Microsoft Visual Studio Express

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Microsoft Visual Studio Express
Visual Studio 2012 logo and wordmark.svg
Visual Studio Express 2012 for Desktop.png
Screenshot of Visual Studio Express 2012 for Desktop running on Windows 7 , developing a Windows app called Wikipedia Recon Drone
Developer(s) Microsoft
Final release 2015 for (Web, Desktop, Windows and Team Foundation Server) (July 20, 2015;5 years ago (2015-07-20)) [±] [1] [2]
Operating system Windows
Type Integrated development environment
License Freeware, Registerware

Microsoft Visual Studio Express is a set of integrated development environments (IDEs) developed by Microsoft as a freeware and registerware [3] function-limited version of the non-free Microsoft Visual Studio. Express editions started with Visual Studio 2005.


Visual Studio Express was supplanted by the Visual Studio Community edition, which is also available for free, [4] but with a different license. Compared to Visual Studio Express, the new license is more friendly to open-source but less for some closed source developers. The community edition works with plugins, a feature that was previously exclusive to the paid editions (Professional and higher). Visual Studio subscription holders (including Dev Essentials) can download Express 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015 editions, and the 2017 Desktop Express version can be downloaded without registering. However, Microsoft's recommended alternative is the current version of Visual Studio Community 2019.


Visual Studio 2005 Express, the first version of Visual Studio Express, was released on October 2005, with support until 2015. It runs on Windows 2000 SP4 and later. Service Pack 1 for 2005 Express was released on December 2006. Registration was not required; free-of-charge registration for use after a 30-day trial period has been required since the release of Visual Studio Express 2008. [5] 2008-2012 products can be registered offline using registration keys. Since 2013 product, registration is done via online.

Visual Studio 2008 Express was released in November 2007, with its Service Pack 1 released on August 11, 2008. Visual Studio 2008 and 2010 Express require Windows XP SP3 or later. Although Windows 2000 is no longer supported, Visual Studio 2008 Express can develop applications to run on Windows 2000. Windows Phone support is available with Windows Vista and later.

Visual Studio 2010 Express was released in April 2010, alongside Visual Studio 2010.

2005–2010 products

Visual Studio 2005, 2008, and 2010 Express are geared toward single project types. For example, developers must launch Visual Web Developer Express to build web applications, while class libraries must be developed separately in Visual C# Express. The commercial editions of Visual Studio, however, support multiple project types without separate launch.

Visual Studio 2005, 2008, and 2010 Express consist of the following separate products:

Visual Basic Express

Visual Basic Express has the following limitations: [6] [7]

Visual Basic 2008 Express includes the following improvements over 2005:

Visual Basic 2005 and Visual Basic 2008 Express feature a Visual Basic 6.0 converter that makes it possible to upgrade Visual Basic 6.0 projects to Visual Basic.NET. The converter is not included with 2010 Express.

Visual Web Developer Express

Visual Web Developer Express is a freeware web development tool [8] that allows developers to evaluate the web development and editing capabilities of the other Visual Studio editions at no charge. Its main function is to create ASP.NET websites. It has a WYSIWYG interface, drag-and-drop user interface designer, enhanced HTML and code editors, a limited database explorer, support for CSS, JavaScript and XML, and integrated, design-time validation for standards including XHTML 1.0/1.1 and CSS 2.1.

Visual Web Developer 2005 Express lacks certain features, such as the Accessibility Checker, the ability to create standalone class library projects, third-party add-ins and macros. [9] Visual Web Developer 2008 Express SP1 supports both class library and web application projects. [10] It also includes a new integrated HTML designer based on Microsoft Expression Web. However, this edition cannot publish self-developed websites.[ clarification needed ]

Visual C++ Express

Visual C++ Express compiles .NET and Win32 applications in 32-bit only. [11] [12] It includes Windows SDK's compilers and core files, which developers can use to build Win32 applications.

Limitations of Visual C++ Express:

Limitations in earlier versions:

While Microsoft lists memory windows as unavailable in Visual Studio 2010 Express, [15] third parties have reported that they are available when Expert Settings are enabled. [16] [17]

Many open source projects have started providing project files created with Visual C++ Express; noteworthy examples include the Ogre and Irrlicht engines. Modding kits for commercial engines, such as Valve's Source engine, also support this development system. [18]

Visual C# Express

Visual C# Express is a free, lightweight, integrated development environment (IDE) designed for novice developers, students and hobbyists to create applications and (when combined with the XNA Game Studio) video games for Windows, Xbox 360 and Zune. It can build console, Windows Forms and Windows Presentation Foundation applications, and class libraries.

