In this article, we’ll be comparing the merits of two popular programming languages side-by-side: C# and Java. At their core, C# (pronounced see sharp) and Java are both robust, high-level, object-oriented programming languages with more similarities than differences. One significant advantage to learning either language is that their fundamental similarities make it relatively easy to learn one language after mastering the other.
Together, we’ll look at a brief history of the two programming languages in question, their different applications, strengths, and what resources to explore to deepen your understanding of C# and Java.
Let’s jump right in!
C# was first developed in 2000 as a direct competitor to Java by Anders Hejlsberg and his team at Microsoft. Like Java, C# was based on the C and C++ programming languages, referenced by its original name, “C.O.O.L.,” or “C-like Object Oriented Language,” but was designed with business and enterprise needs in mind.
In 2005, version 2.0 of C# introduced features generics and iterators to catch up to Java. Version 2.0 also introduced other major features such as partial types, anonymous methods, nullable value types, covariance, and contravariance. Though the first few versions of C# shared many similarities with C++ and Java, later releases helped distinguish C# as a unique language capable of facilitating object-oriented and functional programming.
Although C# was originally closed-source and exclusive to development in the Microsoft ecosystem, new features and open-source tools were added to support cross-platform development.
James Gosling began the development of Java at Sun Microsystems (later acquired by Oracle) as an alternative to the C++ programming language, with its first public implementation in 1995.
Java’s design requirements were centered around enabling the creation of robust and secure applications across multiple platforms while consuming the least amount of system resources. In addition, Gosling sought to create a language platform that would be simple and familiar to programmers, allowing them to grasp the fundamental concepts of the language quickly.
What emerged was a highly reliable, open-source programming language that has proven ideal for developing network-based end-user applications across a wide range of environments.
C# is a high-level, general-purpose, object-oriented, and notably, it is the first component-oriented programming language. Like Java, C# is popular because it is versatile, easy to learn, and enjoys the support of a large community that has made many contributions to developing new C# tools and software.
As a multi-paradigm programming language, C# supports object-oriented programming in addition to functional, structured, imperative, reflective, and concurrent programming paradigms.
C# programs run on the .NET Framework, which has two main components:
The .NET Framework class library (FCL) is a collection of different classes, interfaces and data types used to design .NET applications.
The Common Language Runtime (CLR) uses just-in-time (JIT) compilation to compile the C# code used for .NET applications.
Common applications of C#:
Java is a high-level, general-purpose, object-oriented programming language. Java is popular amongst application developers because of its simplicity, versatility, and portability. Thanks to its large and well-established community, anyone looking to start a Java project will find that they have access to a massive collection of useful open source libraries and tools.
The Java Platform or Java Development Kit (JDK), is the software development environment used to build and run Java applications and components. The JDK can be deployed on Windows, macOS, Linux, and Solaris.
You can think of the Java Platform as a series of nested packages:
The Java Runtime Environment (JRE) is an installation package that sets up an environment where you can only run a Java program or application. The JRE contains class libraries, loader classes, and the JVM.
The Java Virtual Machine (JVM) is an interpreter and provides a runtime environment for your code. The JVM is a critical part of both the JDK and JRE, as it is responsible for going through each line of a Java program to execute it.
Common applications of Java:
For the most part, C# and Java are reasonably similar because they’re both high-level, object-oriented programming languages descended from C and C++.
C# and Java share:
|Features of comparison||C#||Java|
|Programming paradigm||Object-oriented, component-oriented, functional, strong typing||Object-oriented|
|Runtime environment||Common Language Runtime (CLR)||Java Virtual Machine (JVM)|
|Platform dependency||Cross-platform (Windows preferred)||Cross-platform|
|Checked exceptions||Not supported||Supported|
|Enumerations||Supported with the
|Pointers||Supported in unsafe mode||Not supported|
|Conditional compilation||Supported||Not supported|
|Structure and union||Supported||Not supported|
|Arrays||Specialization of Object||Specialization of System|
Although C# and Java share enough similarities that it won’t put you at a disadvantage to learn one and not the other, each language does possess certain strengths that are important to take into consideration.
Here are some questions to ask when deciding between C# and Java:
Consider learning Java first if you want to create highly complex web applications or work with Android apps. Also, let’s not forget that Java’s slogan is “Write once, run anywhere”! If portability is a top priority, Java is a clear winner. On the other hand, if you plan on developing games or working in the Microsoft ecosystem, it may be more advantageous to start out with C#.
If you want to learn more about C# or Java, check out our courses and learning paths! Educative’s learning paths are designed to help you develop valuable, practical skills at your own pace with interactive challenges and exercises.
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