How to Choose the Best .NET Core Libraries for Your Web Developers Should Know
The .NET ecosystem has hundreds of libraries available that you can add as dependencies to your .NET Core applications to enhance functionality, improve performance, or save development time on common tasks. With so many options available, it can be difficult to determine which libraries are essential and which ones are nice to have.
In this article, we’ll explore over 30 of the most popular and useful .NET Core Libraries list for .NET Core that every developer should be familiar with. We’ll cover libraries for web development, testing, logging, security, databases, machine learning, and more. By the end, you’ll have a good sense of the top libraries in the .NET ecosystem and how they can help improve your applications.
Top 30+ .NET Core Libraries List
Must-know .NET Core libraries list for web, DBs, testing, ML, and more to cut dev time and build robust applications.
- Entity Framework Core
- MySQL Connector
- MongoDB Driver
- Redis Cache
1. Entity Framework Core
Entity Framework (EF) Core is an open-source, cross-platform ORM framework for .NET applications. It enables .NET developers to work with databases using .NET objects, eliminating the need for most of the data-access code.
Some key features of EF Core are:
- Mapping between .NET objects and database tables.
- Querying database using LINQ.
- Change tracking.
- Identity and composite key mapping.
- Database schema migration.
- Support for SQL Server, SQLite, MySQL, PostgreSQL etc.
EF Core provides high performance, flexibility, and extensibility for data access in .NET Core applications. Its rich features and simplicity make it a very popular choice for developers working with .NET stack.
Dapper is a simple ORM mapper that provides high performance data access for .NET and .NET Core applications. It builds on top of ADO.NET APIs and provides a thin wrapper to eliminate a lot of boilerplate code.
Key features of Dapper are:
- Fast data access with minimal coding
- Underlying access via raw SQL queries
- Support for stored procedures
- Simple mapping of SQL queries results to .NET objects
- Multiple database support including SQL Server, MySQL, PostgreSQL etc.
Dapper excels for simple CRUD operations and is much faster compared to full-featured ORMs. It shines in microservices where high performance for simple database operations is critical.
3. MySQL Connector
MySQL Connector for .NET enables applications based on the .NET Framework, .NET Core, Mono or Xamarin to connect to MySQL databases. It provides access to MySQL data and features including SQL statements, creating, and dropping databases etc.
Some salient features are:
- 100% managed ADO.NET driver for MySQL.
- Supports MySQL 5.5, 5.6, 5.7 & 8.0 releases.
- Compatible with a wide range of .NET versions.
- API for configuring MySQL connections.
- Supports advanced features like connection pooling, SSL encryption etc.
The connector enables fast and reliable access to MySQL from .NET ecosystem applications. With .NET Core support, it can now be used cross-platform on Windows, Linux and macOS.
4. MongoDB Driver
The MongoDB .NET driver enables connecting and interacting with MongoDB database from applications developed based on Microsoft .NET platform.
Key capabilities offered by the MongoDB driver are:
- Providing basic CRUD operations for MongoDB documents.
- Support for rich querying, indexing, aggregation etc.
- Serializers for transforming BSON documents into .NET objects.
- Support for MongoDB specific data types like ObjectIds.
- Helper classes supporting geospatial queries.
- Asynchronous interaction using async/await.
The driver can be used with .NET Framework/.NET Core apps across platforms like desktops, mobiles, and cloud. It essentially bridges MongoDB and Microsoft’s technology stack.
5. Redis Cache
Redis is an in-memory data structure store used often as a cache or message broker. For .NET developers, Redis Cache provides an implementation for accessing Redis cache from .NET apps to store temporary data, session states etc.
Salient features provided by Redis Cache package:
- High performance in-memory caching
- Access to native Redis data structures like strings, hashes, lists from .NET
- Configuration helpers for connecting .NET apps with Redis server
- Serialization helpers to store CLR objects
- Support for Redis features like expiry, LRU cache, transactions etc.
- Distribution and replication support
By providing managed access, Redis Cache makes it easy to use Redis powerful caching capabilities within Microsoft ecosystem apps for low latency data access.
