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What's New in the .NET Framework

This article summarizes key new features and improvements in the following versions of the .NET Framework:

.NET 2015 RC and .NET Framework 4.6 RC
.NET Framework 4.5.2
.NET Framework 4.5.1
.NET Framework 4.5

This article does not provide comprehensive information about each new feature and is subject to change. For general information about the .NET Framework, see Getting Started with the .NET Framework. For supported platforms, see System Requirements. For download links and installation instructions, see Installing the .NET Framework.

Note Note

The .NET Framework team also releases features out of band with NuGet to expand platform support and to introduce new functionality (for example, immutable collections). For more information, see The .NET Framework and Out-of-Band Releases. See a complete list of NuGet packages for the .NET Framework, or subscribe to our feed.

.NET 2015 RC introduces the .NET Framework 4.6 RC and .NET Core. Some new features apply to both, and other features are specific to .NET Framework 4.6 RC or .NET Core.

  • ASP.NET 5

    .NET 2015 includes ASP.NET 5, which is a lean .NET platform for building modern cloud-based apps. The platform is modular so you can include only those features that are needed in your application. It can be hosted on IIS or self-hosted in a custom process, and you can run apps with different versions of the .NET Framework on the same server. It includes a new environment configuration system that is designed for cloud deployment.

    MVC, Web API, and Web Pages are unified into a single framework called MVC 6. You build ASP.NET 5 apps through the new tools in Visual Studio 2015. Your existing applications will work on the new .NET Framework; however to build an app that uses MVC 6 or SignalR 3, you must use the project system in Visual Studio 2015.

    For information, see ASP.NET 5.

  • ASP.NET Updates

    • HTTP/2 Support (Windows 10)

      HTTP/2 support has been added to ASP.NET in the .NET Framework 4.6. Because networking functionality exists at multiple layers, new features were required in Windows, in IIS, and in ASP.NET to enable HTTP/2. You must be running on Windows 10 to use HTTP/2 with ASP.NET. HTTP/2 has not yet been added to ASP.NET 5.

      HTTP/2 is a new version of the HTTP protocol that provides much better connection utilization (fewer round-trips between client and server), resulting in lower latency web page loading for users.  Web pages (as opposed to services) benefit the most from HTTP/2, since the protocol optimizes for multiple artifacts being requested as part of a single experience.

      The browser and the web server (IIS on Windows) do all the work. You don't have to do any heavy-lifting for your users.

      Most of the major browsers support HTTP/2, so it's likely that your users will benefit from HTTP/2 support if your server supports it. Give it a try with the RC update.

    • Support for the Token Binding Protocol

      Microsoft and Google have been collaborating on a new approach to authentication, called the Token Binding Protocol. The premise is that authentication tokens (in your browser cache) can be stolen and used by criminals to access otherwise secure resources (e.g. your bank account) without requiring your password or any other privileged knowledge. The new protocol aims to mitigate this problem.

      The Token Binding Protocol will be implemented in Windows 10 as a browser feature. ASP.NET apps will participate in the protocol, so that authentication tokens are validated to be legitimate. The client and the server implementations establish the end-to-end protection specified by the protocol.

  • ADO.NET

    ADO .NET now supports the Always Encrypted feature available in SQL Server 2016 Community Technology Preview 2 (CTP2). With Always Encrypted, SQL Server can perform operations on encrypted data, and best of all the encryption key resides with the application inside the customer’s trusted environment and not on the server. Always Encrypted secures customer data so DBAs do not have access to plain text data. Encryption and decryption of data happens transparently at the driver level, minimizing changes that have to be made to existing applications. For details, see Always Encrypted (Database Engine) and Always Encrypted (client development).

  • 64-bit JIT Compiler for managed code

    The .NET Framework 4.6 features a new version of the 64-bit JIT compiler. This compiler provides significant performance improvements over the existing 64-bit JIT compiler.

