What Is Microsoft .NET Core? A Complete Guide

Developing apps has become a crucial part of many businesses and organizations. By creating your own apps, you can directly address the needs of your employees or your customers (depending on whether you're building a customer-facing app or an internal one). 

.NET Core is a robust framework created by Microsoft that can help you develop these apps quickly and easily. If you're considering using .NET Core, the following guide will help you better understand the ins and outs of .NET Core.

What Is .NET Core?

.NET Core is a powerful software framework that helps developers create apps quickly and easily. Microsoft developed this framework as a cross-platform successor to the .NET Framework. 

Although popular among developers, the original .Net Framework was limited because it was designed specifically for Windows. Microsoft created .NET Core to address this limitation by allowing developers to create apps that people could use on any device, including mobile devices.

A Brief History Of .NET Core

In 2000, Microsoft announced the launch of the .NET Framework. The first version of the .NET Framework was released in 2002. The .NET Framework has been through multiple versions since its initial release. 

In 2014, Microsoft announced it would release a new version of the framework – .NET Core. There have been several updates and releases of .NET Core since. The initial release of .NET Core was in 2016, while .NET Core 2.0 came out in 2017, and .NET Core 3 came out in 2019. 

In 2020, Microsoft removed the "Core" branding and announced .NET 5 as a unified platform after phasing out the .Net Framework (which had patent concerns). Microsoft released the first .NET on November 10th, 2020. 

The most current version available is .NET 6. However, both .NET 7 and .NET 8 are in the works and are projected to be released at the end of 2022 and 2023, respectively.

Useful Characteristics Of .NET Core

Ever since the release of .NET Core, developers have been raving about its features and advantages as it makes app development easier and more efficient. Although Microsoft has moved on from .NET Core to focus on its .NET versions, it does still provide support for .NET Core and it’s still being used by developers to this day. 

With that in mind, the following are some of the characteristics that make .NET Core so valuable for developers:

Open-Source Framework

.NET Core is an open-source framework that is free for anyone to use and contribute to. The source code for .NET Core is available on GitHub, and anyone can submit changes or additions to the codebase. The open-source nature of .NET Core means that a large community of developers is constantly working to improve the framework.

Cross-Platform Framework

.NET Core is a cross-platform framework, meaning developers can build apps for any device. This cross-platform capability contrasts the original .NET Framework, which was limited to Windows. As a result, developers can reach a much larger audience.

Consistent Across Architectures

.NET Core is consistent across different architectures (which refers to the structures of a software system), meaning that developers can easily port (which refers to translating or adapting) an app created for one type of device to another type of device. It can be challenging to port between different architectures on other frameworks because they lack this feature.

Available For A Wide Range Of Applications

Developers can use .NET Core to create a wide range of applications, including web apps, desktop apps, mobile apps, and cloud-based apps. This versatility makes .NET Core an excellent option for nearly any app development project.

Modular Architecture

.NET Core has a modular architecture, meaning it is composed of a set of NuGet packages that can be individually installed. This modular architecture makes it easy to install only the packages needed for a particular project instead of installing the entire framework. 

As a result, .NET Core apps are typically much smaller than .NET Framework apps, which is beneficial because it allows apps to be downloaded and installed much faster.

Command-Line Interface Tools

.NET Core includes a set of command-line interface (CLI) tools that developers can use to develop, build, and run .NET Core apps. These tools make it easy to get started with .NET Core, without the need to install additional software.

Flexible Deployment

Developers can deploy .NET Core apps using a wide range of methods, including self-contained deployments, framework-dependent deployments, and platform-dependent deployments. This capability allows developers to choose the deployment method that best suits their needs.


.NET Core is compatible with multiple operating systems, meaning developers can use Windows, Linux, or macOS to develop .NET Core apps. The original .NET Framework limited developers to building apps on Windows OS only.

Why Use .NET Core?

As previously mentioned, there are many characteristics that make .NET Core an incredibly valuable framework for app developers. However, those aren't the only reasons developers favor the .NET Core framework. One of the primary reasons why you should consider using .NET Core is its improved performance.

Microsoft designed .NET Core with performance in mind. As a result, apps created using .NET Core tend to be faster and more responsive than those developed using other frameworks. This difference in performance is because .NET Core apps are compiled to native code, which makes them execute faster. 