Web Development Libraries
- ASP.NET Core
6. ASP.NET Core
ASP.NET Core is Microsoft’s open-source framework to build modern web apps and services on .NET platform. It can be used to create web pages, APIs and real-time communication backend easily.
Some major aspects where ASP.NET Core differentiates itself:
- Build for Windows, Linux or macOS using same codebase.
- Modular HTTP request pipeline.
- Integration of modern client-side frameworks and development workflows.
- Cloud-ready hosting model using self-contained deployment.
- High performance using lean stack & resource optimization.
- Side-by-side versioning: Ability to install multiple versions.
ASP.NET Core has become the preferred web framework for cross-platform web development using .NET stack due to above capabilities.
Razor is the view engine used by default in ASP.NET Core apps for rendering web pages with cleaner HTML code. It minimizes writing boilerplate code due to syntactic sugar that avoids lot of HTML tags and transitions.
Below are some salient aspects of Razor used in .NET Core:
- Combines HTML markup and server-side code like C# into Razor files with extension .cshtml.
- Offers cleaner coding by reducing angle brackets and allows omission of unnecessary sections.
- C# code can be added using @ symbol without <%%> tags needed in legacy ASP.NET.
- Provides helper methods and richer code intellisense, type checking etc.
- Renders HTML by interpreting Razor files on server-side before sending output to client.
With ASP.NET Core, Razor continues to make building web UI faster, modular, and more productive for .NET developers.
SignalR is a library for ASP.NET Core developers to add real-time web functionality to their apps. It enables adding server-to-client live communication capabilities seamlessly.
Below are some key highlights:
- Enables real-time communication between server and clients.
- Built-in support for Web Sockets protocol and fall-back options.
- Integrates closely with ASP.NET Core’s pipeline via middleware.
- Multiple options for persistent connectivity like Long Polling etc..
- APIs for connection management and grouping connections.
- Broadcast messages to all connected clients from server.
- Support for better scalability and multiple server instances.
SignalR converts ASP.NET Core apps into real-time platforms instantly without having to learn new frameworks by integrating Web Sockets natively.
Swagger or OpenAPI specification makes it easy to describe RESTful APIs using simple documentation. It provides utilities to generate interactive documentation pages for the APIs automatically in ASP.NET Core apps.
Some benefits provided by Swagger implementation for ASP.NET Core:
- Auto-generates detailed documentation for REST APIs.
- Visualize all resources, HTTP methods supported.
- Inbuilt UI for testing APIs directly on docs portal.
- Seamless integration using middleware and MVC integration.
- Analyze models and controllers to auto-create docs.
- Annotate code elements to customize docs generation.
- Output docs as HTML web page or structured JSON/YAML.
By eliminating need to manually create docs, Swagger improves developer efficiency greatly for building APIs for ASP.NET Core apps and services.
Polly is a .NET library that makes it easier to handle transient faults in ASP.NET Core services to make them more resilient and fault tolerant.
It provides these major capabilities:
- Automated retry policies for failed HTTP calls or exceptions.
- Circuit breaker pattern support to stop failed calls temporarily.
- Bulkhead isolation policies for dividing and limiting resources.
- Timeouts for wrapping execution times.
- Fallback actions when exceptions happen.
- Extensibility to create custom policies.
By offering resiliency patterns that can be setup with few lines of configuration, Polly prevents need for complex code in ASP.NET Core apps for communication failures.
xUnit is modern open-source testing framework that helps create maintainable unit tests for .NET Core applications and libraries. It makes writing small, fast, and reliable test cases easy.
Some of the highlighting aspects of xUnit are:
- Simple structuring with intuitive class model using attributes for configuration.
- Supports data driven test cases easily.
- Flexible extensibility model to customize own attributes.
- Integration with modern IDEs like Visual Studio and CLI tools.
- Large and active open-source community across platforms.
- Performance focused tests and parallel test case execution.
xUnit minimizes complexity in setting up test infrastructure for writing unit tests for .NET ecosystem applications due to its simplicity.
NUnit is an open source, cross-platforms unit testing framework for .NET programming languages. It has been ported to numerous environments making it usable in CI/CD pipelines across Linux, macOS and Windows.
