All about .NET Core

.NET Core is a general purpose development platform maintained by Microsoft and the .NET community on GitHub. It is cross-platform, supporting Windows, macOS and Linux, and can be used in device, cloud, and embedded/IoT scenarios.

The following characteristics best define .NET Core:

  • Flexible deployment: Can be included in your app or installed side-by-side user- or machine-wide.
  • Cross-platform: Runs on Windows, macOS and Linux; can be ported to other operating systems. The supported Operating Systems (OS), CPUs and application scenarios will grow over time, provided by Microsoft, other companies, and individuals.
  • Command-line tools: All product scenarios can be exercised at the command-line.
  • Compatible: .NET Core is compatible with .NET Framework, Xamarin and Mono, via the .NET Standard Library.
  • Open source: The .NET Core platform is open source, using MIT and Apache 2 licenses. Documentation is licensed under CC-BY. .NET Core is a .NET Foundation project.
  • Supported by Microsoft: .NET Core is supported by Microsoft, per .NET Core Support



.NET Core is composed of the following parts:

  • A .NET runtime, which provides a type system, assembly loading, a garbage collector, native interop and other basic services.
  • A set of framework libraries, which provide primitive data types, app composition types and fundamental utilities.
  • A set of SDK tools and language compilers that enable the base developer experience, available in the .NET Core SDK.
  • The ‘dotnet’ app host, which is used to launch .NET Core apps. It selects the runtime and hosts the runtime, provides an assembly loading policy and launches the app. The same host is also used to launch SDK tools in much the same way.



The C# and F# languages (Visual Basic is coming) can be used to write applications and libraries for .NET Core. The compilers run on .NET Core, enabling you to develop for .NET Core anywhere it runs. In general, you will not use the compilers directly, but indirectly using the SDK tools.

The C# and F# compilers and the .NET Core tools are or can be integrated into several text editors and IDEs, including Visual Studio, Visual Studio Code, Sublime Text and Vim, making .NET Core development an option in your favorite coding environment and OS. This integration is provided, in part, by the good folks of the OmniSharp project.

.NET APIs and Compatibility

.NET Core can be thought of as a cross-platform version of the .NET Framework, at the layer of the .NET Framework Base Class Libraries (BCL). It implements the .NET Standard Library specification. .NET Core provides a subset of the APIs that are available in the .NET Framework or Mono/Xamarin. In some cases, types are not fully implemented (some members are not available or have been moved).

Look at the .NET Core roadmap to learn more about the .NET Core API roadmap.

Relationship to the .NET Standard Library

The .NET Standard Library is an API spec that describes the consistent set of .NET APIs that developers can expect in each .NET implementation. .NET implementations need to implement this spec in order to be considered .NET Standard Library compliant and to support libraries that target the .NET Standard Library.

.NET Core implements the .NET Standard Library, and therefore supports .NET Standard Libraries.


By itself, .NET Core includes a single application model — console apps — which is useful for tools, local services and text-based games. Additional application models have been built on top of .NET Core to extend its functionality, such as:

  • ASP.NET Core
  • Windows 10 Universal Windows Platform (UWP)
  • Xamarin.Forms
Open Source

.NET Core is open source (MIT license) and was contributed to the .NET Foundation by Microsoft in 2014. It is now one of the most active .NET Foundation projects. It can be freely adopted by individuals and companies, including for personal, academic or commercial purposes. Multiple companies use .NET Core as part of apps, tools, new platforms and hosting services. Some of these companies make significant contributions to .NET Core on GitHub and provide guidance on the product direction as part of the .NET Foundation Technical Steering Group.



.NET Core is distributed in two main ways, as packages on and as standalone distributions.


You can download .NET Core at the .NET Core Getting Started page.

  • The Microsoft .NET Core distribution includes the CoreCLR runtime, associated libraries, a console application host and the dotnet app launcher.
  • The Microsoft .NET Core SDK distribution includes .NET Core and a set of tools for restoring NuGet packages and compiling and building apps.

Typically, you will first install the .NET Core SDK to get started with .NET Core development. You may choose to install additional .NET Core (perhaps pre-release) builds.


.NET Core Packages contain the .NET Core runtime and libraries (reference assemblies and implementations). .NET Core Metapackages describe various layers and app-models by referencing the appropriate set of versioned library packages.

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