The Microsoft .NET Framework, yes it's sweet from a software developer's perspective.
What exactly is the Microsoft .NET Framework?
It is a software framework available for Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98 and above. It includes a large library of pre-written software to prevent common programming problems and a virtual machine that manages the execution of programs written specifically for the framework. The .NET Framework is a key Microsoft offering and is used by most new applications created for the Windows platform.
Using the .Net Framework software developers can greatly reduce the amount of code and maintenance required for data-oriented applications.
The framework's Base Class Library provides a large range of features including user interface, data access, database connectivity, cryptography, security advancements, web application development, numeric algorithms, and network communications. The class library is used by programmers, who combine it with their own software to create applications. This in part, is based on the idea of re-usable code, which by the way, isn't a new idea by any means. I remember writing software in Assembly language nearly 25 years ago and still being able to call lower level functions that had already been written. Device drivers or low level hardware interface functions for example.
Prior to the Microsoft .Net framework software applications that were written for Windows had to be distributed with all of their dependencies, in the form of Dynamic Link Libraries(DLLs) and other external resources, used during runtime. Which caused a lot of problems with different versions of a particular DLL, missing dependencies and compatibility with what you already had installed on your system.
Programs written for the .NET Framework execute in a software environment that manages the program's runtime requirements. Also part of the .NET Framework, this runtime environment is known as the Common Language Runtime (CLR). The CLR provides the appearance of an application virtual machine so that programmers need not consider the capabilities of the specific CPU that will execute the program. The CLR also provides other important services such as security, memory management, and exception handling. The class library and the CLR together compose the .NET Framework.
How does the .Net framework benefit you, if your are not a software developer?
Running software that was written for the .Net framework, means your applications are much more reliable and secure, your system is much less likely to crash or freeze up. In terms of having custom software developed for your business, it means your application can be developed much more rapidly, with more features, that will run reliably on any machine that is also running the .Net Framework.
Version 3.0 of the .NET Framework is included with Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista. The current version of the framework can also be installed on Windows XP and the Windows Server 2003 family of operating systems. A reduced "Compact" version of the .NET Framework is also available on Windows Mobile platforms, including smartphones. If you are running Windows XP or Vista, it is probably on your machine now. Learn more at Microsoft.