C# versus C

C# Programming Tutorials

Without a doubt, C and C# are two of the most powerful and popular programming languages used for software development in the world. Both languages share certain similarities, as their names suggest; however, they are also very different in terms of structure, syntax, performance, and, perhaps most notably, memory management. In addition, C and C# differ in terms of why a developer or programmer would choose to work with one over the other. This programming tutorial will compare C and C#, discuss their differences, and highlight each language’s strengths and weaknesses.

Read: Top Online Courses to Learn C#

What are the Differences Between C# and C?

Below, we will discuss some of the differences between C# and C, which include:

  • Procedural versus Object Oriented Programming
  • Syntax
  • Manipulating Strings
  • Exception Handling
  • Performance and efficiency
  • Memory Management

Procedural versus Object Oriented Programming

C, at its core, is a procedural programming language, which refers to its step-by-step, “top down” method of programming. C uses functions – or procedures – that get called in a particular sequence in order to achieve an outcome. This top-down programming approach breaks down a problem, issue, or task into smaller tasks, which are then “solved” by working from the main problem down into its smaller problems.

C#, meanwhile, is an object-oriented programming (OOP) language. This means that C# is based on the concept of objects and classes and a parent-child-inheritance principle. Objects are made of both data and behavior, and are used to represent real-world things. These objects are created from classes, which can be thought of as the blueprints for objects.

Classes, for their part, are self-contained pieces of code that consist of the properties and methods of the objects that are created from them. Finally, in C#, developers use the principles of OOP, such as encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism to make code more secure, reusable, readable, and maintainable.

You can learn more about object-oriented programming concepts in the following tutorials:

C’s top-down programming approach is great for problem-solving smaller projects or tasks that can easily be broken down into easy, discrete steps. One good question to ask yourself when considering this type of programming methodology is whether or not the problem can be solved in a sequential or step-by-step manner.

C#’s OOP approach is better suited for larger projects that involve complex relationships and behaviors between objects and in situations where coding efficiency, security, flexibility, modulation, and reusability are more important.

Syntax Differences Between C and C#

One of the biggest differences between C# and C has to do with their syntax. C’s syntax focuses on low-level programming constructs, while C#’s syntax places a greater emphasis on object-oriented concepts and principles.

One example of the differences between C# and C’s syntax has to do with variable declaration. In C, developers declare variables with the data type placed before the name of the variable. Here is an example of variable declaration in C:

int num;
float price;

In C#, variables are declared with the var keyword, which infers the data type. This is then followed by the variable name. Here is how programmers can declare a variable in C#:

var num = 0;
float price = 0.0f;

Another syntactical difference between C# and C is the fact that C allows for low-level memory management via the use of pointers. The following code example shows how to declare a pointer in C using the * operator:

int* ptr;

C# does not allow developers to explicitly use pointers; to achieve the same type of functionality would require a C# programmer to use unsafe code, which is beyond the scope of this tutorial.

As noted previously, C# is an object oriented language. C, meanwhile, is not, and therefore does not have built-in support for classes or other OOP concepts. C coders can, ultimately, mimic class functionality, but it requires complex structures to achieve what C# does naturally and with much less effort.

Since C# is an object-oriented programming language, classes in C# can be declared with the class keyword, as shown in the code example below:

public class MyClass
    // class members and methods

Manipulating Strings in C# and C

The way string data types are manipulated in C# and C is also a key difference between the two languages. In C, strings are represented as an array of characters and are null-terminated using the\0 character. Here is an example of this in C:

char str[] = "Hello, World!!";

In C#, strings are objects that are manipulated using the methods and properties of the String class. The C# code below achieves the same thing as the C code in our previous example:

string str = "Hello, World!";

Read: Top Code Refactoring Tools for C# Developers

Exception Handling

Exception handling and error handling differs between C# and C as well. In the C programming language, errors are typically handled using return codes giving information about the error or by terminating the program altogether.

Handling errors is different in C#, where programmers use exceptions to handle errors, which can be “caught” using try-catch blocks, as shown in this example code:

    // code that might return an exception error
catch(Exception ex)
    //code that handles the exception

Performance and Efficiency

C is well-known for being a high performance programming. This is due to its low-level programming constructs and direct access to memory. C#, on the other hand, is a higher-level language, meaning that, in some instances, it can be slower than C. This difference has mostly been mitigated in recent years, thanks to introduction of the .NET Core runtime and other C# language optimizations. Presently, C# is now considered comparable to C in terms of overall performance.

Memory Management in C# and C

Lastly, C, being a low-level programming language, gives developers direct access and control over memory management. This equates to greater efficiency and performance in created software; it also means that programmers need to be cautious to avoid memory leaks.

C#, as a higher-level language, includes automatic memory management courtesy of the .NET runtime, which manages memory allocation and deallocation for the developer. This comes at a slight cost to performance, as garbage collection can be resource intensive in some instances/ However, this is mostly negligible and well-worth the trade off for many developers who do not wish to be burdened with memory management.

Which is Better: C# or C?

Deciding which language is better – C# or C – is a complicated process that largely depends on the needs of the developer and the project at hand, as well as which career path the programmer will pursue.

C is often chosen for developers wanting to program systems or pursue embedded development (such as the IoT and smart devices), as it provides low-level access to hardware and the direct manipulation of memory resources. Developers creating an operating system, device driver, or system-level software, would be wise to choose C as their primary programming language.

If you are into video game programming or game development, C# is a better option, as it provides a high-level, object-oriented approach that is more tailored for the complexities of game logic and working with graphics. C# game developers will also be supported by game development tools and game engines like Unity, which is built on C#. Game engines and mobile developer low-code platforms provide powerful, pre-built tools for game development, and C# is streamlined for creating complex game logic routines.

For Enterprise-level software, C# gains the edge, because its reliance on OOP provides an object-oriented approach that makes it easier to work with larger, more complex applications. Developers that want to create a scalable enterprise application will want to choose C# because of its scalability, ease of use, easier learning curve, readability, ability to integrate with databases, and the option to incorporate frameworks such as .NET. Finally, C# provides flexibility and can be used to create complex business logic processes and user interfaces.

Final Thoughts on C# versus C

In this programming tutorial, we discuss both C and C# and the differences between the two programming languages, including their syntax, performance, string manipulation, and memory management. We learned that C is a low-level language that gives developers direct control over memory management and memory resources, while C# is a higher-level language with object-oriented features and automatic memory management and garbage collection.

Read more C# programming tutorials and guides to software development.

Nicholas Rini
Nicholas Rini
Nick Rini is a 25-year industry veteran in the Computer Science and Medical Technology spaces, with a recent focus on Project Management and Info Security. He is known for leveraging his extensive knowledge base in SQL, Crystal Reports, C#, Java, JavaScript, and other platforms to help drive software development teams and other LIS professionals. He currently resides in Pawtucket, RI where he continues to grow his extensive collection of comic books and trading card games.

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