What Can C# Do For You

C# is a modern, simple, powerful, and advanced computer programming language. This article talks about what kind of applications we can build with C#.

What Can C# Do For You

It was 1999 when C# (pronounced C sharp) was introduced to the world by Microsoft as a new futuristic programming language, I was fortunate enough to be one of the early adopters of the language. I got my hands on the C# compiler when it was released as an alpha version in Dec 1999. Yes, there used to be alpha releases at that time. It took Microsoft 3 years to get the first stable and usable version of the language. And since then, I have witnessed a newborn turn into a fully mature grownup powerful language. 

I wrote and shared my first C# code in 1999.

Today, C# is a fully mature and powerful language. As a matter of fact, I wrote my very first article about C# in 1999 using alpha and beta products. My first articles titled Read Microsoft Access Database in C# was published on C# Corner on Jan 01, 2000. In 2001, I started writing my first book, A Programmer's Guide to ADO.NET using C# published by Apress on April 25, 2002. It took me about a year and half to finish the book.

My first book was published in 2002 on ADO.NET in C#.

My first book
Figure 1. My first book

WOW! Time flies. Can't believe it has been 19 years since I started C# programming.

I know that Java, C, and C++ are the most popular programming languages but C# has gained good ground in the Microsoft world. Today, C# is one of the top 10 programming languages in the world.

C# Language Evolution

C# (pronounced C sharp) is a modern programming language that was created to build modern software applications for Windows, Web and mobile. C# is a much more powerful programming language than many of us may realize. Not only can you build traditional Windows Client applications and Web applications but you may also use C# to build mobile apps, Windows Store apps, and Enterprise applications. On top of that, C# is cool. Yes, you heard it right. C# is cool. Actually, C# was originally named “C cool” but due to trademark issues, it was renamed to “C sharp”.

The following table summarizes the C# versions with year and features.

Version Year Features
1.0 1999-2002 Modern, Object Oriented, Simple, Flexible, Typesafe, Managed, Garbage Collection, Cross-platform
2.0 2005 Generics, Anonymous Method, Partial Class, Nullable Type
3.0 2008 LINQ, Lamda Expression, Extension Method, Anonymous Type, Var
4.0 2010 Named and Optional Parameters, Dynamic Binding
5.0 2012 Async Programming
6.0 2015 Compiler-as-a-service (Roslyn), Exception filters, Await in catch/finally blocks, Auto property initializers, Dictionary initializer, Default values for getter-only properties, Expression-bodied members. Null propagator, String interpolation, nameof operator
7.0 2017 Tuples, Out variables, Pattern matching, Deconstruction, Local functions, Digit separators, Binary literals, Ref returns and locals, Generalized async return types, Expression bodied constructors and finalizers, Expression bodied getters and setters, Throw can also be used as expression
7.1 2017 Async main, Default literal expressions, Inferred tuple element names
7.2 2017 Reference semantics with value types, Non-trailing named arguments, Leading underscores in numeric literals, private protected access modifier
7.3 2018 Accessing fixed fields without pinning, Reassigning ref local variables, Using initializers on stackalloc arrays, Using fixed statements with any type that supports a pattern, Using additional generic constraints
8.0 2019 Nullable reference types, Async streams, ranges and indices, default implementation of interface members, recursive patterns, switch expressions, target-type new expressions
 

C# Ecosystem Software Applications

Now let's get back to our question. What can C# do for you?

Well, the answer is, a lot. I would say, nearly anything. Unless you're writing non-Microsoft platform centric code, C# can pretty much be used to write Windows clients applications, Web applications, Mobile apps, Enterprise software, backend and service-oriented applications.

C# Reach
Figure 2. C# Reach

Figure 3 demonstrates the C# world and applications ecosystem.

C# Applications Ecosystem 
Figure 3. C# Applications Ecosystem

As you can see from Figure 3, the C# language can be used to build any and all kinds of applications. Not only Windows or Web applications but C# can be used to build mobile, Windows Store, and Enterprise applications. C# can also be used within the SQL Server database to build reports, jobs and modules to do the backend work.

Here is a list of types of applications C# can develop.

