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Table of contents
1.
Introduction
2.
What is the structure in C++?
2.1.
Syntax
3.
What is Class in C++?
3.1.
Syntax
4.
Key Difference between Structure and Class in C++
5.
Applications and Examples
5.1.
Structure 
5.2.
Syntax
5.3.
Example
5.4.
C++
5.5.
Class
5.6.
Syntax
5.7.
C++
6.
Features of classes over structures
7.
Major Differences between Structure and Class in C++
8.
Similarities
9.
Frequently Asked Questions
9.1.
Should I use class or struct C++?
9.2.
Which is better: struct or class?
9.3.
What is the difference between structure and class in C++?
9.4.
Is struct faster than class C++?
10.
Conclusion
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024
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Difference between Structure and Class in C++

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Introduction

While coding in C++ we have come across both of these terms and we might have also used them interchangeably. Structure and Class in C++ are quite similar to refer to and most of the time we fail to understand the difference between them and mistakenly use either of them without any particular thought.

Structure as we all know is a user-defined data type used in C/C++ to group a large variety of data types together. Well, a class does the same thing in C++ but with more features like allowing defining of methods/functions inside them.

Yes, as you would already know, class is a concept described and included in C++ but not in C as C is a procedural language and has less to no focus on data or objects.

difference between structure and class in c++

C++ being an object-oriented programming language has more focus on data and its manipulations. Although that’s not it, there are certainly more differences that we will put out for you to make this difference between structure and class in C++ more clear.

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What is the structure in C++?

C++ Structures are a way to group several different types into one type. It is a user-defined data type to store the group of items of different data types. The ‘struct’ keyword is used to create a structure and it can contain two types of members.

Member Functions - Normal C++ functions. In structure we can include also functions inside its declaration.

Data Members - Normal C++ variables of different data types.

Syntax

The syntax of the structure in C++ is as follows:

struct struct_Name {

  member1;

  member2;
  .
  .
  memberN;
};

 

Explanation

In the syntax above the struct is the keyword to create a structure and it declares its members inside the curly braces.

The 'struct_Name' is the name of the structure variable.

And member1, member2, etc, are the member functions declared under the struct keyword.

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What is Class in C++?

A class in C++ is a user defined data type which represents a group of same objects along with its attributes and methods. For example, a Dog has attributes like species, color, etc., but the attributes of the class Dog are the same for the different breeds and colors.

A C++ class is considered a blueprint for an object and is defined using ‘class’ keyword.

Syntax

The syntax of the class in C++ is as follows:

class ClassName {
  data variable;
  member
  function {
    statements
  }
};

 

Explanation

Classes are defined using ‘class’ keyword and followed by its name. Inside the class there are access specifiers(public, private, protected), member functions, and data variables. The access specifiers provides access for the members, member functions are functions that are declared in the class and be invoked later and data variables declared within the class are the attributes.

In C++, it is necessary to put semicolon at the end of the class. 

Key Difference between Structure and Class in C++

Comparison Criteria Structure Class
Definition Structure groups together multiple data types and it is considered as a structure variable. Class combines multiple data types into one group and its object is considered as an instance of a class.
Declaration struct  name {Data_type var1;Data_type var2;Data_type var3;…} class name {Data_type var1;Data_member function(){}}
Nature Value type variable Can be accessed using reference
Memory Allocation Structures are stored in stack memory Class is stored in Heap memory
Null value handling Structures do not allow null values Class can have null values
Constructor & destructor Structures do not have the possibility for constructors and destructors  Classes do have constructors and destructors by default, we can also declare user-defined constructors also.
Polymorphism and Inheritance concept Structures do not support Polymorphism & inheritance Classes extensively support polymorphism and inheritance. It was developed to allow object-oriented design paradigms.
Access Specifier By default, all the member variables in the structure are public Classes have member variables and functions by default private.

Must Read, loop and while loop

Applications and Examples

Structure 

Let’s get started with a general syntax and examples of each. Structures, as we know, have been around from C language and as C is a procedural programming language that has less focus on data, thus structures can only store member variables and not functions.

These member variables are by default public. This also placed a problem for security issues as the members can be easily modified.

Syntax

struct CodingNinjas{
    string Course; 
    Int numberofhours;
    string placement;
};


By default, these members are public and can be accessed by creating a normal variable of structure CodingNinjas along with a dot(.) operator.

Example

  • C++

C++

int main()
{
struct CodingNinjas c; // The variable c is declared like a normal variable
c.Course = “C++ foundation”;
c.numberofhours = 10;
c.placement = “guranteed”;

cout<<c.Course<<”\n”;
}


Output: 

C++ foundation

Class

In a similar way, we can define a class and store not only multiple types of data variables but also functions. The class was designed to support the object-oriented design paradigm and to provide much more functionality than structures. To access the members of a class one has to create an instance of the class called object. This object is used to access the member functions and variables of the class.

