Java vs. C# Which Object Oriented Programming Language Is Best for You?

Java vs. C# Which Object Oriented Programming Language Is Best for You?

Java vs. C# Which Object Oriented Programming Language Is Best for You?

C# vs. Java—which general purpose, object-oriented programming language is best for you? Both have extensive libraries that can be used to build applications for the desktop, web, mobile devices, and other platforms. Both have large communities of enthusiastic fans, and plenty of online support.

With so much in common, selecting the right language requires a more nuanced approach. Let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences between C# and Java.

Java vs C#

There are many differences and similarities between Java and C#. A list of top differences between Java and C# are given below:

No. Java C#
1) Java is a high level, robust, secured and object-oriented programming language developed by Oracle. C# is an object-oriented programming language developed by Microsoft that runs on .Net Framework.
2) Java programming language is designed to be run on a Java platform, by the help of Java Runtime Environment (JRE). C# programming language is designed to be run on the Common Language Runtime (CLR).
3) Java type safety is safe. C# type safety is unsafe.
4) In java, built-in data types that are passed by value are called primitive types. In C#, built-in data types that are passed by value are called simple types.
5) Arrays in Java are direct specialization of Object. Arrays in C# are specialization of System.
6) Java does not support conditional compilation. C# supports conditional compilation using preprocessor directives.
7) Java doesn’t support goto statement. C# supports goto statement.
8) Java doesn’t support structures and unions. C# supports structures and unions.
9) Java supports checked exception and unchecked exception. C# supports unchecked exception.

C# vs. Java: Major Similarities

The origins of both Java and C# are closely tied to the transition from lower-level programming languages like C++ to higher-level programming languages that compile into bytecode that can be run on a virtual machine. This comes with a number of benefits, most notably the ability to write human readable code once that can run on any hardware architecture that has the virtual machine installed on it. Syntactic quirks aside, it’s not surprising how similar these two languages are from the top-level perspective of an application developer. Here are a few of the main similarities between C# and Java:

  • Type-Safe. A type error occurs when the data type of one object is mistakenly assigned to another object, creating unintended side effects. Both C# and Java make a good effort to ensure that illegal casts will be caught at compile time and exceptions will be thrown out at runtime if a cast cannot be cast to a new type.
  • Garbage Collection. In lower-level languages, memory management can be tedious because you have to remember to properly delete new objects to free up resources. That’s not the case in C# and Java, where built-in garbage collection helps prevent memory leaks by removing objects that are no longer being used by the application. While memory leaks can still occur, the basics of memory management have already been taken care of for you.
  • Single Inheritance. Both C# and Java support single inheritance—meaning only one path exists from any base class to any of its derived classes. This limits unintended side effects that can occur when multiple paths exist between multiple base classes and derived classes. The diamond pattern is a textbook example of this problem.
  • Interfaces. An interface is an abstract class where all methods are abstract. An abstract method is one that is declared but does not contain the details of its implementation. The code governing any methods or properties defined by the interface must be supplied by the class that implements it. This helps avoid the ambiguity of the diamond pattern, because it’s always clear which base class is implementing a given derived class during runtime. The result is the clean, linear class hierarchy of single inheritance combined with some of the versatility of multiple inheritance. In fact, using abstract classes is one way multiple inheritance languages can overcome the diamond pattern.

C# vs. Java: Major Differences

As similar as the two languages are in terms of purpose, it’s important to remember that C# holds its origins in Microsoft’s desire to have a proprietary “Java-like” language of their own for the .NET framework. Since C# wasn’t created in a vacuum, new features were added and tweaked to solve issues Microsoft developers ran into when they initially tried to base their platform on Visual J++. At the same time, Java’s open-source community continued to grow, and a technical arms race developed between the two languages. These are some of the major differences between C# and Java.

  • Windows vs. Open-Source. While open-source implementations exist, C# is mostly used to develop for Microsoft platforms—the .NET Framework’s CLR being the most widely used implementation of the CLI. On the other end of the spectrum, Java has a huge open-source ecosystem and gained a second wind in spite of its age, thanks in part to Google adopting the JVM for Android.
  • Support for Generics. Generics improve compiler-assisted checking of types largely by removing casts from source code. In Java, generics are implemented using erasures. Generic type parameters are “erased” and casts are added upon compilation into bytecode. C# takes generics even further by integrating it into the CLI and allowing type information to be available at runtime, yielding a slight performance gain.
  • Support for Delegates (Pointers). C# has delegates which essentially serve as methods that can be called without knowledge of the target object. To achieve the same functionality in Java, you need to use an interface with a single method or some other workaround that may require a nontrivial amount of additional code, depending on the application.
  • Checked Exceptions. Java distinguishes between two types of exceptions—checked and unchecked. C# chose a more minimalist approach by only having one type of exception. While the ability to catch exceptions can be useful, it can also have an adverse effect on scalability and version control.
  • Polymorphism: C# and Java take very different approaches to polymorphism. While Java enables polymorphism by default, C# must invoke the “virtual” keyword in a base class and the “override” keyword in a derived class.
  • Enumerations (Enums): In C#, enums are simple lists of named constants where the underlying type must be integral. Java takes the enum further by treating it as a named instance of a type, making it easier to add custom behavior to individual enums.

C# is a very good language if:

  • You want to do general purpose object oriented development. It’s a classic, statically typed OOP language.
  • You are targeting Microsoft platforms only (it’s worth remembering that Microsoft effectively cloned Java to create C# because they wanted a Java-like language that would lock people into Windows. They could have used Java, but that would have enabled people to easily run applications on other platforms….)

C# as a language is nicer than Java in various ways (better syntax for properties, value types, reified generics etc.). I prefer C# as a language to Java but in the grand scheme of things they are fairly similar languages and suitable for similar applications.

On the other hand, Java has some big advantages as well:

  • Huge open source ecosystem – the libraries for Java that you can get for free are by far the best of any language. It is hard to overstate the importance of this – from the point of getting things done, Java is very effective.
  • Tools – the Java tools are in my view better than what you can get the the .Net world. e.g. Maven (once you have mastered it!) is particularly impressive.
  • Maintainability – Java has been around a while and has been successful in big companies precisely because it is relatively stable and there has been a lot of effort put into backwards compatibility. The simple and slightly verbose syntax also helps Java here – it’s easier to read and maintain code if the code is very clear and explicit.
  • New languages – The JVM has some amazing new languages (Scala, Clojure, Groovy etc.) that are the future of the Java platform. This is where much of the language innovation is happening, and it’s happening much faster than in either Java or C#.

So Java vs. C# is a pretty close call and it really comes down to whether you want to be in the Microsoft camp or the Open Source / cross-platform camp.

Personally, I prefer Java because:

  • The library ecosystem is in my view much more important that the fact that C# has nicer syntax than Java
  • In the long run, I want all my code to be properly cross-platform and able to run on big clusters of cheap linux machines on the cloud.
  • Clojure is IMHO the most promising language in the world right now, and if I stick with the JVM platform I’ll be able to transition my code and skills easily into Clojure over time.


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