C# (pronounced "C sharp") is a simple, modern, object-oriented, and type-safe programming language. It will immediately be familiar to C and C++ programmers. C# combines the high productivity of Rapid Application Development (RAD) languages and the raw power of C++.
Visual C# .NET is Microsoft's C# development tool. It includes an interactive development environment, visual designers for building Windows and Web applications, a compiler, and a debugger. Visual C# .NET is part of a suite of products, called Visual Studio .NET, that also includes Visual Basic .NET, Visual C++ .NET, and the JScript scripting language. All of these languages provide access to the Microsoft .NET Framework, which includes a common execution engine and a rich class library. The .NET Framework defines a "Common Language Specification" (CLS), a sort of lingua franca that ensures seamless interoperability between CLS-compliant languages and class libraries. For C# developers, this means that even though C# is a new language, it has complete access to the same rich class libraries that are used by seasoned tools such as Visual Basic .NET and Visual C++ .NET. C# itself does not include a class library.
The rest of this chapter describes the essential features of the language. While later chapters describe rules and exceptions in a detail-oriented and sometimes mathematical manner, this chapter strives for clarity and brevity at the expense of completeness. The intent is to provide the reader with an introduction to the language that will facilitate the writing of early programs and the reading of later chapters.