Elementary Programming

2.1 Introduction and Objectives

Let us start our journey in programming with learning some basic concepts. We are going to learn about simple input/output, identifiers, variables, and expressions in this chapter. These are some important tools that will help us to communicate information between a user and our code. We will learn how to get information from the user, how to save that information, how to do some calculation using that information, and eventually, how to let the user know about the result of the calculation.

2.2 Writing a Simple Program

Let’s examine the following C++ program.

// Author: Ada Lovelace
// Purpose: Demonstrate Basic I/O operation by inputting a number and outputting the number just entered.

#include <iostream>
using namespace std;

int main()
    int number;
    cout << "Please enter a number.";
    cin >> number;
    cout << "You entered: " << number << endl;
    return 0;

Try it yourself:


Built-in header files are enclosed inside the < and > marks. Header files you create and bring in to the program are enclosed in "" quotation marks.

2.3 Reading Input from the Keyboard

Imagine we want to write a program to calculate the area of a rectangle with length of x and width of y. The first step to calculate the area is to get the length and width from input. Reading input will enables you to interact with the user and get the necessary information for you program.

Here is the table of C++ basic Input/Output (I/O) symbols:

Symbol Name Description
cout A special variable used along with the insertion operator “«” to write out the values of variables and expressions to the standard output device such as screen.
<< Insertion operator takes two operands. Its left-hand operand is a stream expression. Its right-hand operand is an expression which could be as simple as a literal string. It can be used several times in a single output statement.
cin A special variable used along with the extraction operator “»” to input values from the standard input device such as keyboard to a variable.
>> Extraction operator takes two operands. Its left-hand operand is a stream expression. Its right-hand operand is a variable into which we store the input data. It can be used several times in a single input statement.

For instance, for getting x (length) and y (width) from input we could say:

cin >> x;
cin >> y;

Also, we could get x and yin one line:

cin >> x >> y;

2.4 Identifiers

There are two main parts in a C++ program:

  1. Instructions to the C++ preprocessor and compiler.

  2. Instructions that describe the processing to be done.

Before we can describe these instructions, we must have a way of naming things so that we can tell the compiler about them and describe what we want to do with them. We name things (data types, data objects, and actions) by giving them an identifier.

Rules of identifiers:

For instance, length and _width1 are legal identifiers, while 1length and width-4 are not legal.


  1. Reserved words are certain words which have predefined meanings within the C++ language. Examples of reserved words: int, namespace, using, include, cin, cout, and, return, etc. You cannot use them as your user defined identifier such as variable names.

  2. C++ is case sensitive. It means length, Length, and LEngTh are all different.

camelCase: Camel case is a naming convention in which the first letter of each word is uppercase except for the first word. The rest of the letters are lower case. For example, payRate, camelCase, and numberOfYears are camelCase.


2.5 Variables

Variables are named memory locations that have a type, such as an integer or character, and consequently, a size, which is inherited from their type. Since variables are types, they have a set of operations that can be used to change or manipulate them.

Each variable in your program must be declared and initialized. There are two ways in which we can do this. One is we can declare our variables first, like this:

char letter;
int x;
long student_id;
float payRate;
double pi;
bool valid;

Then initialize them later in the program as a separate statement.

letter = 'A';
x = 7;
student_id = 200201202;
payRate = 12.85;
pi = 3.1415926536;
valid = true;

The other way is to initialize them at the same time as they are declared (in one statement).

char letter = 'A';
int x = 7;
long student_id = 200201202;
double pi = 3.1415926536;
float payRate = 12.85;
bool valid = true;

However, a variable can be used only after its value is set.

2.6 Assignment Statements and Assignment Expressions

You need to know the definition of an arithmetic expression and the precedence of the operators.

Arithmetic Expressions: Variables and constants of integral and floating point types can be combined into expressions using arithmetic operators.

2.7 Named Constants

We can also declare our initialized variable as a constant, by adding the type qualifier const before the definition. The general format for a const declaration is shown below:

const type variable-name = any value you like

Inside of a program, you will see constants written like this:

const float payRate = 12.85;
const double pi = 3.1415926536;

2.8 Numeric Data Types and Operations

A data type is a set of values and a set of operations on these values. In the preceding program, we used the data type int which is an identifier for the integer data type.