  1. Windows client applications
  2. Windows libraries and components
  3. Windows services
  4. Web applications
  5. Web services and Web API
  6. Native iOS and Android mobile apps
  7. Backend services
  8. Azure cloud applications and services
  9. Backend database using ML/Data tools
  10. Interoperability software such as Office, SharePoint, SQL Server and so on.
  11. Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning
  12. Blockchains and distributed ledger technology including cryptocurrency
  13. Internet of Things (IoT) devices
  14. Gaming consoles and gaming systems
  15. Video games
  16. And more

Windows Client Applications

Windows client applications run on the Windows operating system as executables. Windows applications have been in existence since Microsoft introduced the Windows operating system on Nov 20, 1985. Windows applications development was the initial use of the C# programming language when Microsoft announced it in 1999 to the developer world.

Today, Windows Forms and WPF are two major technologies used to develop Windows client applications. C# can also be used to write non-UI console and WPF Browser based applications. Visual Studio 2013 supports four project templates, including Windows Forms application, WPF application, Console application, and WPF Browser application.

Here are some common properties of Windows applications.

  • Windows applications run on a Microsoft Windows operating system.
  • Windows applications are typically executables (exes) and dynamic link libraries (DLLs).
  • Windows applications run on a PC and take all resources from the local machine.
  • Windows applications have a user interface with Windows controls such as buttons, menus, dialogs and forms/windows.

Examples of Windows Applications:

  • Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel and so on)
  • Internet Explorer
  • Skype
  • Visual Studio 2012
  • Photoshop
  • SQL Server 2012
  • Paintbrush

The following are some good links to learn these technologies:

Components and Controls

Components and controls are libraries used to build something that is easily sharable and distributable. C# is one of the most commonly used languages to build components and controls in the Microsoft world. A chart control is a perfect example of a sharable control. A GPS library is a perfect example of a library that can be built by a developer and easily distributed to other developers to be used in their applications.

Visual Studio 2013 supports five project templates, including Class Library, Portable Class Library, WPF Custom Control Library, WPF User Control Library, and Windows Forms Control Library.

The following are some good links to learn these technologies:

Web Applications

ASP.NET was released on Jan 05, 2002. Since then, ASP.NET has become one of the most popular technologies to build web applications. ASP.NET can be combined with HTML, JavaScript and other libraries and APIs to build modern web applications.

Visual Studio supports the three major ASP.NET project templates, ASP.NET web applications, ASP.NET MVC web applications, and ASP.NET server controls.

The following are some common properties of Web applications:

  • Web applications run on a Web Server.
  • Web applications are typically hosted within an ASP.NET or HTML page.
  • Windows applications run on the server as well as in the client browser, depending on how the code is written. If C# is used as backend coding, the C# code runs on the server and the front end HTML runs within the client browser.
  • Web applications have a user interface with Windows controls such as buttons, text boxes, text and styles.
  • Web applications usually have a URL, public or private.
  • Web applications are accessed by users from outside of the physical premises of the application via a remote Internet connection and a browser.

The following are examples of Web sites:

  • msdn.com
  • facebook.com
  • c-sharpcorner.com

ASP.NET MVC is one of the newest frameworks to build ASP.NET Web applications. The following are some good links to learn more about ASP.NET Programming:

ASP.NET Core is the latest open source version of .NET. ASP.NET Core is a part of .NET Core, the next evolution of .NET Framework.

Blazor (Browser, Razor, Web Assembly) is another hot Web technology that allows C# developers to write and execute C# code in Web Browser. Here is a list of tutorials on How to Get Started with Blazor Programming.
 

Windows Services, Web Services, and Web API

Windows Services has been around since early Windows days. A Windows Service (also known as Microsoft Windows Service or Windows NT Service) is an executable application that runs on Windows operating systems. A service usually does not have a user interface, performs operations in the background and does not require any user interaction. Visual Studio comes with a Windows Service project template that is used to create a Windows Service using C# and VB.NET.

Web Services were introduced to provide remote communication among devices over the Internet. The main purpose of a Web Service is to provide data accessibility and updatability remotely using the internet protocols regardless of the platform, Operating System, client browser, and application. Physically, a web service is a software application running on a Web Server that can be called by outside applications using the internet to access and write data.

