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How should I learn .NET?


I'm interested in learning about .NET, probably C#

Any advice on how to get started? I have a laptop with XP that I'll be installing any new software onto.

I heard I could get the basic tools for free. Is that right? I'd like to cover the basics with a free tool before jumping in and buying the full-fledged Visual Studio stuff. I understand that VS is probably a better IDE than my text editor, but does it have any ESSENTIAL feature I need?

Once I do decide to purchase a real IDE - which of the many .NET/Visual Studio/C# IDE choices would be a good choice to get for a single-use developer?

Also, does anyone have recommendations for a good book on learning C# / .NET?


Testing the Waters
Monday, October 14, 2002

  Yes, you can download the free SDK from Microsoft's site.

  And you can also try a free IDE, like SharpDevelop.  I´ve never used it, so I can´t say if it´s good or not, but maybe you´d like to take a look.  You can find it in


Ricardo Antunes da Costa
Monday, October 14, 2002

Just a few things to add...

1. I'm pretty sure you can get a 60-day trial version of VS.NET Pro or Enterprise for free, but I don't remember the URL.

2. The stand-alone versions of VB.NET, C#, and VC++ are pretty much useless as anything other than learning tools.

Dave Rothgery
Monday, October 14, 2002

In the free .NET IDEs category, there is also WebMatrix. I've downloaded it on my home PC, but not done too much else with it (I've got a beta of VS.NET on my machine too which I similarily have not touched :)).

Walter Rumsby
Monday, October 14, 2002

My book recommendation would be "Microsoft .NET for Programmers" by Fergal Grimes.

Check it out!

Guy Incognito, AFL-CIO WNBA MC
Monday, October 14, 2002

I'm not sure what Dave meant, but the SDK from should be more then enough to get you started.  Maybe he just has trouble with trickey stuff like constructors and delegates.  Anyways, download textpad, get the SDK, and you should be able to code almost anything. You'll need IIS (comes with XP Pro) to do ASP.NET, but otherwise you should be fine developing console and windows based applications.

Vincent Marquez
Monday, October 14, 2002

You could also use Cassini, if you don't have IIS.  It's a ASP.NET web server written in c#.  If you feel the need, you can even browse the source code.

It's definitely no IIS, but it will probably do for simple web applications.

Guy Incognito, CBS ABC NBC
Monday, October 14, 2002

I'm dabbling with the SDK myself. I'm finding it fine for learning, and the price is certainly right.

I'll enthusiastically second the recommendation for the book by Fergal Grimes. It's short, well-written, has a case study that doesn't make your eyes glaze over, and mostly discusses building applications using the SDK, not the IDE. There's a sample chapter at the publisher's Web site (, where there is also a forum related to the book - the author is a frequent participant.

Andrew Simmons
Monday, October 14, 2002

Also, on the topic of books, once you decide to start to do "windows" programming on C#, check out "Windows Forms Programming with C#" (A practical guide to creating Windows applications with .NET), by Erik Brown, also from Manning. IT _does_ do what the title implies, and it even has a chapter on how to build windows apps without the full IDE, just the SDK ;)

My 0.02

Javier Jarava
Monday, October 14, 2002

You can go to CompUSA and buy the standalone C# Visual Studio IDE for aroung $100.  Just pick which .NET language that you want to code in and then buy the VS.NET IDE for that language.  You don't have to spend the $1000 for the full-fledged IDE with all of the .NET language support...

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Imo it is much better to learn with just textpad and the sdk. Visual Studio is great, but knowing how to do everything yourself makes it better. I've did a few fairly large projects from textpad before moving to VS, but if you have a lot of VS6 experience (I didn't) you might want to just jump right in.

There is nothing you can't do from just the sdk as far as .net and C#, as in nothing has been turned off etc. For books, the documentation that comes with it is about as good as anything I've seen. You might want a book to get an overview though. Also you might want to catch a few episodes of the .net show on the MS site, and a few sites, etc.

.Net is very fun, has to be said.

There is also a feldgling Joel board for .Net here:

: )

Robin Debreuil
Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Though I'm not planning on doing anything with .NET in the forseeable future I'm keeping up to date using '.NET Framework Essentials' an O'Reilly book by Thuan Thai & Hoang Q. Lam.

If you have experience of COM/DCOM then this is an easy and non-patronising description of the framework.

The slimness of the book exposes the slimness of the concept :-)

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, October 15, 2002

I think the best way to learn .NET is to get your hands dirty. You could use the free compiler and tools, but why suffer the pain?

Microsoft are kind enough to give away a free 60 day trial of Visual Studio.NET professional. Fill out a form on their web site they will send you a free DVD.

See here:

I find it best to start by trying to build something, using the online docs and examples. There are lots of online tutorials, such as these ones:

It's all good!


James Shields
Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Can anyone tell me how large the .net SDK is, I don't have much room left on my laptop, but I'd like to start working with .net and I want to know if I've got enough room before I start trying to download the SDK

Stephen Adams
Tuesday, October 15, 2002

It's BIG. 131 MB just for the download. You'll need a lot more than that for actual installation.

The actual sizes are on the download page at MSDN.

Luckily, that's the SDK size, not the runtime size. People complain about a 20 mb runtime - imagine if the runtime was actually 100 mb! Oh, wait - that's the OS. :-)

Chris Tavares
Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Using VS.NET really depends on what you want to learn with .NET.  If you are only looking to pick up C# and play around with the CLR, then the SDK and notepad are the way to go.  And in fact, many of the courses I teach we start out using NotePad and the command line tools so we know what is going on in the background of VS.NET.  But after two days of this we move to VS.NET because otherwise the students would revolt without intellisense, the VS.NET debugger, and all the other little tools in there. 

Some books I would recommend are Introducing Microsoft .NET Second Edition (David Platt).  The book is mostly just showing what technologies like ASP.NET, WinForms, and WebServices bring to the table.  Very little code in that book.

Next you need to learn a language.  I haven't ran accross any good VB.NET books quite yet for the full release.  Most of the books assume VB4/5/6 experience and are looking to update you to inheritance, threading and all the other new stuff in .NET.  Apress has some good books on the subject, although they targeted the beta 2 release.  For C# I really like Inside C# and also A Programmer's Introduction to C#. 

After you got the language down, you should probably pick up Jeffery Richter's Applied .NET Framework book so you can get into the more nitty gritty aspects of .NET.

Once you've gone through those steps, picking up .NET remoting, Web services, Winforms, Web forms, Windows services, or whatever should be a breeze because they are all based on the CLR an all act very consistant.

The only other advice I have is avoid WROX press books in general, and also dig through MSDN looking for interesting articles on .NET because there are a lot of them in there...

Philip Scott
Wednesday, October 23, 2002

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