Have you ever wanted to develop a game? Or create a website? Or develop applications for a Windows computer? If so, C# is a great language to learn.
Released by Microsoft in 2000, C# is a modern, object-oriented programming language that allows you to develop applications on its platforms.
C# is an essential part of many of the technologies you use on Windows. For instance, C# powers many Windows background services, Microsoft’s .Net powers websites and Windows games are written using the Unity framework.
This guide will discuss the best way to learn C# online, and walk you through a set of tips you can use to help guide your journey toward learning how to code in C#.
What is C#?
C#, which is pronounced as “C sharp,” is a programming language that was originally designed for Windows. The C# language was designed based on C and C++ and uses the object-oriented programming paradigm to offer a developer-friendly experience.
The C# language is renowned for being simple. This is because one of the main reasons C# was developed to provide an easier language to use than C and C++ for people developing applications on Windows. In addition, C# is a modern language, which means it is more in line with modern development practices.
The C# language is used by the Unity engine to make games, the .Net framework to create websites, and more broadly for Windows application development.
Why Should You Learn C#?
There are many reasons why you may want to consider learning C#.
One of the top reasons why C# is a great language to learn is because it is easier to get started when compared to Java and C. Developing your first application will be easy and many resources are available to help you go from creating a “hello world” app to developing advanced applications.
That’s not all: C# is a versatile language. Once you’ve learned the basic principles of C#, you can use it for a wide range of purposes. The same principles you have mastered to develop software using C# can be applied to web and game development.
C# also has a large community of developers who actively use the language. This is the hallmark of any good programming language because it means there are always discussions going on about how to improve the language and how to make it easier to use.
How to Learn C#
So, you’re thinking to yourself: “Learning C# sounds like a good idea.” That’s great. But now you will likely be asking: “How do you actually learn to code in C#?”
To help you answer this question, we’re going to break it down into two parts. First, we’ll discuss the high-level skills that you need to master. Then, we will talk about learning methods.
How to Build Your Skills
C# is a powerful language and there’s no doubt it has a lot of uses. But before you go on to building complex video games or websites, you’ll need to master the basics of coding in C#.
While this may not sound as interesting as developing big apps, once you’ve learned the basics, you’ll have a solid foundation of knowledge you can later use to explore more advanced topics. When you know the basic syntax for C#, you’ll never need to learn it again.
Let’s explore the main topics that you need to learn about to master C#.
Syntax and Variables
Syntax is the basic set of rules and procedures that guide how you code. Before you go on further, you’ll need to master the syntax for C#.
The next step in your journey will be to learn about variables, which are used to store data in a program, as well as the different types of data variables can store. Here are the main topics related to syntax and variables that you’ll need to learn:
- How to create a C# program
- How to receive user input
- How to write comments
- How to declare a variable
- What data types can be used with variables
- How to convert the data type used by a variable
Loops and Conditionals
Loops allow you to automate repetitive tasks in a program. Loops are useful because they allow you to reuse similar code multiple times instead of repeating code manually in your program.
Conditionals allow you to control the flow of your program and only run certain code when a set of conditions is met in your program. This gives you greater control over when certain parts of a program are run.
The main topics you should explore related to loops and conditionals are:
- If and else statements
- Comparison operators
- Boolean data type
- Logical operators
- Truth tables
- For loops and foreach statements
Methods and Arrays
A method is a type of function that groups together a block of code and performs a specific action in a program. For instance, a method could add two numbers together or go through a list and print each item to the console. Methods are the building blocks of code in C#.
An array is a method of storing lists of data in C#. For instance, an array could store data on a list of fruits sold at a fruit stand.
Here are the main topics related to methods and arrays that you should master:
- How to define a method
- How to call a method
- Method parameters
- Parameters vs. arguments
- Method overloading
- What is an array
- How to access items in an array
- How to change items in an array
Classes and Objects
C# is an object-oriented programming language and it relies on classes and objects to determine the structure of data in a program.
