A productive set of tools is critical to developer success on a new platform like .NET. Microsoft offers many development tools to build Web services as well as traditional Windows applications.
.NET offers an improved ball game for programmers. Features such as automatic memory management make it unnecessary for programmers to deal with these issues. The .NET programming model encourages object-oriented programming.
To simplify programming under .NET and to exploit the capability of the .NET Framework to its fullest extent, Microsoft has introduced a new programming language called C#, which offers the simplicity of Visual Basic and the flexibility of C++. C# borrows most of its constructs directly from C++, making C++ and Java programmers feel right at home. More information about the origins of C# can be found in an interview with Anders Hejlsberg [Osb-00], the chief architect for C#.
Microsoft has also introduced Visual Basic .NET, an upgrade to its popular Visual Basic programming language. Visual Basic .NET adds object-oriented features as well as provides full access to .NET platform features. The new feature list of Visual Basic.NET can be found in [Pat-01a] and [Pat-01b].
Microsoft has also extended C++ to develop code for .NET. This extension is referred to as Managed Extension for C++.
Finally, .NET provides an open standard for developing language compilers that target .NET. Many independent software vendors are providing their own programming language support for .NET.
The .NET Framework SDK
The .NET Framework SDK contains documentation, tools, C# and Visual Basic .NET compilers, and samples for developers to write, build, test, and deploy .NET applications. The SDK also includes the .NET Framework as a redistributable package.
The SDK can be downloaded free of charge from Microsoft's Web site. Remember to read the licensing agreement when you download the SDK.
Visual Studio .NET
Visual Studio .NET is the next generation of Microsoft's popular multilanguage development tool, built especially for .NET. Visual Studio .NET helps you build as well as consume Web services and .NET applications quickly. It supports C#, Visual Basic .NET, and C++. Any other .NET programming language can be easily integrated into Visual Studio .NET. The Integrated Development Editor (IDE) contains many features, such as IntelliSense, to boost programmers' productivity. Visual Studio .NET will likely remain the most popular choice for developing .NET applications.