  • Base class library changes

    Many new APIs have been added around to .NET Framework 4.6 RC to enable key scenarios. You will notice the following changes and additions:

    • IReadOnlyCollection<T> implementations

      Additional collections implement IReadOnlyCollection<T> such as Queue<T> and Stack<T>.

    • CultureInfo.CurrentCulture and CultureInfo.CurrentUICulture

      The CultureInfo.CurrentCulture and CultureInfo.CurrentUICulture properties are now read-write rather than read-only. If you assign a new CultureInfo object to these properties, the current thread culture defined by the Thread.CurrentThread.CurrentCulture property and the current UI thread culture defined by the Thread.CurrentThread,CurrentUICulture properties also change.

    • Enhancements to garbage collection (GC)

      The GC class now includes TryStartNoGCRegion and EndNoGCRegion methods that allow you to disallow garbage collection during the execution of a critical path.

      A new overload of the GC.Collect(Int32, GCCollectionMode, Boolean, Boolean) method allows you to control whether both the small object heap and the large object heap are swept and compacted or swept only.

    • SIMD-enabled types

      The System.Numerics namespace now includes a number of SIMD-enabled types, such as Matrix3x2, Matrix4x4, Plane, Quaternion, Vector2, Vector3, and Vector4Vector4.

    • Cryptography updates

      The System.Security.Cryptography API has been updated to support the Windows CNG cryptography APIs. Until now, the .NET Framework has used an earlier version of the Windows Cryptography APIs as the basis for the System.Security.Cryptography implementation. We have had requests to support the CNG API, since it supports modern cryptography algorithms, which are important for certain categories of apps. In this update, the team has added support to use CNG certificate keys with the RSACng class.

      This update is the first step toward broader support for the Windows CNG API and for more modern cryptography algorithms generally. This API work is still in progress so expect this to change for RTM.

    • Compatibility switches

      The new AppContext class adds a new compatibility feature that enables library writers to provide a uniform opt-out mechanism for new functionality for their users. It establishes a loosely-coupled contract between components in order to communicate an opt-out request. This capability is typically important when a change is made to existing functionality. Conversely, there is already an implicit opt-in for new functionality.

      With AppContext, libraries define and expose compatibility switches, while code that depends on them can set those switches to affect the library behavior. By default, libraries provide the new functionality, and they only alter it (that is, they provide the previous functionality) if the switch is set.

      An application (or a library) can declare the value of a switch (which is always a Boolean value) that a dependent library defines. The switch is always implicitly false. Setting the switch to true enables it. Explicitly setting the switch to false provides the new behavior.

         AppContext.SetSwitch("Switch.AmazingLib.ThrowOnException", true);
      

      The library must check if a consumer has declared the value of the switch and then appropriately act on it.

      if (!AppContext.TryGetSwitch("Switch.AmazingLib.ThrowOnException", out shouldThrow)) 
      {
         // This is the case where the switch value was not set by the application. 
         // The library can choose to get the value of shouldThrow by other means. 
         // If no overrides nor default values are specified, the value should be 'false'. 
         // A false value implies the latest behavior.
      }
      
         // The library can use the value of shouldThrow to throw exceptions or not.
         if (shouldThrow) 
         {
            // old code
         }
         else {
            // new code
         }
      }
      

      It's beneficial to use a consistent format for switches, since they are a formal contract exposed by a library. The following are two obvious formats.

      • Switch.namespace.switchname

      • Switch.library.switchname

    • Changes to the task-based asynchronous pattern (TAP)

      For apps that target the .NET Framework 4.6 RC, Task and Task<TResult> objects inherit the culture and UI culture of the calling thread. The behavior of apps that target previous versions of the .NET Framework, or that do not target a specific version of the .NET Framework, is unaffected. For more information, see the "Culture and task-based asynchronous operations” section of the CultureInfo class topic.

      Additional members support the task-based asynchronous pattern (TAP) such as Task.CompletedTask, Task.FromCanceled, Task.FromException, and NamedPipeClientStream.ConnectAsync.

    • Improvements to event tracing

      A .NET Framework 4.6 RC EventSource object can now be constructed directly and you can call one of the Write methods to emit a self-describing event.

