.NET is a free and open-source software framework that Microsoft launched in the early 2000s. Over the past two decades, it has become one of the most popular options for building a wide range of applications on the Windows platform and across different platforms like mobile, desktop, and cloud. This introduction blog will cover the basics of .NET and why it has become an industry-standard toolset for many developers.
What is .NET?
Rather than being a single programming language, .NET is better thought of as a unified platform and toolset for building software. At the core of .NET is the runtime engine known as the Common Language Runtime (CLR) and an expansive library of pre-built code known as the .NET Framework.
The CLR manages important tasks like memory allocation, security, exception handling, etc. This provides a solid base for the rest of the framework. When you write application code in C# and VB.NET, the compiler converts it into an intermediate language called Common Intermediate Language (CIL). The CIL code then executes on the CLR engine. This architecture enables cross-language compatibility.
On top of the runtime, the .NET Framework includes thousands of classes organized into namespaces that provide ready-made functionality for file I/O, database access, user interfaces, networking, XML parsing, graphical rendering, and much more. Your custom .NET applications leverage these frameworks through imports and object instantiation.
Rather than being tied to a single programming language, .NET was designed from the ground up to be a versatile platform. Hire .NET Developers who can build .NET applications using many different languages, including:
- C# –Object-oriented language with a syntax similar to Java and C++. The most common choice for .NET development.
- Visual Basic .NET –An evolution of the classic VB language adapted for. NET.
- F# –Functional programming language with full .NET support.
- C++/CLI –Flavour of C++ tailored for .NET development.
More supported languages include Python, Ruby, Rust, and more.
All these languages compile down to platform-agnostic CIL code rather than machine code. This enables the multi-language flexibility that .NET provides.
Key Concepts in Entity Framework
Entity Framework operates on several core concepts that are essential for developers to understand:
Entities are the classes that represent your data in the application. For example, if you are building an e-commerce application, your entities include Product, Order, and Customer. These classes are the blueprint for the data you want to store and manipulate.
The DbContext is a crucial part of the Entity Framework. It’s a class that acts as a bridge between your entities and the database. It manages database connections, tracks changes, and translates your high-level operations into SQL queries. It’s your gateway to the database.
A DbSet is a property on your DbContext that represents a table or collection of entities in the database. You can think of it as a representation of a database table in your code. You use DbSet to query, insert, update, and delete records in the associated table.
Migrations are a way to version and evolve your database schema over time. As your application evolves, you may need to change your database structure. Migrations provide a way to update the database schema while preserving existing data.
3.5 LINQ (Language-Integrated Query)
LINQ is a powerful feature in C# that allows you to query collections and databases using a syntax that resembles natural language. Entity Framework integrates LINQ, enabling you to write database queries using familiar C# syntax.
How .NET Applications Execute?
Here is a basic rundown of how developing and deploying a .NET app would look like when you hire dedicated developers from a trusted .NET development company –
- Developer authors application code in a .NET language and calls functions from the .NET class library.
- The source code gets compiled into Common Intermediate Language (CIL) rather than machine code.
- The CIL code and any other resources like images get packaged up into a .NET assembly, either an EXE or DLL file.
- The .NET Common Language Runtime (CLR) loads the assembly at runtime.
- CLR handles underlying tasks like memory allocation, security checks, and more.
- Just-in-time (JIT) compilation converts CIL code to machine code for the target platform.
- CLR executes the JIT-compiled code for the app.
This simplified architecture lets developers focus mainly on application logic rather than lower-level details. The CLR and unified frameworks handle much of the “plumbing.”
Using .NET Standard for Cross-Platform Apps
One major evolution in .NET has been the development of the .NET Standard – a formal specification that outlines common APIs across .NET implementations. This enables greater compatibility for both language and platform targets.
For example, a library developed against .NET Standard 2.0 can run on .NET Framework 4.6.1, .NET Core 2.0, Mono 5.4, and more that support that same standard version. This helps avoid fragmentation across the .NET ecosystem.
Key .NET Implementations
There are a few major implementations of the .NET platform:
- .NET Framework –The original .NET was released by Microsoft in 2002. Windows-only runtime.
- .NET Core –Cross-platform, open-source .NET runtime released in 2014. Runs on Windows, MacOS, and Linux.
- Mono –Popular open-source implementation used for cross-platform .NET development. Utilized in Xamarin for mobile development.
- Unity –Game development platform built on .NET and C# for cross-platform games.
.NET Framework is still the standard and preferred platform for Windows-only development requirements. For cross-platform apps, .NET Core is now the dominant implementation. The .NET Standard spec enables code reuse across these environments.
What’s New in .NET 6
In November 2021, Microsoft introduced .NET 6, the latest major version. NET. Here are some of the highlights:
- Faster performance through optimizations and new deployment options
- Support for new C# 10 programming language features
- Improvements to .NET MAUI for building mobile apps with .NET
- Enhanced JSON serialization
- Minimal APIs for lean web development
- Hot reload to apply code changes without restarting apps
- Numerous framework updates across the board
With .NET 6, Microsoft continued consolidating the .NET brand and improving the development experience. The release cadence is now an annual major release in November of each year.
- .NET provides a mature, unified platform for building many applications with C# and other languages.
- The CLR runtime, combined with expansive frameworks, handles lower-level details.
- .NET Standard enables cross-platform code reuse across implementations.
- The top implementations are .NET Framework on Windows and cross-platform .NET Core.
- .NET 6 delivers better performance, language features, and more.
Nearly 20 years after its release, .NET remains a vibrant development ecosystem. The extensive framework class library and tooling make it a great choice for quickly building stable applications.