Below are some salient features:
- Annotations and attributes to configure test fixtures in code
- Support for parameterized, generic, and data driven tests
- Flexible test running options from GUIs to CLI to file runners
- Extensible using own custom constraints and syntax
- Integrates into Visual Studio and many other IDEs
- Available across .NET Framework, .NET Core, Mono etc.
NUnit remains the most popular unit test framework that .NET developers adopt that works seamlessly across .NET.
Moq is the most popular mocking library for unit testing .NET apps created by Daniel Cazzulino and others. It allows creating mock or fake object implementations of interfaces or classes easily in automated tests.
Highlights of Moq library:
- Creating mock objects replacing real implementations with mimics.
- Setting up return values, exceptions etc. when mocks are used.
- Verifying mocked instances were utilized properly.
- Calling bases when expected methods are invoked.
- Mocking non virtual / interface members using Castle Proxy library.
- Intuitive syntax for configuring mock behavior over multiple method calls.
- Wide range of extension and helper libraries.
Moq provides simple ergonomic mocking for writing stimuli generating repeatable unit tests isolating .NET Core code under test.
FluentAssertions is a .NET open-source assertion library used in unit testing. It allows writing test assertions chained together in easy natural language helping tests read like sentences.
Salient aspects of FluentAssertions are:
- Self-descriptive test assertions reading like natural statements.
- Chains assertions to produce easy test error analysis.
- Remembers failures to record all issues instead of just first one.
- Extensible to add custom assertions.
- Integrates with all .NET unit test frameworks seamlessly.
- Handles exceptions rendering appropriate assertion output.
- Additional reusable assertions around strings, collections, exceptions etc. available.
FluentAssertions reduces effort to create understandable and complete unit test cases with minimal code using its expressive assertions syntax.
Serilog provides a logging API for writing structured log data in .NET apps. It allows collecting rich information in outputs analyzed later instead of just text messages.
Below are some capabilities it provides:
- Structured event data based on strong typing.
- Multiple sinks to file, network etc. using pluggable pipelines.
- High performance multithreaded writes.
- Support for established log frameworks with wrappers.
- Integrations for leading log data pipelines -Middleware’s for ASP.NET Core, EF Core and other frameworks.
- Cross platform – works across .NET flavors and runtimes.
Serilog improves debugging, health metrics generation etc. in complex .NET solutions by making structured high quality log data easier.
NLog is a free logging platform for .NET, Silverlight and Windows Phone apps with rich logging capabilities. It allows flexible logging against multiple targets in a powerful configuration system.
Major aspects in which it helps are:
- Structured and unstructured textual log messages.
- File targets with file name manipulation and archiving helpers.
- Many targets ranging including database, queues, console etc.
- Asynchronous, buffered writes for performance.
- .NET runtime and apps metrics and statistics automatically captured.
- APIs to intercept logs and exceptions programmatically.
- Visual Studio and command line extensibility.
NLog allows modifying logging behavior without changing application code making it very extensible logging system for .NET ecosystem apps.
Log4net is a legacy logging framework for .NET inspired by log4j used extensively across many .NET apps till date. It allows configurable logging against multiple data sinks based on logging levels.
Some salient aspects of log4net are:
- Hierarchical log categorization using logger hierarchy.
- Multiple appenders for outputting logs across file, network, console etc.
- Setup logging rules declaratively via configurations.
- APIs for parameterized logging with object rendering.
- Runtime changes to logging policies without application restarts.
- Supports structured data notes natively.
- High throughput asynchronous log writes.
Developers comfortable in log4j paradigm feel at home using log4net which has proven itself over decades for logging in .NET apps.
Object Relational Mappers (ORMs)
- Entity Framework Core
18. Entity Framework Core
Entity Framework Core is the lightweight, extensible and cross platform version of popular Entity Framework data access technology from Microsoft patterns. It allows .NET developers to work with databases via .NET models and LINQ based querying avoiding lot of boilerplate data access code.
Salient aspects of EF Core are:
- Map relational databases to .NET managed models.
- Works with SQL Server, SQLite, Cosmos DB, MySQL etc.