Classes are like blueprints that define how a set of data should be structured. For instance, a class may define all the data that a user’s account can store in a banking application. Objects, on the other hand, are individual instances of a class. So an object may contain the account information for a specific customer based on the bank account class blueprint.
The main topics you should know about related to classes and objects are:
- What is a class
- What is an object
- Fields and properties
- Public vs. private access modifiers
- The this keyword
- Overloading constructors
- The dot notation
Inheritance and Interfaces
Inheritance is a feature of object-oriented programming that allows you to create a class based on existing ones. Interfaces allow you to enforce certain properties on a class.
Both these features can help you reduce repetition in your code and write more efficient and readable programs. The main topics you should master are:
- What is an interface
- How to build an interface
- How to test an interface
- Parent and child classes
- How to create a parent class
- The inherited keyword
- Accessing inherited members using base
- Overriding inherited members of a class
Once you’ve mastered these basic topics, you’ll be ready to take the next step in your journey: building projects. Ideally, you’ll want to start building projects as soon as you can, even as you are learning these concepts, to help reinforce your knowledge and practice the theory that you have learned in class.
In addition, once you’ve learned the basics, you can go on to learn frameworks like .Net or explore the Unity game engine.
Where to Learn C#
We’ve discussed the skills that you need to master, but now you may be asking: “What resources can I use to acquire these skills and learn C# free?”
That’s a great question! Because there are so many great resources out there, it can be difficult to know where to begin.
The answer to that question lies in your learning style. Do you like online tutorials? Or do you prefer to read a book? Do you want to learn in a classroom-based environment or do you prefer working at your own pace? Whatever your learning style is, you should try to anchor the materials toward that style so you stay engaged.
Here are a few ways in which you can learn the basics of C# programming free:
C# was developed by Microsoft, so it makes sense the company has been active in writing documentation and learning resources for the language.
On the Microsoft website, you’ll find a stockpile of great tutorials that you can use to learn C#. For instance, Microsoft has a list of videos and articles to help you learn C# on their .Net website.
You can also learn from Microsoft’s C# guide in the language’s documentation, which is a great starting point for beginners and covers all the basic principles of C# that you’ll need to know to code an application using the language.
Online video tutorials and guides are another popular method beginners use to master a programming language. Following tutorials is useful because they have a clear end goal in mind, which means that by the end of reading a tutorial, you should have something tangible to show for your work.
Here are a few good tutorials for C# beginners:
- Microsoft’s C# tutorials
- Codecademy’s Introduction to C# course
- W3Schools’ C# tutorial
- Learn C# interactive tutorial
- The Complete C# Tutorial by .Net Tutorials
Taking online courses can be a great way to learn to code because they combine audio, visual, and project-based learning. Using these different learning approaches can help you develop more comprehension over C# as you’ll be able to see the language discussed in different contexts.
Here are a few sources on which you can depend for online courses:
- edX’s Learn C# courses
- Lynda.com’s C# courses
- The Fundamentals of C# for Beginners by Pluralsight
- C# Basics for Beginners on Udemy
Go to Coding Bootcamp
If you’re looking for a more immersive learning experience, attending a coding bootcamp can be a great option.
At a coding bootcamp, you’ll master all the skills you need to pursue a career in tech that uses C#. By the end of bootcamp, you will have a portfolio of projects that showcase your skills and access to career support services you can use to help kickstart your journey to a career in tech.
To learn more about coding schools that teach C#, check out our bootcamp directory. In our directory, we have lists of schools that not only teach coding more broadly, but also schools that focus specifically on C#.
Build a Project
Learning from tutorials can only take you so far; after you’ve mastered the basics, you should start working on your own projects.
Working on projects is a great way to learn because they allow you to apply the theories that you have learned. This can help with boosting retention because you’ll have to think about both the concepts you have learned and how they apply to the specific project that you’re building.
To start, you should focus on building a few basic projects. This will help you get used to working on independent work that you’ve chosen without having to commit to a massive project that may never get completed. Then, when you’re ready, you can move your attention toward bigger projects.