  • Resizing in Windows Forms controls.

    This feature has been expanded in .NET Framework 4.6 RC to include the DomainUpDown, NumericUpDown, DataGridViewComboBoxColumn, DataGridViewColumn and ToolStripSplitButton types and the rectangle specified by the Bounds property used when drawing a UITypeEditor.

    This is an opt-in feature. To enable it, set the EnableWindowsFormsHighDpiAutoResizing element to true in the application configuration (app.config) file:

    <appSettings>
       <add key="EnableWindowsFormsHighDpiAutoResizing" value="true" />
    </appSettings>
    

  • Support for code page encodings

    .NET Core primarily supports the Unicode encodings and by default provides limited support for code page encodings. You can add support for code page encodings available in the .NET Framework but unsupported in .NET Core by registering code page encodings with the Encoding.RegisterProvider method. For more information, see CodePagesEncodingProvider.

  • .NET Native

    Windows apps for Windows 10 that target .NET Core and are written in C# or Visual Basic can take advantage of a new technology that compiles apps to native code rather than IL. They produce apps characterized by faster startup and execution times. For more information, see Compiling Apps with .NET Native. For an overview of .NET Native that examines how it differs from both JIT compilation and NGEN and what that means for your code, see .NET Native and Compilation.

    Your apps are compiled to native code by default when you compile them with Visual Studio 2015. For more information, see Getting Started with .NET Native.

    To support debugging .NET Native apps, a number of new interfaces and enumerations have been added to the unmanaged debugging API. For more information, see the Debugging (Unmanaged API Reference) topic.

  • Open-source .NET Framework packages

    .NET Core packages such as the Immutable Collections and SIMD APIs are now available, open source, on GitHub. To access the code, see NetFx on GitHub. For more information and how to contribute to these packages, see .NET Core and Open-Source, .NET Home Page on GitHub.

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April 2014 updates:

  • Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 includes updates to the Portable Class Library templates to support these scenarios:

    • You can use Windows Runtime APIs in portable libraries that target Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1, and Windows Phone Silverlight 8.1.

    • You can include XAML (Windows.UI.XAML types) in portable libraries when you target Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8.1. The following XAML templates are supported: Blank Page, Resource Dictionary, Templated Control, and User Control.

    • You can create a portable Windows Runtime component (.winmd file) for use in Store apps that target Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1.

    • You can retarget a Windows Store or Windows Phone Store class library like a Portable Class Library.

    For more information about these changes, see Cross-Platform Development with the Portable Class Library.

  • The .NET Framework content set now includes documentation for .NET Native, which is a precompilation technology for building and deploying Windows apps. .NET Native compiles your apps directly to native code, rather than to intermediate language (IL), for better performance. For details, see Compiling Apps with .NET Native.

  • The .NET Framework Reference Source provides a new browsing experience and enhanced functionality. You can now browse through the .NET Framework source code online, download the reference for offline viewing, and step through the sources (including patches and updates) during debugging. For more information, see the blog entry A new look for .NET Reference Source.

Core new features and enhancements in the .NET Framework 4.5.1 include:

  • Automatic binding redirection for assemblies. Starting with Visual Studio 2013, when you compile an app that targets the .NET Framework 4.5.1, binding redirects may be added to the app configuration file if your app or its components reference multiple versions of the same assembly. You can also enable this feature for projects that target older versions of the .NET Framework. For more information, see Assembly Binding Redirection.

  • Ability to collect diagnostics information to help developers improve the performance of server and cloud applications. For more information, see the WriteEventWithRelatedActivityId and WriteEventWithRelatedActivityIdCore methods in the EventSource class.

  • Ability to explicitly compact the large object heap (LOH) during garbage collection. For more information, see the GCSettings.LargeObjectHeapCompactionMode property.

  • Additional performance improvements such as ASP.NET app suspension, multi-core JIT improvements, and faster app startup after a .NET Framework update. For details, see the .NET Framework 4.5.1 announcement and the ASP.NET app suspend blog post.

