First things first: it’s pronounced dot net.
Before we dive into what the .NET Framework is, it may be more helpful to explore why the .NET Framework exists. For this, you’ll need a bit of programming context — but if you’ve never coded a single thing in your life, don’t worry! This explanation will assume you have absolutely zero programming experience.
You probably already know that programmers (i.e. people who create software) need to “write code” in order to make Windows apps. They do this using different “programming languages”, which let you write code that tells the computer what to do.
The problem is that programming languages are primitive on their own. They can handle simple computations like addition and multiplication, but can’t do much more than that. Want to put text or images on the screen? Then you’ll need to write a bunch of code using the most basic components of the language to do that — and this can take up a lot of time.
That’s where the .NET Framework steps in. At its core, the .NET Framework provides an entire collection of already-written code (written and maintained by Microsoft) that programmers can use to quickly create software. For example, the .NET Framework handles a lot of boring behind-the-scenes operations like telling Windows how to draw a window on the screen — as a programmer, I’d just need to supply what text to include, how the menus are laid out, what buttons should do when clicked, etc.
But the .NET Framework is much more than that. It provides additional tools that can speed up overall development time, as well as additional APIs (what the heck is an API?) that programmmers can use to easily interact with certain services, such as the Windows Store. Instead of hand-writing all of the code that an app needs in order to be considered a UWP (universal Windows platform) app, for example, the .NET Framework provides all of that.