Comparison with the classic Visual Basic
Main article: Comparison of Visual Basic and Visual Basic .NET
Whether Visual Basic .NET should be considered as just another version of Visual Basic or a completely different language is a topic of debate. There are new additions to support new features, such as structured exception handling and short-circuited expressions. Also, two important data-type changes occurred with the move to VB.NET: compared to Visual Basic 6, the Integer data type has been doubled in length from 16 bits to 32 bits, and the Long data type has been doubled in length from 32 bits to 64 bits. This is true for all versions of VB.NET. A 16-bit integer in all versions of VB.NET is now known as a Short. Similarly, the Windows Forms editor is very similar in style and function to the Visual Basic form editor.
The things that have changed significantly are the semantics—from those of an object-based programming language running on a deterministic, reference-counted engine based on COM to a fully object-oriented language backed by the .NET Framework, which consists of a combination of the Common Language Runtime (a virtual machine using generational garbage collection and a just-in-time compilation engine) and a far larger class library. The increased breadth of the latter is also a problem that VB developers have to deal with when coming to the language, although this is somewhat addressed by the My feature in Visual Studio 2005.
The changes have altered many underlying assumptions about the "right" thing to do with respect to performance and maintainability. Some functions and libraries no longer exist; others are available, but not as efficient as the "native" .NET alternatives. Even if they compile, most converted Visual Basic 6 applications will require some level of refactoring to take full advantage of the new language. Documentation is available to cover changes in the syntax, debugging applications, deployment and terminology.
The following simple examples compare VB and VB.NET syntax. They assume that the developer has created a form, placed a button on it and has associated the subroutines demonstrated in each example with the click event handler of the mentioned button. Each example creates a "Hello, World" message box after the button on the form is clicked.
Visual Basic 6:
Private Sub Command1_Click()
MsgBox "Hello, World"
VB.NET (MsgBox or MessageBox class can be used):
Private Sub Button1_Click(sender As object, e As EventArgs) Handles Button1.Click
Both Visual Basic 6 and Visual Basic .NET automatically generate the Sub and End Sub statements when the corresponding button is double-clicked in design view. Visual Basic .NET will also generate the necessary Class and End Class statements. The developer need only add the statement to display the "Hello, World" message box.
All procedure calls must be made with parentheses in VB.NET, whereas in Visual Basic 6 there were different conventions for functions (parentheses required) and subs (no parentheses allowed, unless called using the keyword Call).
The names Command1 and Button1 are not obligatory. However, these are default names for a command button in Visual Basic 6 and VB.NET respectively.
In VB.NET, the Handles keyword is used to make the sub Button1_Click a handler for the Click event of the object Button1. In Visual Basic 6, event handler subs must have a specific name consisting of the object's name ("Command1"), an underscore ("_"), and the event's name ("Click", hence "Command1_Click").
There is a function called MessageBox.Show in the Microsoft.VisualBasic namespace which can be used (instead of MsgBox) similarly to the corresponding function in Visual Basic 6. There is a controversy about which function to use as a best practice (not only restricted to showing message boxes but also regarding other features of the Microsoft.VisualBasic namespace). Some programmers prefer to do things "the .NET way", since the Framework classes have more features and are less language-specific. Others argue that using language-specific features makes code more readable (for example, using int (C#) or Integer (VB.NET) instead of System.Int32).
In Visual Basic 2008, the inclusion of ByVal sender as Object, ByVal e as EventArgs has become optional.
The following example demonstrates a difference between Visual Basic 6 and VB.NET. Both examples close the active window.
Visual Basic 6:
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