Improvements to Windows Forms include:

  • Resizing in Windows Forms controls. You can use the system DPI setting to resize components of controls (for example, the icons that appear in a property grid) by opting in with an entry in the application configuration file (app.config) for your app. This feature is currently supported in the following Windows Forms controls:

    PropertyGrid
    TreeView
    Some aspects of the DataGridView (see new features in 4.5.2 for additional controls supported)

    To enable this feature, add a new <appSettings> element to the configuration file (app.config) and set the EnableWindowsFormsHighDpiAutoResizing element to true:

    <appSettings>
       <add key="EnableWindowsFormsHighDpiAutoResizing" value="true" />
    </appSettings>
    

Improvements when debugging your .NET Framework apps in Visual Studio 2013 include:

  • Return values in the Visual Studio debugger. When you debug a managed app in Visual Studio 2013, the Autos window displays return types and values for methods. This information is available for desktop, Windows Store, and Windows Phone apps. For more information, see Examine return values of method calls in the MSDN Library.

  • Edit and Continue for 64-bit apps. Visual Studio 2013 supports the Edit and Continue feature for 64-bit managed apps for desktop, Windows Store, and Windows Phone. The existing limitations remain in effect for both 32-bit and 64-bit apps (see the last section of the Supported Code Changes (C#) article).

  • Async-aware debugging. To make it easier to debug asynchronous apps in Visual Studio 2013, the call stack hides the infrastructure code provided by compilers to support asynchronous programming, and also chains in logical parent frames so you can follow logical program execution more clearly. A Tasks window replaces the Parallel Tasks window and displays tasks that relate to a particular breakpoint, and also displays any other tasks that are currently active or scheduled in the app. You can read about this feature in the "Async-aware debugging" section of the .NET Framework 4.5.1 announcement.

  • Better exception support for Windows Runtime components. In Windows 8.1, exceptions that arise from Windows Store apps preserve information about the error that caused the exception, even across language boundaries. You can read about this feature in the "Windows Store app development" section of the .NET Framework 4.5.1 announcement.

Starting with Visual Studio 2013, you can use the Managed Profile Guided Optimization Tool (Mpgo.exe) to optimize Windows Store apps as well as desktop apps.

For new features in ASP.NET 4.5.1, see ASP.NET 4.5.1 and Visual Studio 2013 on the ASP.NET site.

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  • Ability to reduce system restarts by detecting and closing .NET Framework 4 applications during deployment. See Reducing System Restarts During .NET Framework 4.5 Installations.

  • Support for arrays that are larger than 2 gigabytes (GB) on 64-bit platforms. This feature can be enabled in the application configuration file. See the <gcAllowVeryLargeObjects> element, which also lists other restrictions on object size and array size.

  • Better performance through background garbage collection for servers. When you use server garbage collection in the .NET Framework 4.5, background garbage collection is automatically enabled. See the Background Server Garbage Collection section of the Fundamentals of Garbage Collection topic.

  • Background just-in-time (JIT) compilation, which is optionally available on multi-core processors to improve application performance. See ProfileOptimization.

  • Ability to limit how long the regular expression engine will attempt to resolve a regular expression before it times out. See the Regex.MatchTimeout property.

  • Ability to define the default culture for an application domain. See the CultureInfo class.

  • Console support for Unicode (UTF-16) encoding. See the Console class.

  • Support for versioning of cultural string ordering and comparison data. See the SortVersion class.

  • Better performance when retrieving resources. See Packaging and Deploying Resources in Desktop Apps.

  • Zip compression improvements to reduce the size of a compressed file. See the System.IO.Compression namespace.

  • Ability to customize a reflection context to override default reflection behavior through the CustomReflectionContext class.

  • Support for the 2008 version of the Internationalized Domain Names in Applications (IDNA) standard when the System.Globalization.IdnMapping class is used on Windows 8.

  • Delegation of string comparison to the operating system, which implements Unicode 6.0, when the .NET Framework is used on Windows 8. When running on other platforms, the .NET Framework includes its own string comparison data, which implements Unicode 5.x. See the String class and the Remarks section of the SortVersion class.

