What Is Mono and How Does It Help Windows Switchers New to Linux?

Austin Luong 18-10-2017

Linux is many things. It’s the core component How to Easily Upgrade Ubuntu's Linux Kernel With Ukuu Upgrading the Linux kernel isn't easy, but if you're running Ubuntu and want the latest kernel, there's now a simple tool you can use to download the update: Ukuu. Read More of a great number of distributions, the shoulders on which a large mobile platform Is Android Really Open Source? And Does It Even Matter? Here we explore whether or not Android is really open source. After all, it is based on Linux! Read More stands on, and better than other Is Linux Finally Good Enough to Replace Windows? Recent figures show that Linux desktop usage has reached 2%, it's highest yet. Does this mean Linux has reached a point where it can replace Windows and Mac OS X for the average user? Read More , more popular operating systems (definitely not an opinion).


One of its shortcomings, though, stems from its lower popularity on the desktop: the availability of programs. Fortunately, there are things which can help this, Mono being one of them.

Software Frameworks: Building Blocks

Software frameworks aren’t the most exciting of things, but they’re useful in their own way, working behind the scenes. They allow people to easily develop applications for others, without starting completely from scratch. Mono is one of them, as is the .NET Framework A GNU Beginning For Microsoft: What An Open Source .NET Framework Means For The Rest Of Us Microsoft just released a significant part of its code under a permissive open source license. This move breaks with years of tradition. But why and what does it mean for you? Read More .

These frameworks can range from being used for specific desktop environments 5 Great Linux Desktop Environments You Haven't Heard Of There are lots of Linux desktop environments out there -- including some great ones you probably haven't heard of. Here are five of our favorites. Read More to something available to multiple operating systems. For example, the KDE Plasma desktop KDE Explained: A Look at Linux's Most Configurable Desktop Interface What does Linux look like? Sometimes, Unity; other times, GNOME. Oftentimes, though, Linux runs KDE. If you're not using the erstwhile K Desktop Environment on your Linux PC, now is the time to change! Read More has multiple pieces of software which help make writing integrated, native applications easier. This includes their own IDE (integrated development environment) called KDevelop.

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This can have many benefits for end users as well. Developers are able to create applications 10 Exclusive Linux Apps You Won't Find on Windows Moving from Windows, you'll find there are plenty of apps you can use to supplant your old proprietary software. You'll even find a selection of impressive applications and tools exclusive to Linux. Read More faster, more easily, and as such can push changes and improvements that much quicker. When you stand on the shoulders of giants, it makes reaching that extra height a little less painful.


Some frameworks are cross platform in nature — programs written with them can work between different operating systems Which Operating System Should You Choose for Your Next PC? Buying a new PC? You have more operating system choices than ever. Which is the best operating system for your computer? Read More . This is useful for both developers and end users. On the one hand, such programs can reach more people, and on the other, higher reliability from a wider user base.

What Is Mono?

Mono is an example of a cross-platform framework available on Windows, macOS Make Linux Look Like macOS With These Easy Tweaks If you like Linux but want it to look more like macOS, you're in luck! Here's how to make your Linux desktop look like macOS. Read More , Linux, and more. It was first designed as an open source Your Complete Guide to Living a 100% Free and Open Source Life Windows and macOS are commercial, proprietary, closed source operating systems. Linux, and its many applications, are free and open source. Want to use only free and open source software? Here's how. Read More implementation of the .NET Framework on Linux. From there, it turned into something more, supporting multiple different operating systems.

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Mono (like .NET) is tied heavily around the C# programming language, known for its high level of portability. For example, the Unity game engine Programming A Game With Unity: A Beginner's Guide In the evolving landscape of indie game development, Unity has emerged as something of a de-facto standard: its low cost, ease of use, and broad feature set make it ideal for rapid game development. Read More uses C# as a cross-platform way of creating video games. This is in part due to the language’s design. C# can be turned into CIL (Common Intermediate Language), which can either be compiled How to Compile & Install TAR GZ & TAR BZ2 Files in Ubuntu Linux Read More to native code (faster, less portable), or run through a virtual machine Why the Java Virtual Machine Helps Your Code Run Better What to know why the java virtual machine gives java more advantages over native programming for an application? Read on to find out! Read More (slower, more portable). Mono provides the means to compile, and run C# programs, similar to the .NET Framework.


These days, it’s developed by the owners of the software it tried to emulate: Microsoft. With the open sourcing What Is Open Source Software? [MakeUseOf Explains] "Open source" is a term that’s thrown around a lot these days. You may know that certain things are open source, like Linux and Android, but do you know what it entails? What is open... Read More of the .NET framework, Mono is more similar to it than ever before, able to integrate its code into its own design. The project also includes a special IDE (integrated development environment) Text Editors vs. IDEs: Which One Is Better For Programmers? Choosing between an advanced IDE and a simpler text editor can be hard. We offer some insight to help you make that decision. Read More called MonoDevelop, a bit like the Linux equivalent of Visual Studio.

