Visual Basic (classic)

Last updated
Visual Basic
Visual Basic 6.0 logo.png
Visual Basic 6.0 on Windows XP.png
Visual Basic 6.0 IDE running on Windows XP
Paradigm Object-based and event-driven
Developer Microsoft
First appearedMay 1991;31 years ago (1991-05)
Final release
6.0 / 1998;24 years ago (1998)
Typing discipline Static, strong
OS Microsoft Windows and MS-DOS
Major implementations
Microsoft Visual Studio
Influenced by
Visual Basic .NET, Visual Basic for Applications, Windows Forms, Gambas, Xojo, Basic4ppc, Basic4android and NS Basic

The original Visual Basic (also referred to as Classic Visual Basic) [1] is a third-generation event-driven programming language from Microsoft known for its Component Object Model (COM) programming model first released in 1991 and declared legacy during 2008. Microsoft intended Visual Basic to be relatively easy to learn and use. [2] [3] Visual Basic was derived from BASIC and enables the rapid application development (RAD) of graphical user interface (GUI) applications, access to databases using Data Access Objects, Remote Data Objects, or ActiveX Data Objects, and creation of ActiveX controls and objects.


A programmer can create an application using the components provided by the Visual Basic program itself. Over time the community of programmers developed third-party components. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] Programs written in Visual Basic can also make use of the Windows API, which requires external functions declarations.

The final release was version 6 in 1998. On April 8, 2008, Microsoft stopped supporting Visual Basic 6.0 IDE. The Microsoft Visual Basic team still maintains compatibility for Visual Basic 6.0 applications through its "It Just Works" program on supported Windows operating systems. [9]

In 2014, some software developers still preferred Visual Basic 6.0 over its successor, Visual Basic .NET. [4] Visual Basic 6.0 was selected as the most dreaded programming language by respondents of Stack Overflow's annual developer survey in 2016, 2017, and 2018. [10] [11] [12]

A dialect of Visual Basic, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), is used as a macro or scripting language within several Microsoft and ISV applications, including Microsoft Office. [13]

Language features

Like the BASIC programming language, Visual Basic was designed to have an easy learning curve. Programmers can create both simple and complex GUI applications. Programming in VB is a combination of visually arranging components or controls on a form, specifying attributes and actions for those components, and writing additional lines of code for more functionality. Since VB defines default attributes and actions for the components, a programmer can develop a simple program without writing much code. Programs built with earlier versions suffered performance problems, but faster computers and native code compilation has made this less of an issue.[ citation needed ] Though VB programs can be compiled into native code executables from version 5 on, they still require the presence of around 1 MB of runtime libraries. Core runtime libraries are included by default in Windows 2000 and later, but extended runtime components still have to be installed. Earlier versions of Windows (95/98/NT), require that the runtime libraries be distributed with the executable.

An empty form in Visual Basic 6 Form vide VB.JPG
An empty form in Visual Basic 6

Forms are created using drag-and-drop techniques. A tool is used to place controls (e.g., text boxes, buttons, etc.) on the form (window). Controls have attributes and event handlers associated with them. Default values are provided when the control is created, but may be changed by the programmer. Many attribute values can be modified during run time based on user actions or changes in the environment, providing a dynamic application. For example, code can be inserted into the form resize event handler to reposition a control so that it remains centered on the form, expands to fill up the form, etc. By inserting code into the event handler for a keypress in a text box, the program can automatically translate the case of the text being entered, or even prevent certain characters from being inserted.

Visual Basic can create executables (EXE files), ActiveX controls, or DLL files, but is primarily used to develop Windows applications and to interface with database systems. Dialog boxes with less functionality can be used to provide pop-up capabilities. Controls provide the basic functionality of the application, while programmers can insert additional logic within the appropriate event handlers. For example, a drop-down combination box automatically displays a list. When the user selects an element, an event handler is called that executes code that the programmer created to perform the action for that list item. Alternatively, a Visual Basic component can have no user interface, and instead provide ActiveX objects to other programs via Component Object Model (COM). This allows for server-side processing or an add-in module.