We used data type int in four ways in the preceding program. int precedes main, the name of the main function in the program to indicate that the function returns the value of type int. At the end an int literal (zero) is returned as the result of the main function main. Also, in the middle of the program a variable number is declared to have the data type int. In addition, an integer number was read from the keyboard and stored in the storage of variable number.

The following are some fundamental/simple data types:

Integral Types

short int long char
unsigned short unsigned int unsigned long unsigned char

Floating Types

float double long double

The arithmetic operators are listed in the following table:

Operator Description
+ Unary plus needs one operand.
- Unary minus needs one operand.
+ Addition needs two operands.
- Subtraction needs two operands.
\ Multiplication needs two operands.
/ Division needs two operands.
Floating point operands &rightarrow; floating point result
Integer operands &rightarrow; integer quotient
Mixed operands &rightarrow; floating point result
% Modulus
Remainder from integer division
Operands must be integral
++ Increment by one
Can be prefix or postfix
As postfix has highest precedence
-- Decrement by one
Can be prefix or postfix
As postfix has highest precedence

2.9 Evaluating Expressions and Operator Precedence

The precedence rules of arithmetic apply to arithmetic expressions in a program. That is, the order of execution of an expression that contains more than one operation is determined by the precedence rules of arithmetic. These rules state that parentheses have the highest precedence, multiplication, division, and modulus have the next highest precedence, and addition and subtraction have the lowest. The Postfix increment and decrement operators have the highest precedence over any of the arithmetic operators.

Look at the following example, and decide what is written by each of the output statements.

// The program demonstrates the precedence of the operators.

#include <iostream>
using namespace std;

int main ()
    cout << 4 + 3 * 5 << endl;
    cout << (4 + 3) * 5 << endl;
    cout << 4 * 5 % 3 + 2 << endl;
    cout << (4 * (5 % 3) + 2) << endl;
    return 0;



Try it yourself:

Precedence Operator Description Associativity
1 :: Scope resolution Left-to-right
2 a++, a-- Suffix/postfix increment and decrement  
3 ++a, --a Prefix increment and decrement Right-to-left
  +a, -a Unary plus and minus  
  *a Indirection (dereference)  
  &a Address-of  
4 .*, ->* Pointer-to-member Left-to-right
5 a*b, a/b, a%b Multiplication, division, and remainder  
6 a+b, a-b Addition and subtraction  
7 <<, >> Bitwise left shift and right shift  
8 <=> Three-way comparison operator (since C++20)  
9 <, <= For relational operators < and ≤ respectively  
  >, >= For relational operators > and ≥ respectively  
10 ==, != For relational operators = and ≠ respectively  
11 & Bitwise AND  
12 ^ Bitwise XOR (exclusive or)  
13 \ Bitwise OR (inclusive or)  
14 && Logical AND  
15 ^ Logical OR  
16 a?b:c Ternary conditional[note 2] Right-to-left
  = Direct assignment (provided by default for C++ classes)  
  +=, -= Compound assignment by sum and difference  
  *=, /=, %= Compound assignment by product, quotient, and remainder  
17 , Comma Left-to-right

2.10 Augmented Assignment Operators

Assignment operators modify the value of the object.

Operator name Syntax Over​load​able
simple assignment a = b Yes
addition assignment a += b Yes
subtraction assignment a -= b Yes
multiplication assignment a *= b Yes
division assignment a /= b Yes
modulo assignment a %= b Yes
bitwise AND assignment a &= b Yes
bitwise OR assignment a \= b Yes
bitwise XOR assignment a ^= b Yes
bitwise left shift assignment a <<= b Yes
bitwise right shift assignment a >>= b Yes

Examples are Inside class definition and Outside class definition respectively. <!— NOTE:

All built-in assignment operators return *this, and most user-defined overloads also return *this so that the user-defined operators can be used in the same manner as the built-ins. However, in a user-defined operator overload, any type can be used as return type (including void). T2 can be any type including T. —>


copy assignment operator replaces the contents of the object a with a copy of the contents of b (b is not modified). For class types, this is a special member function, described in copy assignment operator.

move assignment operator replaces the contents of the object a with the contents of b, avoiding copying if possible (b may be modified). For class types, this is a special member function, described in move assignment operator. (since C++11)

For non-class types, copy and move assignment are indistinguishable and are referred to as direct assignment.

compound assignment operators replace the contents of the object a with the result of a binary operation between the previous value of a and the value of b.