  • Ability to compute the hash codes for strings on a per application domain basis. See <UseRandomizedStringHashAlgorithm> Element.

  • Type reflection support split between Type and TypeInfo classes. See Reflection in the .NET Framework for Windows Store Apps.

In the .NET Framework 4.5, the Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF) provides the following new features:

  • Support for generic types.

  • Convention-based programming model that enables you to create parts based on naming conventions rather than attributes.

  • Multiple scopes.

  • A subset of MEF that you can use when you create Windows Store apps. This subset is available as a downloadable package from the NuGet Gallery. To install the package, open your project in Visual Studio, choose Manage NuGet Packages from the Project menu, and search online for the Microsoft.Composition package.

For more information, see Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF).

In the .NET Framework 4.5, new asynchronous features were added to the C# and Visual Basic languages. These features add a task-based model for performing asynchronous operations. To use this new model, use the asynchronous methods in the I/O classes. See Asynchronous File I/O.

In the .NET Framework 4.5, Resource File Generator (Resgen.exe) enables you to create a .resw file for use in Windows Store apps from a .resources file embedded in a .NET Framework assembly. For more information, see Resgen.exe (Resource File Generator).

Managed Profile Guided Optimization (Mpgo.exe) enables you to improve application startup time, memory utilization (working set size), and throughput by optimizing native image assemblies. The command-line tool generates profile data for native image application assemblies. See Mpgo.exe (Managed Profile Guided Optimization Tool). Starting with Visual Studio 2013, you can use Mpgo.exe to optimize Windows Store apps as well as desktop apps.

The .NET Framework 4.5 provides several new features and improvements for parallel computing. These include improved performance, increased control, improved support for asynchronous programming, a new dataflow library, and improved support for parallel debugging and performance analysis. See the entry What’s New for Parallelism in .NET 4.5 in the Parallel Programming with .NET blog.

ASP.NET 4.5 and 4.5.1 add model binding for Web Forms, WebSocket support, asynchronous handlers, performance enhancements, and many other features. For more information, see the following resources:

The .NET Framework 4.5 provides a new programming interface for HTTP applications. For more information, see the new System.Net.Http and System.Net.Http.Headers namespaces.

Support is also included for a new programming interface for accepting and interacting with a WebSocket connection by using the existing HttpListener and related classes. For more information, see the new System.Net.WebSockets namespace and the HttpListener class.

In addition, the .NET Framework 4.5 includes the following networking improvements:

  • RFC-compliant URI support. For more information, see Uri and related classes.

  • Support for Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) parsing. For more information, see Uri and related classes.

  • Support for Email Address Internationalization (EAI). For more information, see the System.Net.Mail namespace.

  • Improved IPv6 support. For more information, see the System.Net.NetworkInformation namespace.

  • Dual-mode socket support. For more information, see the Socket and TcpListener classes.

In the .NET Framework 4.5, Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) contains changes and improvements in the following areas:

  • The new Ribbon control, which enables you to implement a ribbon user interface that hosts a Quick Access Toolbar, Application Menu, and tabs.

  • The new INotifyDataErrorInfo interface, which supports synchronous and asynchronous data validation.

  • New features for the VirtualizingPanel and Dispatcher classes.

  • Improved performance when displaying large sets of grouped data, and by accessing collections on non-UI threads.

  • Data binding to static properties, data binding to custom types that implement the ICustomTypeProvider interface, and retrieval of data binding information from a binding expression.

  • Repositioning of data as the values change (live shaping).

  • Ability to check whether the data context for an item container is disconnected.

  • Ability to set the amount of time that should elapse between property changes and data source updates.

  • Improved support for implementing weak event patterns. Also, events can now accept markup extensions.

For more information, see What's New in WPF Version 4.5.

In the .NET Framework 4.5, the following features have been added to make it simpler to write and maintain Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) applications:

  • Simplification of generated configuration files.

  • Support for contract-first development.

