Microsoft .Net Core review: Finally ready for prime time

All Microsoft’s next-gen development stack needed was adequate tooling, APIs, libraries, and documentation. They’re here at last

It’s risky and often foolish to rush into a new software development framework, programming language, or technology platform too early in its lifecycle. Beyond the usual issues of too much hype and too little stability, new tech tends to lack staying power. You might end up investing precious time and effort into learning the ways of a tool that becomes abandoned or, worse, eliminated. It happens more often than you might think.

So if you have resisted the adoption of .Net Core, no one could blame you. When “ASP.Net vNext” was announced in 2014, its advantages—modular, small footprint, more speed—were immediately interesting to every .Net developer. When the first release candidate of .Net Core arrived the following year—supporting cross-platform .Net development, hosting ASP.Net on Linux, and open source code—the new platform became even more compelling. But it was also very alpha, with showstopping shortcomings.

For starters, there was no tooling for vNext; Visual Studio support didn’t arrive for months. The platform was also missing crucial APIs and lacking in documentation. In what has become a cautionary tale, Microsoft threw a wrench into the works by switching to a new project file format, then switched it back. All of the name changes (ASP.Net vNext to ASP.Net 5 to ASP.Net Core 1.0; .Net Core 5 to .Net Core 1.0; Entity Framework 7 to Entity Framework Core 1.0) only added to the confusion.

It hasn’t been a short or easy wait, but thankfully the wait is over. In recent months the .Net Core and Visual Studio teams have put the pedal to the metal and rallied to deliver a production-ready platform. As we’ll see, we finally have the tooling, the packages, and the documentation we need to get going with the new platform. If you’re beginning a .Net project today, especially an ASP.Net solution, you should think seriously about using ASP.Net Core instead of ASP.Net MVC.

Visual Studio 2017 to the rescue

The major red flag out of the gate was the lack of tooling for the new platform. The barrier to getting started with vNext on day one was so high that even seasoned veterans were frustrated. Instead of being supported in Visual Studio 2013, the platform was held together by PowerShell scripts and one-off console apps. Even Visual Studio 2015 took a while to gain basic tooling. Periodic updates to Visual Studio 2015 added desperately needed .Net Core tools, but these were limited and very rough around the edges.

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