VB .NET Uncovered: Getting Started
There's so much hype surrounding this VB.NET thing that it's sometimes difficult to figure out what it actually is. Hmm, good question.
Maybe it's simpler to just tell you what VB.NET isn't. It isn't a Web site. It isn't so drastically different that you'll need to relearn everything you already know about VB (just most of it). And it isn't a lycra-wearing toad.
OK, maybe it isn't simpler telling you what it isn't. But if you are looking for a quick description, well... it's the next version of Visual Basic.
The End. Well, perhaps not.
You see, this next version is just one part of what Microsoft are calling the '.NET strategy' — essentially a grand plan guaranteed to bring big changes to the software world. And big changes to the bank balance of Billy-Boy Gates.
One key component of this plan is the revamping of its major programming languages. This means a new version of Visual Basic plus a completely new language called C# (pronounced C-Sharp after Microsoft decided C-Hash sounded a little too dubious).
But how is this next version different to any other upgrade? After all, the change from Visual Basic 5 to Visual Basic 6 didn't rouse quite so much interest!
Hmm, true. However VB .NET — also known by its lesser-cool name, Visual Basic 7 — is built on something called the '.NET Framework', one part of that .NET strategy I was rambling on about.
Now this .NET Framework essentially sits on top of the operating system. And it handles everything from memory management to rendering a user interface.
When you program in VB.NET, you're dealing with this framework thing. And that framework thing brings with it a bunch of 'classes' that provide you with a heap of functionality from a function to reverse a string through to procedures that really take you to the heart of the operating system, perhaps procedures that had never before been available to VB developers.
In addition, the framework allows you to forget about memory management and related rubbish. It's incredibly scalable and even brings an end to the infamous 'DLL Hell' by getting rid of GUIDs, registration and all that jazz — it's difficult to imagine at first, but the framework handles all of this automatically.
It's the framework that allows you to create in VB .NET everything from DOS-style console applications through to Web sites — in just the same way as you would any regular desktop application!
But what is this framework? Is it a program? Is it an operating system? What?
Well, I stumbled over that very same question. And it's actually all of those things. It's an 'upgrade' if you like — an add-on to Windows. It's incredibly useful and it will soon be bundled by default with every Microsoft operating system. In the meantime, you'll find it on the Windows Component Update CD that ships with VB.NET Beta One.
Top Tip: Remember— you need the .NET Framework before you can run any program created in a .NET language. Just a warning.
OK, so in brief - VB.NET is the next version of Visual Basic, scheduled for release later this year. It is tightly coupled with the .NET Framework, a cool 'functionality layer' that sits on top of the operating system.
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