Syntax

class CodingNinjas
{
    // Access specifier
    public:
 
    // Data Members
    string course;
 
    // Member Functions()
    void courseprint()
    {
       cout << "Course name is: " << course;
    }
};


Example:

  • C++

C++

int main() {

// Declare an object of class geeks
CodingNinjas c;

// accessing data member
c.course = "C++ foundation";

// accessing member function
c.courseprint();
return 0;
}

 

Output: 

Course name is: C++ foundation

Features of classes over structures

  • Classes have access specifiers that provide better control over the accessibility of data members. This provides more security with private, protected, and public specifiers so that we can assign out members whichever specifier is required according to the need. This is one of the major differences between structure and class in c++. Let me explain this briefly, we have three access specifiers
    • Private: The class members declared with a Private modifier can be accessed only by the member functions inside the class. They cannot be accessed directly by any object or function outside the class. Member functions or friend functions are allowed to access the private members of the class. Objects cannot directly access these data members.
       
    • Protected: Protected access modifier is the same as private access modifier in the way that it can not be accessed outside of the class in which they are defined unless, with the use of a friend class, the difference is that the class members declared as Protected can be accessed by any subclass(derived class) of that class as well.
       
    • Public: All the class members associated with the public specifier will be available to everyone. Any object can directly access these members.
       

Major Differences between Structure and Class in C++

  • As we know polymorphism and inheritance are concepts developed for object-oriented programming design, hence structures do not support these concepts. Polymorphism and inheritance also introduce the ability to reuse components and classes rather than defining them again and again. This is supported by Class in C++. Classes in C++ support compile time and run time polymorphism and various types of inheritance abilities like multilevel, multiple, etc.

    • Structures do not support the use of functions inside them and hence it is not possible to declare or override functions inside them thus do not support polymorphism.
       
    • The concept of inheritance is dependent upon the access specifiers and structures in C++ do not support them.
       
  • Constructors and Destructors are important member functions that are called by the compiler when an object of a class is being instantiated. These are simple functions present inside a class by default or can be user-defined. Being functions again are not supported by structures.
     
  • The most basic struct vs class difference comes in the ability to handle null values. Structures do not have the ability to allow null values whereas a class can be given null values, this comes from the fact that a structure is considered as a variable.


Structures and Classes are used very frequently interchangeably without understanding the real difference.  We tried to put the difference so that the next time you use structure or class you know which one specifically to use.

The concept of structures and classes is an important aspect of learning the C++ language in and out. There are subtle differences between class and structure and should be used according to the needs. The structure variable is an easy-to-use, user-defined data structure for simple tasks.

Whereas class gives more control of data and is used for more secure manipulation of data variables along with the support for functions.

Similarities

Structs and classes in C++ are similar in the following ways:

  • Member Variables: Both can have member variables, which are used to store data and are also referred to as fields or attributes
  • Member Functions: Both can have member functions, which are also referred to as methods, to perform operations on the data they store
  • Access Control: Both can limit who can see their members by using access specifiers like public, private, and protected
  • Encapsulation: They both support the idea of encapsulation, which enables data and functions to be combined and kept secret from the outside world
  • Polymorphism: They both support polymorphism when used in the context of classes thanks to virtual functions
  • User-Defined Types: Each one lets you create unique data types that can represent intricate entities
  • Constructors and Destructors: Both can have constructors for initializing their members and destructors for clearing up after themselves
     

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I use class or struct C++?

Class is a more advanced feature in respect to structure as classes were introduced in C++ with more advantages. It gives more control over the data along with its access. So, structures can be used for simpler tasks but for reliable programs classes should be preferred.

Which is better: struct or class?

Classes are obviously better due to their more accessibility control features along they allocate memory in heaps having considerably more memory.

What is the difference between structure and class in C++?

The main difference between the structure and class in C++ is that structure groups together multiple data types and it is considered as a structure variable, whereas Class combines multiple data types into one group and its object is considered as an instance of a class.

Is struct faster than class C++?

An inherent performance difference between a class and a struct does not exist in C++. Both have comparable ability. Performance is less important than design and encapsulation requirements, being more driven by usage patterns and algorithm performance.

Conclusion

In this blog, we have seen difference between structure and class in C++ and pointed out the basis for the difference. It started from basic definitions of both and following the features that made one more advantageous than the other. It also specifies each difference in a table format for easy reference and to make a side-by-side comparison of class and structure.

If you are interested in the practical experience of the concepts of class and structures you should checkout  Coding Ninjas Studio – the best platform to practice Programming and prepare for coding interviews to practice problems related to classes and structures being applied to various problems. 

Recommended Readings: 

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