Even without noticing, you surely have already come across C# if you work with programs like Bing, Paint.NET, or even the trusty calculator. These and numerous other apps are created in C# (pronounced as C-Sharp) — a universal cross-platform language, originally created for Windows. Learning it can be a useful skill for a beginner in 2023. Let's find out why.
Getting to know C#
According to GitHub's list of the top languages used in 2022, we can see that C# has been securing the fifth spot for the last three years. (For more on that, also check out our article on the top nine best programming languages to learn in 2023!)
The C# name inherits C and C++: the syntax is quite similar and all are developed by Microsoft. The sharp (#) is the music symbol which means a note is a semi-tone higher. Also the sharp may be considered as four pluses, but the developers decided to optimize it from C++++ to C# — hence the name.
C# was created in competition with Java. The two have much in common, so we can think of Java and C# as Nike and Reebok, or Marvel and DC. They do pretty much the same thing but go about it in different ways.
How does C# work?
Imagine browsing the catalog at a car dealership and coming across a 2018 BMW M5. It has a brand name, model name, and model year. All of these are attributes of the Car object.
An object is an important concept in C# because it’s an object-oriented programming (OOP) language. OOP uses the concept of objects and classes to organize data. When we get a new car, we make a new Car object using the Car class as a blueprint to modify code easier, execute it faster, and create a structured program.
The syntax in C# is human-readable, which means using commands as words, such as class, rather than a machine language (0 and 1). A code goes through a compiler to become understandable by hardware. A compiler is like a translator between a developer and a computer ― it aids interaction, making programming much easier.
The programmer creates a task and writes the code; the compiler translates the code to the intermediate language (CIL), which is converted to the machine language by runtime (Common Language Runtime — CLR), and the computer understands the instructions and executes the task in any platform with CLR.
Here is what programmers’ code in C# looks like:
Here is what machine code looks like:
C# and .NET
C# was created to work with the .NET Framework — a software framework with CLR, which allows you to execute the program created in C#, F#, Visual Basic, etc. Without CLR, your program is simply a set of symbols and won't work. Originally C# and .NET were designed to serve the needs of Microsoft developers and the Windows ecosystem.
In 2016 Microsoft released .NET Core — an open-source development platform, which allows users to build and run programs written in C# and some other languages on various devices and makes them compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux. .NET has made it possible to compare C# with a mobile phone — designed for making calls and steadily catching up to the functionality of a computer.
If you wish to build apps, you should learn .NET and various associated frameworks: for example, ASP.NET— for creating web apps, and Xamarin — for iOS or Android mobile apps. And if you want to develop games, it’s advisable to study the Mono framework and Unity's libraries.
Benefits of C# for a newbie
Let’s review some key C# features and advantages in choosing it as your first programming language.
Cross-platform. You can run your apps in different operating systems and use one system with various programming languages. It allows would-be C# programmers to work with a wide range of different projects and companies.
Using the .NET frameworks you don't need to install any other software to design Android, Linux, or macOS applications and only have to write your code once to deploy it to any platform. You can build an app like Pinterest that works correctly on both iPhone and Android devices. This saves time and simplifies programming.
General-purpose. C# is flexible and fit for completing a wide range of tasks. You can create various types of applications, from mobile to gaming ones.
Structured. OOP languages help to write, read, and test code hassle-free. Beginners can control the structure of data and avoid repeating code and errors.
Human-understandable. As a high-level language, C# uses a simpler programmer-friendly syntax, which makes it easier for a newbie to understand and manage code.
C-related language. It is easier to master C, C++, or Java, if you are familiar with C#. As a result, these skills let you switch between C-related languages hassle-free.
Huge library. A rich functional library provides convenient compatibility with the Microsoft ecosystem and the opportunity to develop apps faster without writing multiple custom codes.
Visual Studio as an IDE. C# provides a convenient workspace, supporting various languages with tools like an effective debugger and an easy-to-use code editor.
Inbuilt garbage collector. It provides automatic memory management, which saves time and prevents software crashes.
