Visual Studio Express final & free

All final editions of Microsoft Visual Studio Express are now available as a free download, for the next year.

These are specialized subsets of the Visual Studio IDE that come with one compiler each and the required tools. Editions include Web Developer, SQL Server, Visual Basic, C#, C++, and J# (yeah right).

The VB/C#/J# compilers are already available for free with the .NET Framework SDK but the Express editions should provide a very good IDE for these languages (I have VS 2005 Professional and like it a lot).

The C++ version is interesting. If I read the website correctly, it not only provides the new C++/CLI standard for writing .NET code in C++ but also the full optimizing compiler for native Win32 code, including the full range of libraries such as the STL. The current version is also almost 100% standards-compliant, like the 7.1 version and unlike older versions that gave VC++ a bad name.

Microsoft was already offering a free version of the 7.1 compiler but that was command-line only and needed some tinkering to set up properly. Unless VC++ Express is limited in some way that I didn’t see on the website, it should be the best choice for a free Windows C++ compiler.

I used the beta, and it’s pretty good. Of course, they issue warnings whenever you try to use str* functions, telling you that they’re obsolete and recommending the new Microsoft versions instead!

I understand why, but man, it’s going to confuse new programmers just trying to use it for classwork.

In my ongoing quest to learn C# I’ve been fooling around with SharpDevelop as a free IDE that layers nicely on top of the free .NET sdk. I’ve been pretty pleased with it. Anyone know how Visual Studio Express compares to SharpDevelop?

I’ve only tried SharpDevelop briefly since I get Visual Studio anyway via MSDN, but from what I’ve seen it’s no contender. VC# Express should be way better. Besides, it’s a free download so you could just try for yourself…

After using Dev Cpp to get myself into C++ programming years ago but letting it slide, I think having Visual C++ Express 2005 installed (it already is) may just get me back into it. Definitely something a hobbyist or someone learning should get.