Visual Basic's Role in the Framework - dummies

Visual Basic’s Role in the Framework

By Bill Sempf

Part of the difficulty that many programmers face when moving to the .NET Framework is the terminology, which can get confusing. Put the problem with terminology to bed right now. Check out this list of potentially confusing terms used in .NET development:

  • Visual Basic 2008: No longer can you run or load Visual Basic as a separate entity. It is simply one programming language that speaks to the Microsoft .NET Framework, which is the next term in the list.
  • .NET Framework: The layer that sits between the language and the operating system, which can be Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, or any of the subversions of those (such as the Tablet PC edition). The .NET Framework layer serves to provide functionality based on the operation of the Windows system on which it resides, as well as to provide libraries for other functionality (such as math computations and database access).
  • Visual Studio 2008: The tool that you use to create any kind of application using any compatible programming language. Visual Studio replaces the Visual Basic 6.0 program that was formerly part of the Visual Studio suite. When you start writing a new program in the .NET environment, you run Visual Studio 2008 and select the kind of program you want to write in the programming language you want to use. For example, you may choose to create a Windows Forms program using the Visual Basic language, just like the old days. Or you might want to write an application for a smart device using C#. You can also mix languages, for example, writing the forms in VB and the classes in C#.
  • Windows Forms: The new term for an old-fashioned Visual Basic application. This term refers to an application that is written using the .NET Framework and has a Windows user interface.
  • Web Forms: The term for an application with a Web page interface written using the .NET Framework. Creating a Web Forms application is very similar to writing a Windows Forms application.
  • Web services: The class libraries that are written using a standard defined by the same people who defined standards for the World Wide Web. Web services are used for interaction between divergent systems.

The .NET Framework is what you may already know as the Win32 layer in the old Windows DNA system. Like the new .NET Framework, the Win32 layer gave you the ability to get to the functions of the operating system when developing for a Windows platform. Also, the .NET Framework includes a lot of adjunct functionality, such as math and data libraries, that makes programming a more cohesive experience.

Basically, everything that Windows does is exposed by the .NET Framework. Specifically, the .NET Framework gives a programmatic name to nearly every object and event that Windows can control. A programmer can use that name to refer to anything existing in the operating system.