  • Ability to configure ASP.NET compatibility mode more easily.

  • Changes in default transport property values to reduce the likelihood that you will have to set them.

  • Updates to the XmlDictionaryReaderQuotas class to reduce the likelihood that you will have to manually configure quotas for XML dictionary readers.

  • Validation of WCF configuration files by Visual Studio as part of the build process, so you can detect configuration errors before you run your application.

  • New asynchronous streaming support.

  • New HTTPS protocol mapping to make it easier to expose an endpoint over HTTPS with Internet Information Services (IIS).

  • Ability to generate metadata in a single WSDL document by appending ?singleWSDL to the service URL.

  • Websockets support to enable true bidirectional communication over ports 80 and 443 with performance characteristics similar to the TCP transport.

  • Support for configuring services in code.

  • XML Editor tooltips.

  • ChannelFactory caching support.

  • Binary encoder compression support.

  • Support for a UDP transport that enables developers to write services that use "fire and forget" messaging. A client sends a message to a service and expects no response from the service.

  • Ability to support multiple authentication modes on a single WCF endpoint when using the HTTP transport and transport security.

  • Support for WCF services that use internationalized domain names (IDNs).

For more information, see What's New in Windows Communication Foundation.

In the .NET Framework 4.5, several new features were added to Windows Workflow Foundation (WF), including:

  • State machine workflows, which were first introduced as part of the .NET Framework 4.0.1 (.NET Framework 4 Platform Update 1). This update included several new classes and activities that enabled developers to create state machine workflows. These classes and activities were updated for the .NET Framework 4.5 to include:

    • The ability to set breakpoints on states.

    • The ability to copy and paste transitions in the workflow designer.

    • Designer support for shared trigger transition creation.

    • Activities for creating state machine workflows, including: StateMachine, State, and Transition.

  • Enhanced Workflow Designer features such as the following:

    • Enhanced workflow search capabilities in Visual Studio, including Quick Find and Find in Files.

    • Ability to automatically create a Sequence activity when a second child activity is added to a container activity, and to include both activities in the Sequence activity.

    • Panning support, which enables the visible portion of a workflow to be changed without using the scroll bars.

    • A new Document Outline view that shows the components of a workflow in a tree-style outline view and lets you select a component in the Document Outline view.

    • Ability to add annotations to activities.

    • Ability to define and consume activity delegates by using the workflow designer.

    • Auto-connect and auto-insert for activities and transitions in state machine and flowchart workflows.

  • Storage of the view state information for a workflow in a single element in the XAML file, so you can easily locate and edit the view state information.

  • A NoPersistScope container activity to prevent child activities from persisting.

  • Support for C# expressions:

    • Workflow projects that use Visual Basic will use Visual Basic expressions, and C# workflow projects will use C# expressions.

    • C# workflow projects that were created in Visual Studio 2010 and that have Visual Basic expressions are compatible with C# workflow projects that use C# expressions.

  • Versioning enhancements:

    • The new WorkflowIdentity class, which provides a mapping between a persisted workflow instance and its workflow definition.

    • Side-by-side execution of multiple workflow versions in the same host, including WorkflowServiceHost.

    • In Dynamic Update, the ability to modify the definition of a persisted workflow instance.

  • Contract-first workflow service development, which provides support for automatically generating activities to match an existing service contract.

For more information, see What's New in Windows Workflow Foundation.

Windows Store apps are designed for specific form factors and leverage the power of the Windows operating system. A subset of the .NET Framework 4.5 or 4.5.1 is available for building Windows Store apps for Windows by using C# or Visual Basic. This subset is called .NET for Windows Store apps and is discussed in an overview in the Windows Dev Center.

The Portable Class Library project in Visual Studio 2012 (and later versions) enables you to write and build managed assemblies that work on multiple .NET Framework platforms. Using a Portable Class Library project, you choose the platforms (such as Windows Phone and .NET for Windows Store apps) to target. The available types and members in your project are automatically restricted to the common types and members across these platforms. For more information, see Cross-Platform Development with the Portable Class Library.

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