.NET Compact Framework

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What Does .NET Compact Framework Mean?

.NET compact framework (.NET CF) is a subset of .NET framework that provides a hardware-independent environment for executing .NET applications on resource-constrained devices like personal digital assistants (PDA), mobile phones and set-top boxes.


.NET CF supports embedded and mobile devices that are built with Microsoft Windows CE.NET operating system.

.NET CF includes the following:

  • Optimized common language runtime (CLR) with architecture inherited from .NET framework
  • A subset of .NET Framework Class Library
  • A set of classes exclusively designed for optimal performance.

Techopedia Explains .NET Compact Framework

.NET CF makes up the platform for accessing the underlying features of a smart device and makes it possible for applications and components to interact on the device and over the Internet. It provides the interoperability to access native functions of the Windows CE operating system and to integrate native components in managed code, allowing both native and desktop device application developers to build applications for Windows Mobile and Windows Embedded CE devices.

.NET CF’s programming model is similar to .NET and thus offers the inherent benefits of using managed code with the .NET framework such as type safety, garbage collection and exception handling as well as providing XML Web services to hand-held devices. Some of the features of .NET CF that differ from .NET framework and need to be considered while developing applications are the minimized CLR, optimized memory, specialized controls, and the lack of support to features like remoting and reflection.

.NET CF presents a rich development and execution environment for smart devices running Pocket PC (versions, 2002, 2003 and Phone Edition) or Windows CE.NET 4.1 or above. It provides a class library that is suitable for developers of both these platforms, irrespective of differences in their behavior and usage.

Although similar to .NET framework, the development of .NET CF applications presents new challenges based on the demands of applications of mobile computing and embedded devices along with the limitations imposed by Windows CE devices.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.