Writing and Running C++ Programs in the Mac OS X 10.4 Environment using xCode
JL Popyack
January 2005

Sophisticated students with refined palates may find themselves using Apple Macintoshes, and wish to compile and run C++ programs on their machines. Because Microsoft's Visual Studio only runs in the Windows environment, however, it is impossible to use Visual C++ directly on a Macintosh. We should point out that by installing VirtualPC, a Macintosh user may create a Windows simulator on their machine and thereby run Microsoft Visual C++. However, VirtualPC is quite memory intensive, and since it requires both an installation of Windows XP and Visual Studio, the user may find that extra memory is required and execution speed is still too slow to make this a viable solution.

Fortunately, there are other possibilities for a Macintosh user who wants to compile and execute programs in ANSI Standard C++.

First of all, OS X is written with a UNIX BSD kernel, which means that the C language is an integral part of the operating system, and C programs may be run from the Terminal window using the cc C compiler. Likewise, C++ programs may be run using the CC compiler. Furthermore, the GNU compilers are included with the UNIX installation, so that the gcc and g++ compilers are available for compiling C and C++ programs, respectively.

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Note that none of the aforementioned compilers provides a graphical user interface (GUI) however, nor do they provide an integrated enviroment in which programs can be compiled, linked, and executed.

Apple has come to the rescue by providing the xCode environment in OS X 10.3 (and the Project Builder environment in previous versions of OS X). The xCode environment provides a graphical user interface for the gcc compiler and the UNIX execution shell, which means:

The directions below describe how to create, edit, compile, and run a C++ program in the xCode environment. Since xCode was derived from Project Builder, the directions for using Project Builder are very similar.

  1. Open xCode by finding it in the Applications window on your Macintosh. Your first duty will be to create a new project. Do this by choosing "New Project" from the "File" menu! An "Assistant" window should open that allows you to create the project (see below). You should select "Tools -> C++ Tool" to create the project.
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  3. Next, you need to create a project. In our example below, we have given it the name "myProject". The default path "~/myProject/" appears. You can change this, but it makes sense to use the default.
  4. In the "myProject" window, you will see that a program named "main.cpp" has been created and installed in the project by default. (Sometimes these wizards are a little too helpful, if you know what I mean.) This program almost certainly does not do what you want it to do, but it is a fully-functioning C++ program. This means you can compile and run it right now. Go ahead, if you must. We'll wait for you to get it out of your system.
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  6. When you are ready to get down to business, you should select File->Save As... and give this file another name. In our example, that name is "myProgram.cpp". We can actually think of much more clever names, but are resisting the impulse.
  7. Notice that after saving the program with a new name, the new program is installed in your project, and "main.cpp" is pretty much forgotten. This stands in contrast to Microsoft Visual C++, which keeps main.cpp in your program even after you decided to get rid of it.
  8. What now? How about editing myProgram.cpp so that it contains a working C++ program. We know you will find the urge to write a "Hello, World!" program irresistible. A variant appears in the example below.
  9. Notice the icons in the toolbar that say "Build", and "Build and Go". The simplicity of this interface makes one wonder what all the other compiler designers are thinking. In case it is not obvious, clicking the "Build" icon will build the project -- that is, it will compile the program file(s) and link the code for any other included libraries, producing an executable ("double-clickable") file. Clicking the "Build and Go" icon will not only build the project, but run the program! Notice that in the window that appears, you also have access to various debugging tools. These are fairly self-explanatory. In the figure shown below, the sample program has been executed, the user has entered data when prompted, and output has been produced. The output can be saved in a file by selecting "Save" from the "File" menu.

In summary, the xCode environment provides an integrated development environment for Macintosh programmers that is intuitive to use and makes use of the acclaimed GNU compilers. Who could ask for more?