Thursday, April 12, 2012

Is there a reason I should not start with C#

I think I'm leaning toward C# and .net as a concentration language for learning web development. I would like to learn good programming fundamentals and I've looked at pretty much everything else. The four I've narrowed it down to have been C#, Python, Ruby and PHP. Is there a reason to stay away from C# (and I don't think the cost issue would really apply to my solo-developer situation but I could be totally wrong). Any thoughts?

I realize that these are all great languages so I'm not trying to ask which is the best overall. However, would Ruby be a viable alternative for a first language or does it have too much "magic under the hood" coupled with Rails, and unorthodox methodologies? I do like what I've seen with the language.

Source: Tips4all


  1. If you go with C# for web development, depending on your experience with web technology, I'd heartily recommend starting with ASP.NET MVC before ASP.NET Web Forms.

    ASP.NET Web Forms is the original style of building ASP.NET applications, and tries to abstract a lot of the details. It allows you to build applications without realising what's happening under the hood (post data, state management). In my opinion, these abstractions although making things easy at first begin to "leak" when you get into more complicated scenarios (as this tutorial proves).

    ASP.NET MVC on the other hand makes it easier to build web sites that are a lot "closer to the metal" while still keeping you productive. If you want absolute control over the resulting HTML and aren't afraid of things like cookies, form tags, post and query string data, then you might enjoy ASP.NET MVC a lot more.

    Of course it would be beneficial to know both. But if I was starting now, I'd probably start with MVC and move to Forms (then realise how bad it is and move back :)).

  2. This is likely to result in a flamewar but I think C# is a pretty good language to start with for Web Development.

    It is a full featured object oriented language and is statically typed and compiled. It's very well documented and has a huge developer community.

    If you absolutely have to run on Linux/Apache and do not want to use Mono, that would be a reason not to use C#. Other than that, I don't think there is a compelling reason not to, particularly with ASP.NET MVC, which lets you move away from the WebForms model.

    This is not to say that WebForms is necessarily bad but some might object to WebForms as it introduces abstractions that are not inherent in other web development platforms.

  3. There are no "best language over all". You use one tool for the purpose it has been made, that's why there are several tools.

    Since your question is "why not learn C#", I'd say :

    If you plan to work with other OS then Windows (Mono cannot compare).
    If work in an env or with people not .net friendly (e.g : bank, scientists)
    If you work in an env or with people that are expert in another good tech (never underestimate the use of a good master).
    If you think Free Software matters so much that using a MS product is not worth it.
    If you don't like MS Visual Studio (working in c# without a good IDE is a pain).
    If You plan to program something that .net is not suited for (e.g embedded devices, scripting, real-time, fault tolerant system, AI, etc).
    If you are a web dev and can't afford a Windows Server Licence.
    If you want to learn programming with the very basics, including simple functions and quick and dirty scripts.

    Now, I program in Php, Python, Java and C#. Python is my language of choice, but c# is really the first MS programming tool that seduced me : it's clean and efficient. Really, it's about what you want to do, not a question of religion.

    Make YOUR choice.

    That's said, C# sucks and Python rocks.

  4. I agree C# is a pretty complete language, it's syntax is clean and extensible. There's a huge amount of web resource already available, but and it's a big but, it effectively ties you to windows as your platform. For web especially that's an important consideration. On the desktop windows is king, but for web servers the market it isn't nearly so dominant.

    Another side issue, if you're looking at rich media on the web you have to consider Flash and/or Silverlight. If you go C# then you're someway to using Silverlight without learning a different language.

  5. The disadvantage to learning C# is that it ties you to a proprietary platform and software stack. Now, there is Mono, which does a good job of implementing much of C# and .Net, but the primary and most complete implementation is Microsoft's which is non-free.

    I have not used C# enough to debate it's technical merits with respect to Ruby or Python. I can say, however, that learning to use and even contribute back to free software can be quite educational, in addition to the other benefits (discussed in length elsewhere) that free software provides.

  6. Don't worry about the cost. The compiler is free to use, along with the rest of the Fx SDK, and you can even download Visual Studio for free.

  7. c# is a good language to start with because:

    It is a very good and very clean language
    It has an excellent library (.NET framework). This is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a language.
    It is very popular, you'll always be able to find the answer you are looking for from the community.
    If you know c#, you pretty much know VB.NET.
    c# is syntactically similar to Java. Learning c# won't teach you Java's libraries, but it will significantly reduce the learning curve if you want to enter the Java camp.
    c# is syntactically similar to c++. Again, it uses a different library and unlike c++ you get memory management; but the learning curve should be somewhat reduced if you decide to play with c++.

    As for the web...

    ASP.NET webforms does a lot of magic for you. ASP.NET MVC (just released) does almost no magic for you. For learning, MVC is the better choice.

  8. C# is a great language to use. And since you are using it via the web and not desktop applications for example, you don't have to worry about being multi-platform since the code is run on your server and the output delivered to the clients. With that said, you will have to find Windows hosting (which can sometimes be a bit more expensive) or use mono (which isn't exactly the most updated software out there). The downsides are minimal though, grab a copy of the express edition and go for it!

  9. I think the cost of deployment might be a different thing, i.e. if your project needs to scale horizontally, and add more servers to load balance or even for geographically distributed servers. Usually the windows hosting will run a bit more than linux (without even considering the flame wars reasons).

