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What Is .NET ?
This chapter gives you an introduction to the .NET technology and explains what is .NET.
.NET is a major technology change for Microsoft and the software world. Just like the computer world moved from DOS to Windows, now they are moving to .NET. But don't be surprised if you find anyone saying that "I do not like .NET and I would stick with the good old COM and C++". There are still lot of people who like to use the bullock-cart instead of the latest Honda car.
The simple answer is 'it is the technology from Microsoft, on which all other Microsoft technologies will be depending on in future.'.
.NET technology was introduced by Microsoft, to catch the market from the SUN's Java. Few years back, Microsoft had only VC++ and VB to compete with Java, but Java was catching the market very fast. With the world depending more and more the Internet/Web and java related tools becoming the best choice for the web applications, Microsoft seemed to be loosing the battle. Thousands of programmers moved to java from VC++ and VB. This was alarming for Microsoft and many of the Microsoft fan's kept on asking "is Microsoft sleeping?". And Microsoft had the answer. One fine morning, they announced : "We are not sleeping. We have the answer for you.". And that answer was .NET.
But Microsoft has a wonderful history of starting late but catching up quickly. This is true in case of .NET too. Microsoft put their best men at work for a secret project called Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS)., under the direct supervision of Mr. Bill Gates. The outcome of the project is what we now know as .NET. Even though .NET has borrowed most of it's ideas from Sun's J2EE, it has really outperformed their competitors.
Microsoft's VC++ was a powerful tool. But it was too complex. It has too many datatypes, and developers had to learn many libraries including WIndows SDK, MFC, ATL, COM etc. There were many datatype compatibility issues while exchanging data between different layers. Visual Basic was too easy, and many serious programmers hated it just for that reason. Even though Visual basic was very easy to use, it was not very flexible to develop serious applications. SUN's Java became a very good choice for these reasons. It had the flixibility and power of C++ and at the same time easy enough to catch the attention of VB programmers.
Microsoft recognised these factors and they introducd the .NET considering all these factors. All unwanted complexities are eliminated and a pure object oriented programming model was introduced. This makes programmer's life very easy.
.NET framework comes with a single class library. And thats all programmers need to learn!! Whether they write the code in C# or VB.NET or J#, it doesn't matter, you just use the .NET class library. There is no classes specific to any language. There is nothing more you can do in a language, which you can't do in any other .NET language. You can write code in C# or VB.NET with the same number of lines of code, same performance and same efficiency, because eveyone uses same .NET class library.
What is .NET ?
# It is a platform neutral framework.
# Is a layer between the operating system and the programming language.
# It supports many programming languages, including VB.NET, C# etc.
# .NET provides a common set of class libraries, which can be accessed from any .NET based programming language. There will not be separate set of classes and libraries for each language. If you know any one .NET language, you can write code in any .NET language!!
# In future versions of Windows, .NET will be freely distributed as part of operating system and users will never have to install .NET separately.
What is Not ?
# .NET is not an operating system.
# .NET is not a programming language.
".NET is a framework"
Are you confused by this definition? Well, that is OK. It is really confusing! We cannot define .NET as a 'single thing'. It is a new, easy, and extensive programming platform. It is not a programming language, but it supports several programming languages. By default .NET comes with few programming languages including C# (C Sharp), VB.NET, J# and managed C++. .NET is a common platform for all the supported languages. It gives a common class library, which can be called from any of the supported languages. So, developers need not learn many libraries when they switch to a different language. Only the syntax is different for each language.
When you write code in any language and compile, it will be converted to an 'Intermediate Language' (Microsoft Intermediate Language - MSIL). So, your compiled executable contains the IL and not really executable machine language. When the .NET application runs, the .NET framework in the target computer take care of the execution. (To run a .NET application, the target computer should have .NET framework installed.) The .NET framework converts the calls to .NET class libraries to the corresponding APIs of the Operating system.
Whether you write code in C# or VB.NET, you are calling methods in the same .NET class libraries. The same .NET framework executes the C# and VB.NET applications. So, there won't be any performance difference based on the language you write code.
What is Visual Studio.NET ?
Many people always get confused with Visual Studio .NET (VS.NET) and .NET technology. VS.NET is just an editor, provided by Microsoft to help developers write .NET programs easily. VS.NET editor automatically generates lot of code, allows developers to drag and drop controls to a form, provide short cuts to compile and build the application etc. VS.NET is not a required thing to do .NET programming. You can simply use a notepad or any other simple editor to write your .NET code!!! And you can compile your .NET programs from the command prompt.
Well, what I said is true theoretically.. but if you decide to use notepad for .NET programming, by the time you develop few sample applications, Microsoft would have introduced some other new technology and .NET would be outdated. You may not want that. So, let us go by VS.NET, just like every other .NET