I am looking for an application to help me read the source code for a C++ project I have been given. I won't be doing any actual editing or compiling of the code though; I'm just reading through the source code to better understand the data products being output by the system. I'm a novice to C++ (though not programming in general), so I figure rather than just using a text editor it would be helpful to have some sort of IDE to navigate and understand the dependencies between files in a very large codebase.

  • Must run on Windows 10 in an offline environment
  • Looking for free since I'm not sure how helpful this will be yet (and purchasing is a pain)
  • Ability to read C++ source code and navigate to files that link to/from. There are probably a lot of other useful tools like this, but my knowledge of C++ code structure is minimal at the moment.
  • We have very strict security requirements for software installs, so well known sources are better. Alternatively if the tool doesn't require admin installation I can probably work with that. (e.g. like Sourcetree)
  • Since I don't need the full compiling/debugging type tools, something lighter on resources is preferred.

Two options I've already considered are VS Community and VS Code. I don't need all of the features of VS Community, so I'd prefer something lighter. I've read that VS Code is an editor only and it seems to be geared for other languages, so I don't know if it has the types of features I'm looking for. I am open to both of these options, I just didn't know if there were better things out there.

1 Answer 1


Honestly if you're looking at code, usually an IDE is best, but they are large programs. Even text editors will have features you don't use but they are lighter so I'd recommend something like:

If you are a novice to C++ examining the code to figure out the data products may not be nearly as understandable as you think. Instead I'd try to look at documentation (if you have any), to examine the input, what is supposed to happen, and then the output. There is a chance the code is wrong too.

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