Designed for Windows. C# is a natural fit if you decide to work with Microsoft services and apps. Microsoft provides professional support and documentation covering the basics and the newest features.
Large community. The language has been in use for two decades. As a result, you can find a huge amount of info, tutorials, forums to ask for support, and collaborations ― for example, a helpful StackOverflow community (by the way, this Q&A website was written in C#).
Drawbacks of C#
There are still numerous disadvantages to using C#, which are good to know in advance.
Not a system language. Unlike C and C++, C# runs code with CLR ― a program written in human-like language has to go through a compiler after each change. We get the convenience of an automatic garbage collector and portable code at the cost of lower performance and control. It's akin to an interpreter for a real-time speaker, which inevitably makes speech longer.
.NET platform dependence. You must work with .NET resources to run your program, while Java apps could go on any platform without using multiple runtimes. However, .NET is quicker than the Java platform and doesn't require any other software.
Long learning curve. You should learn .NET libraries and different frameworks to develop cross-platform apps. C# can be difficult to study if you are a complete beginner in coding. That being said, C# is not as difficult as other C-related languages — learning the basics is achievable in a matter of months.
C# use cases
C# can be used for nearly any purpose. You can easily find well-known websites, applications, and programs written in C# on our list. Here are some of them:
Websites and web apps. Stack Overflow — a forum and Q&A website; Agoda — a travel platform; Bing — a web search engine; Xbox website, etc.
Desktop apps for Windows, Linux, and MacOS. A great variety of Microsoft web services and apps, such as Windows client applications and Calculator, Cortana — a virtual assistant, Visual Studio — a development environment; KeePass — a password manager; GNOME Do — an application launcher, etc.
Mobile apps. MSN — a web portal and apps such as MSN Weather, MSN Sports, MSN Money; Service Titan — a management platform for business; Olo — a mobile order app for restaurants; and the Alaska Airlines mobile app. C# supports Android and iOS.
Game development and VR. Popular to develop games for Windows, Android, iOS, and Mac OS X. The games are made in Unity Game Engine for mobile and game platforms such as Xbox and PlayStation. For example, Bastion, Shadowrun Returns, Rust, Wasteland 2, and Hearthstone.
Cloud-based services. SharePoint — Microsoft’s web and cloud collaboration platform, which helps organizations store and manage content; City National Bank cloud-first apps; and Accenture — a consulting and technology company's cloud solutions.
IoT (Internet of Things) systems. C# loT apps could be run on special devices for development, such as Raspberry Pi, HummingBoard, and BeagleBoard. You can use them, for example, to create clever home projects that support temperature and humidity sensors, etc.
C# start guide
C# is designed by Microsoft, and it's a great idea to get to know this language through Microsoft's C# documentation, where you’ll find video series, self-guided tutorials, courses, articles, references, and much more.
C# is a language with a long history, offering a wide range of books, exercises, and tutorials ready to assist in your studying. For example, Code Academy's 30-hour free course allows you to get acquainted with C# and write your own program.
As mentioned, C# is a multi-purpose language. This feature allows for exploring a great variety of career choices, from creating websites to developing video games.
IT specialists using C# find work as backend, full-stack, and front-end engineers, app and game devs, program analysts, C# developers, DevOps, and software engineers. The best get to work for Microsoft developers, working in the Microsoft ecosystem.
C# supports cutting-edge technologies, is used for development, and is a multiplatform language. It is also one of the most popular languages, according to the TIOBE Index for March 2023, which places it fifth in the rating, after a recent rapid rise. All of that indicates that C# could be a great choice for a modern career in programming.
You can learn the basics of C# in just two or three months if you have some programming skills, and a little longer, if you are starting from scratch.
Your future with C#
C# is a widely used, evolving, cross-platform language with impressive functionality, providing huge libraries and numerous features to help develop effectively. Once you have become a professional in C#, you can choose from a variety of projects and companies to work with, including giant corporations, such as Microsoft or City National Bank.
If you are interested in building mobile apps, creating games, or designing websites, learning C# is a fantastic investment in your future!