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An Uncertain Future for Visual Studio Express

by Jonathan Allen on May 03, 2012 |

Visual Studio Express was never meant to be a free product. When the first version was released in 2005, the Express edition was intended to be an entry level product that cost approximately 100 USD. In order to build up a customer base for the product, and to promote .NET in general, Microsoft said that anyone registering the product within the first year would get it for free.

That promotion started on November 7th, 2005. By April 19th there were over five million copies of VS Express downloaded and Microsoft felt that it would be best to keep the product free. At that time there were five versions available: Visual Basic, Visual C#, Visual J#, Visual C++, and Visual Web Developer.

Visual J# no longer exists, but the other flavors were refreshed for the 2008 and 2010 editions of Visual Studio along with new versions for Windows Phone, XNA Game Studio, and Robotics Developer Studio. (The latter two have since become add-ons requiring another version of Visual Studio Express.)

The product guide for Visual Studio 11 only lists the following editions:

  • Express for Windows 8
  • Express for Web
  • Professional
  • Premium
  • Ultimate
  • Test Professional

As of press time Microsoft was unwilling to confirm or deny that Express editions for C++, VB, C#, or Windows Phone would eventually be released for Visual Studio 11.

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MetroApps by Welly Tambunan

i think that would be available.. but for metroapps only. :)

Not really a huge loss... by Mike Hansford

SharpDevelop has been quietly improving over the years and is pretty solid now. I use it in preference to VS Express.

VS Express is important by Robert Oberg

I've been wondering if VS Express would stay free. In my view it is extremely important component for Microsoft -- it really opens up much of the .NET stack to give a viable development environment that can effectively compete with open source -- something that I think many people in the open source community are not aware of. People who are seeking to use computer technology to help people rather than be focused on money-making could benefit greatly from the .NET stack. It seems clear that Microsoft's strength is in the enterprise area (losing decisively to Apple in consumer products). For the enterprise the full-blown versions of VS are needed, and so Microsoft would lose little here by keeping VS Express free. I surely hope they do.

Additional info by James Boddie

The Express for Windows 8 product supports several languages: HTML5/JavaScript, C#, VB and C++. It is accompanied by an "express version" of Blend called Blend for Visual Studio. These products can only be used for developing Metro style applications. My speculation is that they will be free to encourage the population of the Microsoft App Store. (Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do here and they should be trying everything in their power to ramp up Windows 8/Metro development.) I think this will also lead them to *not offer* new versions of free express tools for developing desktop apps.

That said, I expect/hope that they will at least continue to offer Visual Studio Express 2010 tools for desktop development. Today, you can still download VS 2008 Express tools.

time for a change? by Mark N

Maybe it is time to think outside the Microsoft box. And maybe the push some people needed.

Re: time for a change? by Jonathan Allen

I wonder. Is the VS Express actually important to professional developers? Or does it serve more as a training tool to ensure the next generation has at least a basic background in Microsoft technologies?

Re: time for a change? by Mark N

Yes. Sadly, some OSS plugins only work in VS Express.

One could also wonder - are "non-free" IDEs important to professional developers?

Remaining free by Ryan Riley

One of the big sells for developing Win8 apps is that the tools are free. VS11 Express Beta and Blend for VS are both freely available. You can download these tools today. [1] A recent presentation from a Microsoft evangelist confirmed this.

[1] msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/apps/br229516

Re: Remaining free by Ryan Riley

The various editions, however, are no longer necessary as VS11 Express now includes all the languages that were previously available in the different Express versions.

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