In the Microsoft world, the web services are developed using ASP.NET and hence called the ASP.NET Web Services. While the exposure and connectivity of a Web Service uses ASP.NET, the backend can be built using the C# language. Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and the Web API are the latest technologies developed by Microsoft to provide remote communication.

Web APIs are a modern era of Web services that allow developers to expose backend functionality to any kind of application regardless of their platform and language.

Let's understand this using an example and what can be better than using our own C# Corner platform architecture shown in Figure 4.

C# Corner System Architecture 
Figure 4. C# Corner System Architecture

In Figure 4, we have a database server that runs services to do the backend tasks such as calculating points, sending emails, analytics and so on. Some of these backend services run as tasks on SQL Server and some are Windows services.

The Web Service sits on the Web Server and talk to the database server and act as a gateway of data access and manipulation from the clients. Clients are users accessing C# Corner from their web browsers, iOS apps, and other apps.

This gives you an idea of how Windows and Web Services fit in the entire C# universe.

WCF and the Web API are two of the newest technologies in the Web Services space. Here are some good links to learn more about Windows and Web Services.

UWP Apps

Universal Windows Platform (UWP) Apps are windows apps run on Windows 10 or later platforms.

UWP Apps 
Figure 5.

There are two tracks to develop UWP apps. First, use C# and XAML and second, use HTML 5 and JavaScript. C# and XAML are the primary languages to build Windows Store apps. XAML is used to build app screens and C# is used as the language that runs in the backend.

The following are two good links to learn more about Windows Store apps and the XAML language:

Mobile Apps

Mobile apps run on mobile devices. The Apple iOS and Google Android are two major players in the mobile app market. C# supports native mobile app development via Xamarin. Xamarin is a part of Visual Studio 2017 or later versions.

Here are over 900 articles and code samples on Learn Xamarin.

Cloud and Azure

Visual Studio 2017 or later versions provide a complete suite of tools to build cloud based applications for Windows Azure. Windows Azure is Microsoft's operating system for cloud computing and hosting. Using Visual Studio, not only you can build Azure solutions but can also deploy and manage them. C# can also be used to work with SQL Azure, the cloud based version of Microsoft's SQL Server database server.

You may want to check out the following link to learn more about the Cloud and Azure:

Enterprise Cross-Applications Development

So far, we have learned that we can build Windows, Web, Mobile, Services and Components using the C# language but the capabilities of C# does not end here. The C# language may also be used cross-applications to connect and build enterprise solutions.

Some of the critical requirements of an enterprise architecture are connectivity with various types of applications to transfer data. For example, in one of my projects, I had to access data from a SQL Server database, a SharePoint database and store some in MSMQ. There was also data to be transfered from SharePoint Portal Server that was accessed by Office Excel documents and an ASP.NET Website. There was also a reporting component using Crystal Reports and CRM that stored a customer database.

All the preceding can be done using the C# language. I built some adapters and used some existing .NET adapters and built the system using app pure .NET and C#.

The following are some of the products and tools that could be used in an enterprise environment:

  • App for Office 2013
  • App for SharePoint 2013
  • Cloud Business App
  • Add-ins for Office 2013 including Excel 2013, InfoPath 2013, PowerPoint 2013, Project 2013, Visio 2013, Word 2013.
  • SharePoint development includes SharePoint 2013 Silverlight Web Part, SharePoint 2013 Visual Web Parts, and SharePoint 2013 Reusable Workflow.
  • SharePoint, SQL Server, Office
  • SQL Server database
  • XML
  • Flat data
  • Object data

The following are some useful links related to these topics:

Bleeding-Edge Technologies

C# fully supports trending bleeding-edge technologies development such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Blockchain, Internet of Things, and Intelligent Cloud.

C# is also the primary programming language for any new Microsoft product and platform.

Summary

The C# language has come a long way since it was introduced in 1999. If you have enough experience, you can build nearly any kind of application using C# and related tools.

In this article, I discussed the power and flexibility of C# and its usefulness. There is not much out that can't be built using C# and its related technologies in the Microsoft world. If you are a Microsoft developer, you may already know that you can't live without C#.

I hope you enjoyed it. I look forward to seeing your feedback.