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Run, Debug & get IntelliSense for C C++ in VSCode

gorvgoyl profile image Gourav Originally published at Medium on ・4 min read

By the end of this short guide you’d be able to run, debug and get intelliSense for C/C++ files in VSCode. Though, this guide is focused for Windows platform but can be extended to Mac and Linux with some minor changes.

I extensively used C & C++ in my competitive programming years and wanted a better support for debugging & intellisense. Only options available were Dev-C++(outdated) and the original "Mammoth" Visual Studio.
Lately, I found VScode and fell in love with it (Atom also only till I found VScode). I tweaked around and set it up as complete IDE For small C, C++ projects especially geared towards competitive programming.

Create a sample C/C++ project

  1. Open/Create an empty folder in VSCode.
  2. Create a new.cpp file inside it like below:
#include \<iostream\>
using namespace std;
int main()
{
 cout \<\< "Hello World" \<\< endl;
 // uncomment below line to stop cmd from exiting immediately in case of "externalConsole": true
 //system("pause");
 return 0;
}
  1. Install recommended C/C++ extension in VSCode and reload.

Official C/C++ Extension for VSCode

Install C/C++ Compiler

C/C++ extension does not include a C++ compiler. So, you will need to install one or use which is already installed on your computer.

Windows: Download MinGW64.zip (latest release) and extract it to the C Drive.

Mac: XCode

Linux: GCC

Also, Make sure to add C++ compiler PATH to environment variable of your platform. For Windows MinGW64 add: C:\MinGW64\bin

Enable IntelliSense

UPDATE: No configuration required in latest release, IntelliSense is enabled by default :)

Run and Debug C/C++ Code

You’ll notice that there is also a .vscode folder in your sample project. To configure ‘debug configuration’ 2 files are required launch.json and tasks.json inside .vscode folder.

VSCode can create and auto-configure these files if we try to debug for the first time. To do that, open C++ file in VSCode and either hit F5 or go to Debug -> Start Debugging and select C++ (GDB/LLDB) then select g++.exe build and debug active file.

Select C++ (GDB/LLDB)

Select g++.exe build and debug active file

This should create 2 files launch.json and tasks.json in .vscode folder which should look like below (update the MinGW64 path if not correct)

Notice that I’ve added one more optional configuration g++ build & run active file in launch.json and g++ build & run in tasks.json file for purpose of also Running C/C++ code without debugging. Now you may choose which configuration to pick when you start debugging. You may remove the configuration whichever you won’t need.

Run & Debug or Only run code

launch.json

{
 "version": "0.2.0",
 "configurations": [
 {
 "name": "g++.exe build and debug active file",
 "type": "cppdbg",
 "request": "launch",
 "program": "${fileDirname}\\${fileBasenameNoExtension}.exe",
 "args": [],
 "stopAtEntry": false,
 "cwd": "${workspaceFolder}",
 "environment": [],
 "externalConsole": false, //set to true to see output in cmd instead
 "MIMode": "gdb",
 "miDebuggerPath": "C:\\MinGW64\\bin\\gdb.exe",
 "setupCommands": [
 {
 "description": "Enable pretty-printing for gdb",
 "text": "-enable-pretty-printing",
 "ignoreFailures": true
 }
 ],
 "preLaunchTask": "g++.exe build active file"
 },
 {
 "name": "g++ build & run active file",
 "type": "cppdbg",
 "request": "launch",
 "program": "${fileDirname}\\${fileBasenameNoExtension}.exe",
 "args": [],
 "stopAtEntry": false,
 "cwd": "${workspaceFolder}",
 "environment": [],
 "externalConsole": false, //set to true to see output in cmd instead
 "MIMode": "gdb",
 "miDebuggerPath": "C:\\MinGW64\\bin\\gdb.exe",
 "setupCommands": [
 {
 "description": "Enable pretty-printing for gdb",
 "text": "-enable-pretty-printing",
 "ignoreFailures": true
 }
 ],
 "preLaunchTask": "g++ build & run active file"
 }
 ]
}

tasks.json

{
 "tasks": [
 {
 "type": "shell",
 "label": "g++.exe build active file",
 "command": "C:\\MinGW64\\bin\\g++.exe",
 "args": [
 "-g",
 "${file}",
 "-o",
 "${fileDirname}\\${fileBasenameNoExtension}.exe"
 ],
 "options": {
 "cwd": "C:\\MinGW64\\bin"
 }
 },
 {
 "type": "shell",
 "label": "g++ build & run active file",
 "command": "C:\\MinGW64\\bin\\g++.exe",
 "args": [
 "${file}",
 "-o",
 "${fileDirname}\\${fileBasenameNoExtension}.exe"
 ],
 "options": {
 "cwd": "C:\\MinGW64\\bin"
 }
 }
 ],
 "version": "2.0.0"
}

externalConsole in launch.json can be set to true to see code output in cmd instead.

Restart VSCode to take effects of newly added compiler paths.

Open any C/C++ file, set some breakpoints (or not) and hit the Big Green Play Button.

(Shortcut to debug: _ **_F5** )

Tip : To hide *.exe files in the side explorer of VSCode, open settings and paste the below config:

"files.exclude": {
 "\*.exe": true
 }

Prefer to work in JAVA?

I’ve also added an answer here on how to run and debug Java code in VSCode.


I tweet useful dev stuff and occasional nerd jokes @ https://twitter.com/iamjerrygoyal

Discussion

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ishiku_ultra profile image
Sam Goodnight

In launch.json and tasks.json
${fileDirnam} = my local path to exe? -> ${C:/Users/User/Desktop/c_folder/
And
${fileBasenameNoExtension} = a? given standard .exe name with gcc?

Or does vscode dynamically update these variables when i run debugger?

  • Thaks ahead of time.
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hieujunior profile image
hieu-junior

Thanks you very much
Your article has helped me a lot