Additionally, .NET Core apps are more lightweight than other framework-based apps, which means that .NET Core apps tend to use less memory than .NET Framework apps.

What Languages Are Supported?

 .NET Core supports multiple programming languages designed in collaboration with the community. The following are some of the programming languages that you can use to develop apps using the .NET Core framework:

  • C#: C# is a powerful language that enables developers to create sophisticated apps. Developers who want to build responsive apps with a rich user interface, such as apps that use animations or 3D graphics, will find that C# is the perfect language for the job.

  • F#: F# is a functional programming language that Microsoft designed. F# is an excellent choice for developers who want to create reliable apps that are easy to maintain. For example, developers often use F# to develop financial and scientific computing applications.

  • Visual Basic: Developers use “Visual Basic” to create apps with a graphical user interface, such as apps that use Windows Forms or Windows Presentation Foundation. Additionally, Visual Basic enables developers to create apps that they can easily integrate with other applications, such as Microsoft Office.

The Role Of Common Language Runtime (CLR)

The Common Language Runtime (CLR) is the virtual machine that runs .NET apps. Think of it as the engine that powers the apps built on the .NET platform. CLR is responsible for managing the execution of .NET apps, providing a set of services that the apps can use, and enforcing security. The following are some of the services that CLR provides:

  • Garbage Collection: CLR provides garbage collection, which helps manage memory usage in .NET apps. As a result, developers don't have to write code to explicitly free up memory that the app is no longer using.

  • Memory Safety And Type Safety: CLR provides “memory safety,” which helps prevent memory corruption in .NET apps. Additionally, “Type safety” helps avoid “Type” mismatches between objects, which could lead to crashes or other unexpected behavior.

  • High-Level Support For Programming Languages: CLR provides high-level support for programming languages. This support makes it easy for developers to create apps in the language of their choice. 

  • Cross-Platform Design: CLR was designed to be cross-platform, which means that apps developed with CLR can be used on multiple platforms. For example, an app created using CLR can be used on Windows, Linux, and macOS. 

What Support Looks Like For .NET Core

When using a framework to develop your apps, you'll want to ensure that the framework is supported. After all, a lack of support means you'll be on your own if you encounter any problems. Microsoft supports the .NET platform on multiple operating systems, including Android, Apple, Linux, and Windows OS. 

They also provides support for the lifecycle of each .NET Core release. Microsoft offers two types of support throughout a version's lifecycle: long-term support releases and current releases. 

Keep in mind that the quality level of their support, breaking change policies, and all other aspects of the releases remain the same. The following is a brief breakdown of the two types of support:

  • Long-Term Support Releases: Microsoft offers long-term support for .NET Core releases. This support includes free security updates and bug fixes for a minimum of three years.
  • Current Releases: Microsoft offers support for the current release of .NET Core. This level includes free support and patches for 18 months.

.NET Core Versus .NET Framework

Determining the differences between the .NET Core and the .Net Framework can be tricky. They were parallel releases before .Net Framework was phased out and .Net Core was rebranded as “.Net,” essentially taking the place of both. 

With that in mind, the following are the differences between .NET Core and .Net Framework:

  • .NET Core is entirely open source, while only certain elements of .NET Framework are.
  • .NET Core is cross-platform, while .NET Framework is limited to Windows.
  • The .Net Framework is only compatible with Windows OS, whereas .NET Core is compatible with multiple operating systems, including Windows, Mac, and Linux.
  • .NET Core supports micro-services, while the .Net Framework does not.
  • .NET Core provides better performance and more scalability than the .Net Framework.
  • .NET Core supports mobile app development, while .Net Framework does not.
  • The .Net Framework has a code access security feature, while Net Core does not.

Incorporate .NET Core Into Your Software Development

When developing software apps, whether they're customer-facing or for in-house use, it's critical that you choose a development platform that will provide the stability, security, and performance you need. As such, .NET Core is an excellent option for developers looking for a reliable and scalable platform. 

Not only is .NET Core open source, but it's also cross-platform and supports mobile app development. Plus, with Microsoft's support, you can be confident that your apps will run smoothly for your users.

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