Is there a compiler or IDE for C on Windows that's regarded as an industry standard?

Taking advice from this post, I purchased a copy of 'The C Programming Language' and am happily reading my way through.

However, all the stuff I've written in the past has been interpreted, and I have no idea where to look for a good C compiler or an IDE (is there even one?). Google searches throw up a lot of results for C++ compilers, which I don't think is the same thing? Haha. I was wondering if there is a compiler or IDE for C that's regarded as an industry standard (kinda in the same way that Zend Studio is pretty much the IDE for PHP), or at least one that is generally considered to be a good quality product.


Well, Visual Studio is the standard on Windows, and there are free versions available. However it does have a bunch of Microsoft specific extensions. For learning though, developing console apps are pretty easy and also fairly close to the standard K&R style C.

However, way back in the day I used to use Watcom, which was also pretty good for the time. It's a lot more sparse than Visual Studio, but that can be an advantage for a beginner. I believe it's also available for free these days at

I'd probably recommend starting with that, if your main O/S is Windows.

Edit: new live url

I'm surprised no-one's mentioned Pelles C. Great little C IDE for Windows; includes an LCC-based compiler. That said, NetBeans 6.5 has decent support for C and C++, and Code::Blocks is well worth a whirl.

Most people use Microsoft Visual Studio for development on Windows. You can get a free version here:

Usually GCC is used on Unix, and is typically included with the OS.

C and C++ are very similar, but C++ allows classes. Most C++ compilers will compile C code.

I used DevC++ almost exclusively while I was in University for C\C++ programming. It comes bundled with the MinGW compiler. It's pretty easy to get set up and rolling. Other than this, my only other recommendation would be Visual Studio.

Almost all C++ compilers will compile C code.

I would recommend using Microsoft Visual Studio. There is a free version of it.

Most C programmers like to have their own editor and choose a compiler that fits their project. That is why you can download multiple different compilers for C and not so many built into IDE's directly.

It is easy to use editors like Editplus or even Notepad. Some of the fancier editors have syntax highlighting and can run commands in a command window for you.

IDE's usually support multiple languages as well. So when you are tired of C and want to move on to Python, Java, C++, some IDE's can help you do that. I would look into these:

GCC (GNU Compiler) and vi/emacs (or pico for uber-newbies)

Addendum: remember C is NOT a subset of C++, so a c++ compiler is not necessarily appropriate.

I recommend Quincy when you are just learning to program in C/C++. Simple to use and created for easily trying out small C/C++ programs.

You can download the Digital Mars C compiler for Windows for free.

Another good IDE is CodeBlocks, and its cross platform. Give it a try you might like it. I used it for a while an it gave me good results for what i was doing ( an image editor in C ), but it had some bugs.

For unix developing i've always liked using gcc plus an editor... it just makes it fun ( after you get use to it ).

When it comes to c/c++ compilers on the Windows platform there are quite a few to choose from.

And when it comes to and IDE, the Zeus IDE can be easily configured to work with any of them.

I used DevC++ when learning C years ago. It was a great tool, although I haven't seen it in a while so I'm not sure what state it is in now.

For the record, I used TCC, the Tiny C Compiler, to quickly test small code. It can generate exe and DLLs. You might need to download the Windows headers: it has a limited subset, you might want more.

Digital Mars also has a free C/C++ compiler of reasonable size.

GNU C is pretty much an industry standard, even if its a unixy compiler. You can also use Visual Studio, but keep in mind it doesnt support C99 very well. Other choices are out there, like pcc (I really like this one), llvm (also very interesting), etc, but those usually require some level of enthusiasm.

The free country website has a list of free C compilers. Many of which work on Windows.

You could use a C++ compiler, such as gcc, to compile your C code. Here's a good article with links to free C compilers/IDEs:

Simply because the white book is influential, doesn't mean it's a good learning resource!

It is possibly the worst way to learn a language from that has ever existed. On top of that, last time I checked it was unreasonably expensive.

It's a complete language definition, and is good at that (which is why it truly is one of the most influential programming books). For a long time it actually was THE definition of C.

You might consider a second book on the subject.

That said, you should try quite a few different IDEs and see what you are happy with.

In fact, at first you might want to get used to vi/emacs/notepad/make and command-line compiling, this will get you a much stronger understanding of your environment (and if it's not understanding you're after, then you are barking up the wrong language-tree).

As you are investigating different IDEs, I'd give Eclipse or Netbeans with a c plugin a try. They are going to be the most complete and reliable IDEs (except, probably, for Microsoft's) and are platform independent so you won't be left in the cold when you decide to go to the Mac or Linux.

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