New Love for .NET and C#

At the Build 2014 conference, Microsoft showed new love for .NET. This blog post shows how Microsoft's love reveals.


.NET Compiler Platform

The biggest thing for .NET is the .NET Compiler Platform ("Roslyn"). In development since the year 2009, Roslyn is nearing completion and has a new preview available.

Both C# and Visual Basic compilers are rebuilt using this compiler platform. What is the advantage of rebuilding the compiler when there are already working ones that have been implemented with native code?

For the Microsoft teams, this platform gives a clean architecture to evolve on. It's a lot easier to add features to C# and Visual Basic. Implementing a new features for these two languages doesn't mean the effort duplicated for every language, it can be done with just 1.2x instead of 2x. The effort to implementing new language features is a lot less compared to the older native C# compiler, as can be seen in the number of new features for C#.

For partners, it is a lot easier to create source-based tools and extensions for Visual Studio. Xamarin will use the .NET Compiler Platform in an upcoming edition. I also bet, tools like ReSharper will make use of this platform to create new features.

For developers, the .NET Compiler Platform gives a richer C# IDE experience. Coming with the preview you can already see smarter refactoring features. More to come :-)

Anders Hejlsberg demonstrated just three small changes in the code base for defining a new string literal. As the .NET Compiler Platform is open source, changes could be done by everyone. I just don't expect many to do their own C#. However using the .NET Compiler Platform it is easy to define guidelines for code styling, and easy allow for automatic code changes with preview of the changes shown.

Dustin Campbell demonstrated how easy it is to use the .NET Compiler Platform SDK to create a guideline for requiring braces with the block of if and else statements.

The preview can be downloaded from Microsoft Connect after registration.

.NET Foundation

The .NET Foundation was announced for faster open development and collaboration around many open source technologies for .NET. Among the projects in the foundation are the .NET Compiler Platform, ASP.NET MVC, ASP.NET Web API, Composition (MEF), ASP.NET SignarlR, Entity Framework, Rx (Reactive Extensions), Windows Azure .NET SDK, and also third party libraries such as Xamarin.Mobile, Xamarin.Auth, Couchbase for .NET, .NET Map Reduce API for Hadoop...

C# 6

Let's get into the history of C#. C# 2.0 offered generics with the language. C# 3 added LINQ and all the language features needed for LINQ such as Lambda expressions, type inference, anonymous types, and others. The theme of C# 4 was dynamic to make an easier integration with scripting languages and COM, offering the dynamic keyword, optional and named parameters. C# 5 was about async programming, just offering two new language keywords async and await. However, these small keywords again changed programming dramatically.

C# 6 is not about such a big change like generics, LINQ, or dynamic. However, it has many changes. With the .NET Compiler Platform, it is a lot easier to create new features. Thus many things that needed to wait with previous editions can be done now. Among the things that were shown at Build are primary constructors, declaration expressions, and indexed members.

Creating immutable types was always possible with .NET, but we had to write a lot of code. With the new language features, creating such types is possible reducing the code a lot.

New JIT Compiler, .NET Native

RyuJIT is a new JIT compiler for the .NET runtime. This compiler is a lot faster than the one now part of .NET. Rujit CTP 3 is available now. This version supports SIMD instructions (running the same operation on multiple data points simultaneously.

It gets even faster with .NET Native. 60% faster startup for Windows Store apps, and much smaller memory footprint. This product consists from a .NET Native compiler that makes use of a VC++ compiler backend and the .NET Native runtime (refactored and optimized CLR).

With Windows Store apps, it is still possible to upload MSIL app packages to the store. Later on the compiler in the cloud compiles the app in the store that is compiled for ARM and x64 architectures. x86 will follow.

Using this compiler also has the advantage that the compiler creates just one file containing native code for all libraries. Using IL code tools to analyze this code is no longer possible, it's native code.

Not only this, this compiler also creates just one file containing native code for all the libraries. Currently this native compiler is only available for Windows Store apps, but other technologies will follow.

Apps such as Wordament and Fresh Paint already make use of .NET Native and see great improvements.


With these developments I'm seeing really big steps forward with .NET. With many of these technologies it's just the beginning. For example, I can imagine big improvements in upcoming tools based on the .NET Compiler Platform. And then don't forget the new C# language features, .NET Native, RyuJIT, and the huge open source progress going on.

Another big thing for .NET are Universal Apps that I talk about in another blog post.


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