press Control + F5 to have Microsoft Visual C++ .NET sequentially save the project, try to compile it (it will alert on errors so that you can correct them before proceeding), try to build it (it will alert on errors), and finally run it.


Finally, you can close project files using the "File" menu, and selecting the option "Close Solution".

However, this step is not mandatory since Microsoft Visual C++ 6.0 allows you to create new projects or to close the application while you have a project open in it.