If you’re stuck for inspiration, ask yourself the question: “What problems do I frequently encounter?” This will help you get into the mindset of thinking about new ideas.
Here are a few examples of starter projects you could build using C#:
- A login page for a game
- An app that stores a list of trading cards that you collect
- A ticketing application for teams
- A program that helps you archive your files
- An app to share clips from your favorite podcasts
If you’re looking to build a game with C#, then you must first come up with concept ideas. All you need to do is rack your mind for answers to the question: “what is my dream game?”, and then you can get going. Do remember that you should start small.
Once you’ve finished your first project, keep going. Build another one and make it more technically complex than your last one, if you feel like you are ready. Or, you could add new features to an existing project. This will help you get into the mindset of “how can I improve my work”, which will allow you to learn C# faster.
Join a Developer Community
Learning to code is not a journey you should take in solitude. On the contrary, you should try to expose yourself to as many other developers as possible.
Joining a developer community should be high on your list of priorities when learning how to code. Developer communities are hubs for developers to come together, help each other, and discuss technical and non-technical questions.
When you join a community, you’ll be able to ask questions to other developers, offer your support when you can, and also get a greater sense of the C# developer ecosystem.
Are you unsure which communities to join? Here is a list of a few communities that are great for C# beginners:
- C# on Discord: The C# community on Discord is a group of developers who have come together to discuss C#. In the community, you can ask questions, seek feedback on your work, and help others whenever possible.
- .Net Blog: The .Net blog, while not exactly a community, is a great source of information for all .Net developers, and is worth a follow.
- Stack Overflow: Stack Overflow is a website used by developers around the world to ask and answer programming questions. There are many great questions on Stack Overflow related to C# already, but if you have your own, you can always post it to the platform.
Your first priority when joining a developer community should be to find ways to contribute. Ask yourself: How can I make this community a better place? Do you have a question to ask? Great, post it in a community. Can you help another developer? If so, extend your support.
If you’re looking for more communities for C# developers, check out Microsoft’s list of C# communities.
Practice Your C# Skills
Practice. Practice. Practice. This principle is so important that it cannot be repeated enough.
Coding is a skill, and like any skill, the more you practice, the better you’ll get. Although you may feel somewhat unnerved by the complexity of C# at first, over time, these feelings will dissipate and you’ll become more comfortable working with the language.
Practice is so important when it comes to coding because you’ll inevitably make mistakes, and the only way that you’ll learn from them is to keep working hard and figuring out ways to improve your work. And, over time, you’ll develop a mental catalog of errors and mistakes you have seen, which will help you become a more effective programmer.
How often should you practice? That’s up to you, but when you’re getting started, it is best to try to fit in as much practice as you can. If possible try to code daily or at least a few times a week. This will reduce the likelihood that you forget about coding and stop working on projects.
If you’re looking for creative ways to practice, here are a few ideas:
- Create a project. Building a project is a great way to learn how to code in C#. Think about an idea, then try to build it with the skills you have acquired.
- Participate in a hackathon. Hackathons are contests where people come together to build a project in a short period of time. If you’re looking for a more intense practice session and want to meet other developers in the process, then participating in a hackathon can be a valuable use of your time.
- Take on a coding challenge. On sites like Codewars and Coderbyte, you can find coding challenges that have been written to help people refine their knowledge of coding. These sites often have challenges specifically for C# developers, which you can use to level up your skills.
Keep practicing, and before you know it you’ll be a master at coding in C#.
C# may be an older programming language than others, but it is still widely used today. And, it has an active developer community. If you want to build games for Windows, build websites using .Net, or just create an app for a Windows device, knowing C# is useful.
Also, because C# is so widely used and still receives a lot of attention from Microsoft, learning the language can open up many career opportunities for you.
In summary, here are the main steps you should take in order to learn C# fast:
- Research and follow learning resources
- Master the basics
- Work on projects
- Join a developer community
- Practice your C# skills
By following these steps, you’ll be able to start your journey to learning how to code in C# on a great footing. And, if you work hard, you’ll become an expert at C# in no time!