- Configurable via code as well as declarative data annotations.
- Intuitive LINQ querying capabilities.
- Change tracking for automatic updates.
- Migrations system for database schema changes.
- Wide ecosystem of extensibility points for customization.
- Cross platform across Windows, Linux, and Mac.
Entity Framework moves data access in .NET Core apps to higher abstraction; closer to application’s domain model using this powerful ORM.
Dapper is a micro-ORM that enables .NET developers to seamlessly query and map SQL database data to .NET objects. It is fast, lightweight, and simple gaining popularity for modern data access coding.
Below are key highlights:
- Minimal data mapper without bloated features.
- Mapping SQL results to .NET model with few lines of code.
- Underlying raw SQL code access still available.
- Up to 500-1000% faster than traditional ORM frameworks.
- Extension methods simplify coding conventions.
- Great for CRUD scenarios rather than complex querying needs.
- Works across .NET frameworks and various databases.
For basic database operations without complex relationships, Dapper provides high performance data interaction from .NET through simplicity focusing only on querying and mapping.
- Memory Cache
- Redis Cache
20. Memory Cache
MemoryCache class allows storing cached data in memory for low latency access useful in applications where data doesn’t change frequently. It is natively available assembly since .NET Framework 2.0 days.
Benefits offered by MemoryCache are:
- Key/value-based data storage in apps’ memory space.
- Thread safe caching operations.
- Priority expiration based on usage recency.
- Callbacks on cache expiration actions.
- Ability to set absolute and sliding expirations.
- Fetch data faster compared to external caches.
MemoryCache continues to be useful for localized in-process caching needs where external dependency is unnecessary.
21. Redis Cache
Redis is one of most popular in-memory data stores used often as distributed cache by cloud applications. For .NET ecosystem, Redis Cache library allows leveraging Redis seamlessly.
Some ways it helps are:
- High performance durable in-memory caching.
- Access Redis native structures like lists, sets etc.
- Configuration based connectivity in .NET apps.
- Automatic serialization and deserialization.
- Publish/subscribe mechanism accessing Redis streams.
- Helper and extensibility methods provided.
- Cross platform on Linux, Windows and macOS.
Redis Cache lets .NET developers easily adopt Redis for distributed caching, transient data sharing, message queuing in their apps as microservices scaling needs grow.
Machine Learning Libraries
ML.NET is an open source, cross platform machine learning framework to develop, train and integrate custom models in .NET apps using C# and F# programming languages without ML knowledge.
It provides below features:
- Multiple ML algorithms like classification, regression, clustering pre-available.
- APIs to load, transform data to model input.
- Training API to build models based on sample data easily.
- Interfaces to consume models for predictions inside apps & services.
- Real-time and batch model scoring mechanisms.
- Tools to visualize metrics and evaluate models.
- Continued development by Microsoft Research teams.
ML.NET removes need for specialized ML skills for .NET developers by making custom ML model development consumable through intuitive APIs focusing on their apps’ data.
TensorFlowSharp, as name suggests, are .NET bindings to Google’s TensorFlow libraries to leverage deep learning and neural networks for Windows, Linux & MacOS based .NET applications.
- Managed .NET API for Google’s TensorFlow machine learning library.
- Low level bindings allow direct interop between TF models and .NET code.
- Compatible with languages like C#, F#, VB on .NET stack.
- GPU acceleration utilization for model training and inference.
- Cross-platform .NET development workflows.
- Active support and continued development.
TensorFlowSharp helps tap into TensorFlow powerful ML capabilities by allowing .NET developers to run pre-built or custom models for serving predictions in their applications without context switch.
IdentityServer provides OpenID Connect & OAuth 2.0 framework for ASP.NET Core to integrate SSO, API access control and two factor authentication.
It offers multiple capabilities:
- Support for token authentication using JWT & reference tokens.
- Standardized OAuth2 flows like authorization code flow.
- Integrates with ASP.NET Core Identity or custom stores.
- Enterprise ready protocols, extensibility, and security.
- Highly customizable using events, middleware pipelines.
- Additional authentication methods like 2FA easily enabled.
