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Touring Whidbey's Base Class Library Enhancements

The core API set underpinning managed application development in .NET—the Base Class Libraries (BCL)—have received several notable additions in the Whidbey release. Find out performance-based improvements, class-oriented feature additions, and the introduction of previously missing functionality through entirely new classes.


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he Base Class Libraries were first introduced as a core component of the .NET Framework back in January 2002. The introduction of the BCL represented a huge step forward in simplicity and consistency of API design for application development. Through provision of a standard hierarchical design known as namespaces, the BCL removed many of the downsides but did not eliminate all of the need for leveraging unmanaged or third-party APIs. The .NET Framework 1.0/1.1 provided a BCL set that can be segmented into three functionality groups: a managed group, a managed wrappers group, and a support services group. The managed group contains classes consisting mostly of managed code implementations that replace unmanaged APIs. A perfect example of this is ADO.NET found in System.Data. The second group consists of managed wrappers around code or services still implemented as unmanaged code. An example of this can be found in the System.EnterpriseServices namespace that exposes COM+ Services to managed classes. The final functionality group provides support services to facilitate interoperability between the managed and unmanaged APIs. Many of these classes can be found in System.Runtime.InteropServices.

Many of the enhancements to the Whidbey BCL set focus on the managed group of classes. Although the interoperability support provided by the BCL allows seamless use of unmanaged code, providing similar functionality as true managed classes improves the performance, general ease of use, and reduces the dependency on proper installation of the underlying unmanaged code being replaced.

Fast Facts
Enhancements to the Base Class Library provide sought-after functionality missing from the .NET Framework 1.1, including simplified DPAPI-based encryption classes and significant increases in Console class functionality.

The Whidbey BCL offers new classes as well as new features for existing BCL classes that greatly simplify a number of common tasks. Some of these new classes can be considered information classes, designed to facilitate information acquisition. Some BCL enhancements provide improved network support or network-oriented features. Other BCL enhancements offer completely new functionality, some of which I'll describe below. I can't cover all the changes to the BCL in this short space; I will cover some of the more important or noticeable areas of improvements. My article discusses the alpha version of the Whidbey BCL, which will continue to evolve, improve, and change as Microsoft moves through the alpha and beta process.



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