Microsoft has found that a substantial community of game players are taking up C# programming. [19] [20] [21]


Visual C# Express does not have a breakpoint control panel; breakpoints can only be toggled.

The following refactoring modes were also unavailable: [22]

  • Encapsulate field
  • Promote local to parameter
  • Reorder parameters
  • Remove parameters
  • Extract interface

The limitations effectively reduce the refactoring capabilities of Visual C# Express to renaming and extracting methods. According to Microsoft, the reason the listed features are absent is "to simplify the C# Express user experience". Some users remarked that the omission of refactoring capabilities removed useful functionality without actually simplifying use. [23]

The ability to attach the debugger to an already-running process is also unavailable, hindering scenarios such as writing Windows services and re-attaching a debugger under ASP.NET when errors under the original debugging session cause breakpoints to be ignored.

2012–2013 products

For the 2012 release of Visual Express, Microsoft changed its distribution of editions so that each version is geared toward an overall solution type, and can contain more than one project type. (This is unlike previous Express editions, each of which was geared around a single programming language.) For example, a web solution might consist of a web application project and a couple of C# class-library projects. This change was made to reflect the wide diversity of applications available for the web and the new WinRT platform used on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.

Microsoft has released five Visual Studio Express 2012 products:

EditionDescriptionDesktop OSServer OS
Visual Studio Express 2012 for Web [24] [25] Allows development of web applications. Includes integrated features for deploying to Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud computing platform.
Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows 8 [26] [27] Allows development of Metro-style applications for Windows Store in C#, VB.NET, C++ and JavaScript. Note: This edition runs only on Windows 8. Windows 8 N/A
Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop [28] [29] Allows development of conventional Windows desktop applications in C#, VB.NET and C++, targeting Windows client technologies such as Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), Windows Forms, and the Win32 API. Unlike previous Express editions, it has built-in support for compiling 64-bit applications through IDE. Update 1 adds support for Windows XP in C++ applications.
Visual Studio Team Foundation Server Express 2012 [30] Provides source control, work-item tracking, application lifecycle management and build automation for teams of up to five developers.
Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Phone [31] Consists of the Windows Phone 8 SDK that enables developing applications for Windows Phone 7.5 and Windows Phone 8 and testing them on an emulator. Supports C++, .NET Framework and DirectX. As part of its .NET Framework support, it can integrate with Microsoft Expression Blend. Windows 8 (x64 only)N/A

In October 2013, Microsoft released four new versions of its Visual Studio Express products. Like the 2012 Express edition, they are geared toward an overall solution type which may mix different types of projects. However, different IDEs are still offered for different destination platforms. They are: [32] [33]

Note that Visual Studio Express for Windows Phone was not released in the set of 2013 products, but Visual Studio Express for Windows Phone is now merged with Visual Studio Express for Windows 2013.2. [35] With this new release, Windows 8.1 x86 is now supported for Windows Phone 8.1 development, but not for Windows Phone 8.0 development or the Windows Phone Emulator, the latter of which also requires a processor that supports Client Hyper-V and Second Level Address Translation (SLAT).

2015–2017 products

The Visual Studio Express 2015 editions are:

On their Overview of Visual Studio 2015 Products page, Microsoft says:

Small teams and individual developers should consider Visual Studio Community 2015 which is more comprehensive than Express. [37]

The Visual Studio Express 2017 editions are:

* Visual Studio Express 2017 is available for Windows Desktop developers. This will be the final version of Visual Studio Express, and there will not be a UWP or Web offering of Visual Studio Express 2017. We encourage all users to look at the free development options offered by Microsoft such as Visual Studio Code and Visual Studio Community for future development needs. [38]


Visual Studio is extensible by nature, ultimately consisting of a core "shell" that implements all commands, windows, editors, project types, languages, and other features through dynamically loadable modules called "packages". [39] [40] Microsoft encourages and fosters third-party partners to create modules for Visual Studio via the free VSIP program.

See also

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Further reading