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Mono and Cross-Platform Applications

With all this in mind, it’s quite clear that Mono’s cross platform nature is quite useful for people moving to Linux from Windows Windows vs. Linux: Here's What They Have in Common Instead of nitpicking how Linux has this or Windows lacks that, perhaps we should celebrate that both operating systems are robust, effective, and feature complete. Let's see what exactly they have in common. Read More . It acts as another bridging point between the two operating systems, to cut away one of the larger problems of switching: exclusive software 10 Exclusive Linux Apps You Won't Find on Windows Moving from Windows, you'll find there are plenty of apps you can use to supplant your old proprietary software. You'll even find a selection of impressive applications and tools exclusive to Linux. Read More .

There are a number of programs which are written in Mono. These applications have a high chance of being cross platform 10+ Great Cross-Platform Apps for Both Windows & Linux Read More , available between multiple operating systems. Along with this, Mono actually supports many .NET binaries Binary vs. Source Packages: Which Should You Use? Linux users have two main ways to install software: use a pre-built package or compile from source. Here's what you need to know. Read More out of the box (that is, C# EXE files How to Make an "EXE" Installation File What do you do when you've created some new Windows software and you want to share it with the world? Ideally, you'd create an EXE install package. Here's how. Read More written in Visual Studio). As such, it’s possible that .NET programs not yet on Linux may well be in the future.


You might even be using one of these applications without knowing it!


KeePass KeePass Password Safe – The Ultimate Encrypted Password System [Windows, Portable] Securely store your passwords. Complete with encryption and a decent password generator – not to mention plugins for Chrome and Firefox – KeePass just might be the best password management system out there. If you... Read More is an excellent offline password manager. This means that unlike, say, LastPass How to Migrate From LastPass to an Alternative Password Manager LastPass is a popular password manager, but if you've decided to move to another solution, you'll need to export your data. Here's how to export your data into 1Password, Dashlane, or KeePass. Read More , your information isn’t tied to a server for convenience’s sake. But this might be a worthy price to pay, for a higher level of control in your hands.

It’s also written in Mono, letting it run across multiple different platforms. While its mainly targeted towards Windows, it also means both macOS and Linux are supported by it. Though it might not look very native, it works just fine. Plus, having your passwords accessible is benefit enough.

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The best way to describe Pinta would be a cross-platform version of Paint.NET (which in turn is a better version of Microsoft Paint 7 Free Microsoft Paint Alternatives Microsoft has retired MS Paint in favor of Paint 3D. Not impressed? We have found free Microsoft Paint alternatives for all your image viewing and editing needs. Read More ). It’s a fairly simple application, with a fair amount of power to edit and create images. Unlike KeePass, it looks a little better between different operating systems.

pinta linux mono

Sadly, it also demonstrates a few limitations of Mono. Paint.NET, the application which it was inspired by, was, after all, written using the .NET Framework Microsoft .NET Framework: Why You Need It and How to Install It on Windows You either need to install or update it. But do you know what the .NET Framework is? We show you why you need it and how you can get the latest version. Read More , and yet still remains Windows only. While most things can work between the two, if a program relies on Windows specific components of the framework, you’ll need to look for alternatives The 5 Best Photoshop Alternatives You Can Run on Linux Finding an Adobe Photoshop alternative for Linux isn't that difficult. Here are the best Photoshop alternatives for Linux. Read More .

Wine + Mono = Better Compatibility

Mono can also aid Windows switchers by way of extending Wine How to Run Windows Apps & Games with Linux Wine Is there any way to get Windows software working on Linux? One answer is to use Wine, but while it can be very useful, it probably should only be your last resort. Here's why. Read More , a compatibility layer to let users run Windows applications. Wine reverse engineers a lot of Windows functionality, and translates that behavior into their Linux equivalents. As such, it can run many programs not designed for Linux, as if they were.

The actual Mono installation file contains a number of software libraries, components that other programs can build off of. They’re designed to implement as much of the .NET Framework as they can (albeit cross-platform). Because of this, a lot of things written for Windows using said framework will work under Mono as well.

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Wine can take advantage of all the work that Mono has done through the years, using it to help run .NET applications, or even programs with said components inside them. Some games How to Install The Sims 4 Mods and the Best Mods to Try Here's how to install The Sims 4 mods as well as some of the best The Sims 4 mods to try. Read More , for example, rely on the framework to some degree.

Mono in an Open Source .NET World

As mentioned previously, much of the .NET framework is now open source, with more to come. Already, it’s possible to (somewhat) take advantage of it on platforms other than Windows. One then, might wonder how Mono might still be useful for people.

The answer to that is quite simple: a lot of the usable components of .NET are invisible to end users. It’s still quite difficult to build cross platform graphical applications using only Microsoft’s now open source framework. Mono on the other hand, is well established, having multiple ways to write native looking programs, with little hassle. And it will only continue to grow,

Of course, when the open source components of .NET become more established, it will have gained many of the benefits that Mono currently provides. And that can only be a good thing for Linux, as well as for users who might want to switch to it. More portable applications are always welcome, after all.

How do you deal with the application gap on Linux?

Image Credit: OndrejProsicky/Depositphotos

Related topics: Linux, Wine.

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