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C# vs Java

C#, the new programming language from Microsoft, promises to deliver everything Java does and more. A look at how they compare. by Ajay Barve

C# (pronounced C-Sharp) a hybrid of C and C++ is Microsoft's answer to Sun's popular Java programming language and a part of Microsoft's grand .NET initiative. C# is touted as "the first component-oriented language in the C/C++ family."

C# boasts type-safety, garbage collection, simplified type declarations, versioning among other features that make developing solutions faster and easier, especially for COM+ and Web services.

However, despite the claim, many people think that C# is rather a clone of, or Microsoft's replacement for, Java. Let's compare the two languages and check if C# is more than inspired by Java.

A broader view
The best way to compare C# with Java would be to take a Java application and translate it into C# .We are going to do just that and find the difference between the two implementations. We will focus specifically on the syntax of C#. On a high level we will point out when the syntactical structures are the same, and spend time talking about when they are different. There are a few syntactical "extras" in C# that do not have equivalents in Java.

Understanding Datatypes
Java has quite a few primitive data types: byte, char, int, long, floats, double. Primitives are the basic building blocks of Java; they are the smallest "unit." What usually annoys most programmers is that whereas all objects in Java extend from java.lang.Object, primitives do not extend from anything. This means that any class that operates on objects will not work with primitives. The primitives must be mapped into the object model in order to use it.

This is not the case in C#. C# uses the .NET object/type system so that C# programs may inter-communicate with other .NET languages without having type confusion for example, the type int is an alias to System.Int32 which in turn ultimately extends from System.Object. This means that the primitive, or simple, types in C# function just like any other object.

Statement comparisons
Simple statements in C# and Java look alike, since both languages descend primarily from C and C++. The difference between keywords 'import' in Java and 'using' in C# is that Java has a concept of packages, while C# uses namespaces much like those of C++. The 'using' keyword makes all names in the given namespace accessible to a module. So, the line using System lets you access the .NET runtime namespace System. The System namespace contains the static global method System.Console.WriteLine(), which is accessible as Console.WriteLine() without specifying the System namespace. In the Java example, System is a class defined in java.lang, which is implicitly imported into every Java source file; therefore, the import statement is not needed.

Declarations in C#

Variables are defined in C# just like they are in Java.

int integer = 3;

bool boolean = true;

Java uses the "static final" keywords to make a variable constant; in Java a "static final" variable is class-scoped instead of being object-scoped, and the compiler prevents any other object from changing the value of the variable. C#, in turn, has two ways of declaring a variable constant. Marking a variable const causes the value to be in lined before compiling. With the definition

const int TWO = 2; the expression

2 * TWO is converted to 2 * 2 by the preprocessor before compilation. This causes the compiled program to run faster as it does not have to look up the value of the constant during run-time.

Considering that constants are often used for things like BUFFERSIZE or TIMEOUT, it may be desirable not to have this into the code; if this field is marked const, then any code compiled against it will inline the constant and will need to be recompiled for it to change. If the constant is instead marked with read only, then the next time the application is executed the behavior will change as the code will check the value of the read only field, while the compiler still protects it from being programmatically changed.

Conditional Statements
C# has both the structures that Java programmers expect, the "if-then-else" and "switch" statements. Both behave similarly except for one difference in the C# "switch" statement syntax.

Java allows for control flow to implicitly fall between different cases in the switch statement, whereas the C# compiler explicitly does not allow this, the C# compiler will mark this as a syntactical error. For example, in Java the following is valid:

int switchcase = 3;

switch(switchcase) {

case 3:

System.out.println( "World" );


System.out.println( "Peace" );


This will result in both printlns being executed.

In C#, an explicit break or goto case is required somewhere in the case to explicitly define the control flow.

Writing Loops
Like Java, C# has the "while", "do-while" and "for" loops. On top of these three, C# has introduced a "foreach" loop that operates on objects that implement the System.Collections.IEnumerable interface. Most notably, arrays in C# (System.Array) implements IEnumerable, so the following Java code

int[] array = // something...

for( int count=0;count<array.length;count++ )

System.out.println( array[count] );

is legal in C#, but it can also be represented in C# as foreach( int member in array )

Console.WriteLine( member );

Specifically, the IEnumerable interface provides the ability to get an IEnumerator representation to an object (similar to java.util.Enumeration). Anything which implements the IEnumerable and IEnumerator interfaces can be operated on by the "foreach" loop.

Break and Control Transfer Statements
Most of the Java jump statements (continue, goto, and return) map into C#. These statements are used the same way they are used in Java: to break out of loops or to return control to a different block.

What deserves a discussion is the exception model, as it differs both semantically and syntactically. All exceptions in C# are run-time exceptions; the compiler is not going to help the programmer keep track of exceptional situations. It should also be noted that method signatures do not contain the exception that can be thrown inside the block. My warning to Java programmers turned C# programmers: be very careful.

The "try-catch-finally" block that Java programmers are familiar with exists in C# and so do a few additional syntactic sugars. All exceptions derive from System.Exception, so catching System.Exception will catch all possible exceptions thrown in a block, just like in Java. A shortcut is available if the exception object is not needed by using the following framework:

try {

// something that may throw an exception

} catch {

// deal with the exception without getting a handle

// to the exception object


But if you do need to catch a specific exception (while again not requiring the exception object), try something like

try {

} catch( IOException ) {


Constructing an Object
The concept of Object, Class and inheritence in C# is similar to Java.The diffrence is in the syntax. All classes in C# descend from the System.Object class, just as all classes in Java descend from the java.lang.Object class. Defining a class which extends to another class would be written using ':' instead of the extends keyword. For example if a class B extends class A it would be written as follows,

class A : B{ }

The confusion is apparent when you implement an interface that again uses the ':' instead of the implemented keyword. If a class implements multiple interface they will be added to the comma separated list. So a class D which extends class B and implements interface C will be as follows,

class D : B, C {


Java programmers may get annoyed with C# as it muddles the two together: interfaces may also be placed after the colon, and the compiler will only demand that the class it extends (if the class directly extends another) is the first listed after the colon.

The default access modifier for classes in C# is to make them "internal," meaning they are not accessible from any other object outside the .cs file in which they are defined. The more familiar "public," "private," and "protected" modifiers are provided along with a fifth "protected internal" modifier which is the union of "protected" and "internal" properties (the modified can be accessed from a class which extends the enclosing class, or from within the file in which it has been defined). In the Hello example above, both the Java and the C# class are defined to be "public," although they do not need to be. Neither class provides functionality that any other object may wish to use they simply provide the proper signature so that the run-time environment may execute them.

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