  10. C# is fine for starting if you are doing web development. However, I recommend that you don't start programming with web development. Web development is hard to get right. Way harder than little command line things. I recommend that you get some good experience programming for the command line, and then move up to GUI, and then move on to the web. The web has a whole bunch of things you have to worry about. You have to know 3 languages (HTML, JS, C#(or insert your server side language here)). Plus you have to worry about all the browser quirks and stuff. And that's without even getting into databases. Which is usually used in most web applications, but opens up a whole other can of worms.

  11. Considering all the answers so far, I thought I'd look at all four languages mentioned.

    While I've done a lot of development in PHP, and sadly continue to do so, I think PHP was never a great language (though it had a few great elements) and these days there's not much point picking it up. It remains extremely easy to get into but I think in general, PHP is a "bad habit".

    Python is a great language, but to me, Ruby is all that Python is and a bit more. Personally I would go for Ruby.

    C# is also a great language, but while I haven't used C# enough to say anything with confidence, I feel that Ruby is a better choice.

  12. No reason in particular to stay away from C#. It's as good a language as any. Stackoverflow uses it for example, so it works on a successful website, and you can get jobs programming in it.

    The proprietary thing would be a consideration if you were programming as a hobby or off your own limited budget, or you wanted to contribute to the development of the compiler/language. I'm guessing neither of these are the case. (Edit: as others have pointed out, open source environments for C# exist.)

  13. It depends on a couple of things. C# and .Net is populate and th tools are really very easy (complared to Java! Java developer talking here...) but Windows Hosting is expensive vs LAMP (which include Ruby, Python and PHP).

    For me it all depends on the tool that you want to use. For web services etc I would use C# but for a simple website PHP since its easy.

    It also depends on the job market of your location... here in South Africa you get alot more C# jobs and not much PHP etc. Off course if your a freelance you will struggle to find work.

    For me Ruby again is good for my own person stuff but you don't get any Ruby jobs here.

  14. My advice? Learn the differences for yourself. Play around with both of them. If you have a project in mind, write a prototype for it in them. You'll always be at the mercy of other peoples' biases otherwise. (C#) and Ruby on Rails are used in high-profile sites, so you can't go too wrong with either one. Might I also suggest that you try out Python programming with django? It's what I tend to prefer for web programming.

  15. I'm a C# .Net developer and I think it's great, but I'll highlight a danger in the Asp.Net WebForms. It is unlike the majority of other web frameworks and does A LOT of magic under the covers. As others have said ASP.Net MVC is probably more inline with other web frameworks (Rails for example). Web Forms abstracts a lot of the nuts and bolts of webdev away which If you want to be web developer you'll end up needing to know. So yes C# is great but I'd start with MVC and then look at web forms possibly. Also looking at other languages and frameworks is highly encouraged there's always stuff to learn.

  16. Commercially I am a C# developer. I love C#. C# is a great strongly typed language. With Resharper installed I can build my ideas in code rapidly and flex it to my will.

    When I go home each evening I use Ruby. Even though I have no refactoring support (snif.) I find I am much more productive in Ruby than in C#.

    I worked writing a large ASP.Net application for a couple of years. We implemented MVC to try to detangle the view from the model. It always felt like I was fighting the framework, not working with it. The latest .Net frameworks for doing web application are based on Rails... just a couple of years behind. I love the language. I love the CLR. I'm not too keen on .Net.

    I find the ruby community to be friendly and vibrant. The rails open source community produces loads of tutorials and plugins that make getting up to speed easy and putting your application together simple.

    Another thing to consider (as far as choosing a language to learn) is that ruby is an Object Oriented language. Even classes are objects. C# is a Class Oriented language, ie. it provides you one way to create objects.. define a class first. (not totally true.. you can generate assemblies in memory using codedom.. but that is by no means easy).

    This may seem like a subtle point, but there is a difference.. and until you get experience with an OO language like ruby or smalltalk it's not obvious what that is. Once you have felt the freedom of building objects by mixing in functionality at runtime etc. you find that all the 'work-around's you had to do in C# disappear. Not having the safety net of interfaces does seems scary at first.

    In all, I'd learn ruby..

    If you are new to programming (totally) I'd start with
    Then I would learn BDD (RSpec) and get test infected as soon as possible.
    Then I'd consume rails tutorials and screen casts until my eyes popped

    The only problem is .. if you start with ruby then later go to C# you'll find yourself going "Aaaaagh! This would be so much easier to do in ruby" all the time. I know I do.

  17. No disadvantages really except that you will be unwelcome in those social groups (and even geographical regions) that pose themselves against the "evil Microsoft".

    The language (better .NET platform) is quite good. One important thing is that it is being very actively developed causing some people trouble keeping up. But I'd rather have rapid development compared to year-long stagnation.

    You might consider checking what employers in your area prefer as a technology stack.

    Considering licensing costs you can consider the following: If it is a small site you can use Visual Studio Express/SQL Server Express for free and it will be sufficient. If you come up with some major heavy trafficked project you will likely to find a way to make revenues and cover licensing costs.

  18. Learning C# is great in 2009.

    Way back in the day, when I entered the professional world, the language landscape was very different. I coded professionally in C and Modula 3 (Pascal replacement language).

    My point is that I would plan for the technical landscape to change over time, and plan for that in your professional career development.

    Learning multiple platforms is a great way to accomplish this. For example, you could have C#/.NET as your primary skill, but also work with JAVA. When a new platform emerges, you could add it as your transition or backup skillset.

  19. It really depends on what you are trying to achieve. I program in both and to be brutally honest, if you are trying to make a career out of programming, I get paid twice as much for .NET programming. The types of clients that I do PHP dev work for are not the types that pay a lot (PHP is often chosen based on saving some $$$). .NET seems to be much more entrenched in larger corporations.

    Just my observation...