- Comes with health & performance monitoring.
IdentityServer4 is used widely across enterprises and cloud native systems for modern token-based authentication & authorization needs due to above features.
JWT or JSON Web Token is an open standard that defines compact tokenized mechanism for securely transmitting information between parties using JSON payloads.
For .NET developers, System.IdentityModel.Tokens.Jwt libraries help by providing:
- APIs for creating and validating JWT tokens.
- Helper classes for constructing JWT payloads with claims.
- Symmetric and asymmetric signature generation.
- Integrates with ASP.NET Core authentication systems easily.
- Customization APIs available to modify token validation behavior.
- Configuration based set up.
Using JWT libraries, developers can quickly adopt token-based authorization and securely send user identity across different components, microservices in ASP.NET Core.
AutoMapper is a simple library to transform one object type to another in .NET apps. It removes need to manually write mapping code between view models, DTOs, domain models etc. saving significant effort.
Key features are:
- Declarative mapping between different model types.
- Transformation code auto generated during runtime.
- Support for nested object transformations.
- Flattening and unflattening complex object graphs.
- Custom type converters for non-trivial mappings.
- Validating correctness of mappings.
- Extensibility points provided.
AutoMapper integrates into business logic code and eliminates most boring bits of transformation logic code needed often in enterprise apps.
Humanizer meets everyday localization needs like dates, times, numbers and sizes formatting in a culture specific, human friendly way for .NET apps.
- Localized string outputs for dates, times, timespans etc.
- Numbers formatted based on cultures.
- Useful manipulations like converting enum values to strings etc.
- Pluralization and singularization of words.
- Casing conversions following localization norms.
- Fluent code APIs alongside extensions methods.
- Integrations for ORMs, Core frameworks etc.
Humanizer helps establish consistent vocabularies across domain models in line with localization needs saving effort and preventing subtle bugs in .NET apps.
Hangfire is an open-source framework for creating, processing and managing background jobs and tasks in .NET/.NET Core apps without needing a separate queue service.
Major functionality are:
- Fire-and-forget, delayed and recurring jobs.
- Dashboard interface to view statuses.
- Retry policies for failed jobs.
- Transactions support for atomic job spindle.
- Persistent storage using SQL Server or Redis.
- Additional monitoring, error handling capabilities.
- Integrates into ASP.NET Core apps.
- Process multiple background jobs on many servers.
Hangfire brings reliable background job processing enabling .NET developers to focus on the tasks themselves without worrying about infrastructure.
Some benefits offered by Blazor are:
- Full-stack .NET solution – Share code across layers.
- Hosted deployment models – Within ASP.NET or standalone.
- Built-in services for routing, dependency injection etc.
- Leverage entire .NET ecosystem of libraries.
- Integrates with CSS frameworks like Bootstrap.
- Supports SSR and PWAs using ASP.NET Core hosting.
Below are some ways Angular helps:
- Complete MVVM framework for modern SPAs.
- Declarative templating using HTML and TypeScript.
- Data binding and powerful templating syntax.
- Rich collection of UI components and libraries.
- Single page routing and navigation.
- Build progressive web apps with offline support.
- Isomorphic app development support.
Angular continues to be preferred client framework paired with ASP.NET Core backends where developers can divide skills across specialities while retaining high productivity.
Final Thoughts .Net Core Libraries List
The .NET Core framework provides developers with a vast array of useful libraries to build robust and scalable applications. As we have seen, these libraries span categories like data access, serialization, machine learning, imaging, and more. Choosing the right libraries can significantly cut development time and effort. This article covered over 30 top .NET Core libraries that every developer should be aware of. Whether you need to manipulate JSON, connect to databases, build web APIs, or add AI capabilities, the .NET ecosystem likely has a battle-tested library to help you achieve it efficiently. By mastering these .NET core libraries, you can write higher quality .NET applications in less time.
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Amelie Lamb is an experienced technical content writer at SoftwareStack.co who specializes in distilling complex software topics into clear, concise explanations. She has a talent for taking dense technical jargon and making it engaging and understandable for readers through her informative, lively writing style.