This documentation is archived and is not being maintained.

C++ Language Reference

This reference explains the C++ programming language as implemented in Microsoft Visual C++. The organization is based on The Annotated C++ Reference Manual by Margaret Ellis and Bjarne Stroustrup and on the ANSI/ISO C++ International Standard (ISO/IEC FDIS 14882). Microsoft-specific implementations of C++ language features are included.

See the following tables to quickly find a keyword or operator:

Language Features for Targeting the CLR

Reference section for syntax that lets you target the common language runtime.

Compatibility and Compliance Issues in Visual C++

Information about where Visual C++ does not agree with the C++ standard, and breaking changes in the compiler.

Lexical Conventions

Fundamental lexical elements of a C++ program: tokens, comments, operators, keywords, punctuators, literals. Also, file translation, operator precedence/associativity.

Basic Concepts

Scope, linkage, program startup and termination, storage classes, and types.

Standard Conversions

Type conversions between built-in, or "fundamental," types. Also, arithmetic conversions and conversions among pointer, reference, and pointer-to-member types.


Types and semantics of expressions, reference topics on operators, casting and casting operators, run-time type information.


Expression, null, compound, selection, iteration, jump, and declaration statements.


Storage-class specifiers, function definitions, initializations, enumerations, class, struct, and union declarations, and typedef declarations. Also, inline functions, const keyword, namespaces.


The portion of a declaration statement that names an object, type, or function. Abstract declarators, type names, initializers, function declarations and definitions, arrays, references.

Classes, Structures, and Unions

Introduction to classes, structures, and unions. Also, member functions, data members, bit fields, this pointer, nested classes.

Derived Classes

Single and multiple inheritance, virtual functions, multiple base classes, abstract classes, scope rules. Also, the __super and __interface keywords.

Member-Access Control

Controlling access to class members: public, private, and protected keywords. Friend functions and classes.

Special Member Functions

Special functions unique to class types: constructors, destructors, conversion functions, assignment operator, operator new and operator delete functions.


Overloaded functions, declaration matching, argument matching. Also, overloaded operators, rules for operator overloading.

Exception Handling

C++ exception handling, structured exception handling (SEH), keywords used in writing exception handling statements.


Template specifications, function templates, class templates, typename keyword, templates vs. macros, templates and smart pointers.

Event Handling

Declaring events and event handlers.

Microsoft-Specific Modifiers

Modifiers specific to Microsoft C++. Memory addressing, calling conventions, naked functions, extended storage-class attributes (__declspec), __w64.

Inline Assembler

Using assembly language and C++ in __asm blocks.

Compiler COM Support

A reference to Microsoft-specific classes and global functions used to support COM types.

Language Features for Targeting the CLR

Reference material on using Visual C++ to target the common language runtime.

C/C++ Building Reference

Compiler options, linker options, and other build tools.

C/C++ Preprocessor Reference

Reference material on pragmas, preprocessor directives, predefined macros, and the preprocessor.

C Language Reference

A reference to the C programming language, including Microsoft extensions.

Visual C++ Libraries

A list of links to the reference start pages for the various Visual C++ libraries.