The JUCE library, which allows you to write platform-independent C++ code and target several different audio plugin formats and platforms, is pretty amazing, but it doesn't do this all by itself. you'll still need a number of other tools and resources before you can begin using JUCE at all. These include an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and Software Development Kits (SDKs). I'm not going to explain what these are here; if you don't know, you have a great deal to learn before you can hope to get started with JUCE.
On a Windows PC, you'll need Microsoft Visual Studio, and I strongly recommend the latest available version, Visual Studio 2017. The JUCE code generator (“Projucer”) appears to be able to support the 2013 and 2015 versions, but as of the time of writing, Visual Studio 2013 simply doesn't work anymore, and 2015 is questionable. Since Microsoft is now kind enough to offer Visual Studio 2017 Community Edition, which is fully featured but completely free, there is no reason not to use it.
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On a Mac, you'll need Apple's XCode IDE, which is free. If you don't have an Apple Developer Account, you can download XCode from the Mac App Store. If you do have a developer account, you may prefer to get the very latest version from https://developer.apple.com.
JUCE supports the VST (v2.4) and VST3 formats (Steinberg), Audio Unit (v2) and AUv3 (Apple), AAX and RTAS (Digidesign / Pro Tools). I don't know anything about AAX/RTAS, so I won't say anything further.
“VST” and “VST3” are registered trade marks of Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH. The older “VST” or “VST 2.x” standard basically remains the most popular plugin format of all time, despite Steinberg's efforts to kill it off in favor of their newer and more complex VST3 standard.
Apple's Audio Units (“AU”) plugin standard, curiously, also comes in “v2” and “v3” flavors, with Apple trying their damnedest to kill off the older and persistently more popular v2 version, mostly by making both the v2 SDK and its documentation and tools ridiculously difficult to find.
The incredibly good news is the VST2.x, AUv2 and AUv3 SDKs are built into JUCE! You don't need to download any third-party SDKs to build plugins based on these three most-widely-used standards.
You will need to download the VST3 SDK from Steinberg if you want to create VST3-format plugins, which are important because there are some newer PC DAWs which only support VST3 plugins.
.zipfile you download from Steinberg contains a folder called
VST_SDKwhich has another called
VST3_SDKinside it. To stick with JUCE's defaults, create a new folder called
SDKsin the root directory of your
C:/drive and put the whole
VST_SDKfolder inside it.
Go on to Downloading and installing JUCE.