Things VB can do that C# can't

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14 July 2004

A customer asked me for a list of things VB can do that C# can’t. “Can’t” isn’t meaningful of course, since C# can technically do anything, just like VB can technically do anything. Neither language can really do anything that the other can’t, because both are bound to .NET itself.

But here’s a list of things VB does easier or more directly than C#. And yes, I’m fully aware that there’s a comparable list of things C# does easier than VB - but that wasn’t the question I was asked :-)   I’m also fully aware that this is a partial list.

For the C# product team (if any of you read this), this could also act as my wish list for C#. If C# addressed even the top few issues here I think it would radically improve the language.

Also note that this is for .NET 1.x - things change in .NET 2.0 when VB gets edit-and-continue and the My functionality, and C# gets iterators and anonymous delegates.

Finally, on to the list:

  1. One key VB feature is that it eliminates an entire class of runtime error you get in case sensitive languages - where a method parameter and property in the same class have the same name but for case. These problems can only be found through runtime testing, not by the compiler. This is a stupid thing that is solved in VB by avoiding the archaic concept of case sensitivity.
  2. Handle multiple events in single method (superior separation of interface and implementation).
  3. WithEvents is a huge difference in general, since it dramatically simplifies (or even enables) several code generation scenarios.
  4. In VB you can actually tell the difference between inheriting from a base class and implementing an interface. In C# the syntax for both is identical, even though the semantic meaning is very different.
  5. Implement multiple interface items in a single method (superior separation of interface and implementation).
  6. Also, independent naming/scoping of methods that implement an interface method - C# interface implementation is comparable to the sucky way VB6 did it... (superior separation of interface and implementation).
  7. Multiple indexed properties (C# only allows a single indexed property).
  8. Optional parameters (important for Office integration, and general code cleanliness).
  9. Late binding (C# requires manual use of reflection).
  10. There are several COM interop features in VB that require much more work in C#. VB has the ComClass attribute and the CreateObject method for instance.
  11. The Cxxx() methods (such as CDate, CInt, CStr, etc) offer some serious benefits over Sometimes performance, but more often increased functionality that takes several lines of C# to achieve.
  12. The VB RTL also includes a bunch of complex financial functions for dealing with interest, etc. In C# you either write them by hand or buy a third-party library (because self-respecting C# devs won't use the VB RTL even if they have to pay for an alternative).
  13. The InputBox method is a simple way to get a string from the user without having to build a custom form.
  14. Sound a Beep in less than a page of code.
  15. </ol>

    And please, no flames. I know C# has a comparable list, and I know I've missed some VB items as well. The point isn't oneupmanship, the point is being able to intelligently and dispassionately evaluate the areas where a given language provides benefit.

    If C# adopted some of these ideas, that would be cool. If VB adopted some of C#'s better ideas that would be cool. If they remain separate, but relatively equal that's probably cool too.

    Personally, I want to see some of the more advanced SEH features from VAX Basic incorporated into both VB and C#. The DEC guys really had it nailed back in the late 80's!