2.11 Increment and Decrement Operators

Increment/decrement operators increment or decrement the value of the object.

Operator name Syntax Over​load​able
pre-increment ++a Yes
pre-decrement --a Yes
post-increment a++ Yes
post-decrement a-- Yes


Pre-increment and pre-decrement operators increments or decrements the value of the object and returns a reference to the result.

Post-increment and post-decrement creates a copy of the object, increments or decrements the value of the object and returns the copy from before the increment or decrement.

Built-in prefix operators

The prefix increment and decrement expressions have the form

++ expr: prefix increment (pre-increment)

-- expr: prefix decrement (pre-decrement)

The operand expr of a built-in prefix increment or decrement operator must be a modifiable (non-const) value of non-boolean (since C++17) arithmetic type or pointer to completely-defined object type. For non-boolean operands, the expression ++x is exactly equivalent to x += 1, and the expression. -x is exactly equivalent to x -= 1, that is, the prefix increment or decrement is an lvalue expression that identifies the modified operand. All arithmetic conversion rules and pointer arithmetic rules defined for arithmetic operators apply and determine the implicit conversion (if any) applied to the operand as well as the return type of the expression.

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

int main()
    int n1 = 1;
    int n2 = ++n1;
    int n3 = ++ ++n1;
    int n4 = n1++;
    // int n5 = n1++ ++; // error
    // int n6 = n1 + ++n1; // undefined behavior
    cout << "n1 = " << n1 << '\n' << "n2 = " << n2 << '\n' << "n3 = " << n3 << '\n' << "n4 = " << n4 << '\n';


n1 = 5
n2 = 2
n3 = 4
n4 = 4

Try it Yourself:

2.12 Numeric Type Conversions

If an integral and a floating point variable or constant are mixed in an operation, the integral value is changed temporarily to its equivalent floating point representation before the operation is executed. This automatic conversion of an integral value to a floating point value is called type coercion. Type coercion also occurs when a floating point value is assigned to an integral variable. Coercion from an integer to a floating point is exact. However, when a floating point value is coerced into an integral value, the fractional part is truncated.

Type changes can be made explicit by placing the value to be changed in parentheses and placing the name of the new type before it. This is called type casting or type conversion. For example, intValue = 10.66; and intValue = int(10.66); produce the same result 10.

In summary, we have explicit and implicit data type conversion.

Conversion function is declared like a non-static member function or member function template with no parameters, no explicit return type, and with the name of the form:

operator conversion-type-id (1)

explicit operator conversion-type-id (2) (since C++11)

explicit ( expression ) operator conversion-type-id (3) (since C++20)

  1. Declares a user-defined conversion function that participates in all implicit and explicit conversions.

  2. Declares a user-defined conversion function that participates in direct-initialization and explicit conversions only.

  3. Declares a user-defined conversion function that is conditionally explicit.

2.13 Software Development Process

In software engineering, a software development process is the process of dividing software development work into distinct phases to improve design, product management, and project management. It is also known as a software development life cycle (SDLC). The methodology may include the pre-definition of specific deliverables and artifacts that are created and completed by a project team to develop or maintain an application.

Most modern development processes can be vaguely described as agile. Other methodologies include waterfall, prototyping, iterative and incremental development, spiral development, rapid application development, and extreme programming.

A life-cycle “model” is sometimes considered a more general term for a category of methodologies and a software development “process” a more specific term to refer to a specific process chosen by a specific organization.[citation needed] For example, there are many specific software development processes that fit the spiral life-cycle model. The field is often considered a subset of the systems development life cycle.

2.14 Common Errors

2.15 Chapter Summary

All in all, now we know how a simple C++ program looks like. Also, we know how to declare variables, get them from user, and how to write expressions using them and operators.