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Preface to Bjarne Stroustrup's "A Tour of C++"

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From the book
Bjarne Stroustrup, the designer and original implementer of C++, introduces his new book, A Tour of C++, which is intended to give an experienced programmer—in as short a time as possible—a clear idea of what constitutes modern C++.

When you wish to instruct, be brief.
– Cicero

C++ feels like a new language. That is, I can express my ideas more clearly, more simply, and more directly in C++11 than I could in C++98. Furthermore, the resulting programs are better checked by the compiler and run faster.

Like other modern languages, C++ is large and there are a large number of libraries needed for effective use. This thin book aims to give an experienced programmer an idea of what constitutes modern C++. It covers most major language features and the major standard-library components. This book can be read in just a few hours but, obviously, there is much more to writing good C++ than can be learned in a day. However, the aim here is not mastery, but to give an overview, to give key examples, and to help a programmer get started. For mastery, consider my The C++ Programming Language, Fourth Edition (TC++PL4) [Stroustrup,2013]. In fact, this book is an extended version of the material that constitutes Chapters 2-5 of TC++PL4, also entitled A Tour of C++. I have added extensions and improvements to make this book reasonably self-contained. The structure of this tour follows that of TC++PL4, so it is easy to find supplementary material. Similarly, the exercises for TC++PL4 that are available on my Web site (http://www.stroustrup.com) can be used to support this tour.

The assumption is that you have programmed before. If not, please consider reading a textbook, such as Programming: Principles and Practice Using C++ [Stroustrup,2009], before continuing here. Even if you have programmed before, the language you used or the applications you wrote may be very different from the style of C++ presented here.

As an analogy, think of a short sightseeing tour of a city, such as Copenhagen or New York. In just a few hours, you are given a quick peek at the major attractions, told a few background stories, and usually given some suggestions about what to see next. You do not know the city after such a tour. You do not understand all you have seen and heard. You do not know how to navigate the formal and informal rules that govern life in the city. To really know a city, you have to live in it, often for years. However, with a bit of luck, you will have gained a bit of an overview, a notion of what is special about the city, and ideas of what might be of interest to you. After the tour, the real exploration can begin.

This tour presents the major C++ language features as they support programming styles, such as object-oriented and generic programming. It does not attempt to provide a detailed, reference-manual, feature-by-feature view of the language. Similarly, it presents the standard libraries in terms of examples, rather than exhaustively. It does not describe libraries beyond those defined by the ISO standard. The reader can search out supporting material as needed. [Stroustrup,2009] and [Stroustrup,2012] are examples of such material, but there is an enormous amount of material (of varying quality) available on the Web. For example, when I mention a standard library function or class, its definition can easily be looked up, and by examining the documentation of its header (also easily accessible on the Web), many related facilities can be found.

This tour presents C++ as an integrated whole, rather than as a layer cake. Consequently, it does not identify language features as present in C, part of C++98, or new in C++11. Such information can be found in Chapter 14 (History and Compatibility).

Much of the material presented here is borrowed from TC++PL4 [Stroustrup,2012], so thanks to all who helped completing that book. Also, thanks to my editor at Addison-Wesley, Peter Gordon, who first suggested that the four Tour chapters from TC++PL4 might be expanded into a reasonably self-contained and consistent publication of their own.

Bjarne Stroustrup
College Station, Texas

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