The runtime recovers unused memory using reference counting, which depends on variables passing out of scope or being set to Nothing, avoiding the problem of memory leaks that are possible in other languages. There is a large library of utility objects, and the language provides basic support for object-oriented programming. Unlike many other programming languages, Visual Basic is generally not case-sensitive—though it transforms keywords into a standard case configuration and forces the case of variable names to conform to the case of the entry in the symbol table. String comparisons are case sensitive by default. The Visual Basic compiler is shared with other Visual Studio languages (C, C++). Nevertheless, by default the restrictions in the IDE do not allow creation of some targets (Windows model DLLs) and threading models, but over the years, developers have bypassed these restrictions.


The code windows in Visual Basic, showing a function using the If, Then, Else and Dim statements Visual Basic function.PNG
The code windows in Visual Basic, showing a function using the If, Then, Else and Dim statements

Visual Basic builds upon the characteristics of BASIC.

OPTION BASE was introduced by ANSI, with the standard for ANSI Minimal BASIC in the late 1970s.


Alan Cooper created the drag-and-drop design for the user interface of Visual Basic. AlanCooper.jpg
Alan Cooper created the drag-and-drop design for the user interface of Visual Basic.

Visual Basic 1.0 was introduced in 1991. The drag and drop design for creating the user interface is derived from a prototype form generator developed by Alan Cooper and his company called Tripod. [21] [22] [23] Microsoft contracted with Cooper and his associates to develop Tripod into a programmable form system for Windows 3.0, under the code name Ruby (no relation to the later Ruby programming language). Tripod did not include a programming language at all. Microsoft decided to combine Ruby with the Basic language to create Visual Basic. The Ruby interface generator provided the "visual" part of Visual Basic, and this was combined with the "EB" Embedded BASIC engine designed for Microsoft's abandoned "Omega" database system. Ruby also provided the ability to load dynamic link libraries containing additional controls (then called "gizmos"), which later became the VBX interface. [24]


Visual Basic for MS-DOS Microsoft Visual Basic for MS-DOS (Professional Edition Version1.00).png
Visual Basic for MS-DOS
VB DOS icon VBDOS-icon.PNG
VB DOS icon


  • Project 'basic Thunder' was initiated in 1990. [25] Thunder persisted through to the last release of Visual Basic in the name of the primary internal function, "ThunderRTMain".
  • Visual Basic 1.0 (May 1991) was released for Windows at the Comdex/Windows World trade show in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Visual Basic 1.0 for DOS was released in September 1992. The language itself was not quite compatible with Visual Basic for Windows, as it was the next version of Microsoft's DOS-based BASIC compilers, QuickBASIC and BASIC Professional Development System. The interface used a text-based user interface, using extended ASCII characters to simulate the appearance of a GUI.
  • Visual Basic 2.0 was released in November 1992. The programming environment was easier to use, and its speed was improved. Notably, forms became instantiable objects, thus laying the foundational concepts of class modules as were later offered in VB4.
  • Visual Basic 3.0 was released in the summer of 1993 and came in Standard and Professional versions. VB3 included version 1.1 of the Jet Database Engine that could read and write Jet (or Access) 1.x databases.
  • Visual Basic 4.0 (August 1995) was the first version that could create 32-bit as well as 16-bit Windows programs. It has three editions; Standard, Professional, and Enterprise. It also introduced the ability to write non-GUI classes in Visual Basic. With VB4 the language was separated from the GUI library, and made available as VBA, in which form it was embedded with the Office 95 suite. To ease migration of Office macros and scripts, features from WordBasic, Excel Basic and Access Basic were incorporated into the language. Incompatibilities between different releases of VB4 caused installation and operation problems. While previous versions of Visual Basic had used VBX controls, Visual Basic now used OLE controls (with files names ending in .OCX) instead. These were later to be named ActiveX controls.
  • With version 5.0 (February 1997), Microsoft released Visual Basic exclusively for 32-bit versions of Windows. Programmers who preferred to write 16-bit programs were able to import programs written in Visual Basic 4.0 to Visual Basic 5.0, and Visual Basic 5.0 programs can easily be converted to Visual Basic 4.0. Visual Basic 5.0 also introduced the ability to create custom user controls, as well as the ability to compile to native Windows executable code, speeding up calculation-intensive code execution. A free, downloadable Control Creation Edition was also released for creation of ActiveX controls. It was also used as an introductory form of Visual Basic: a regular .exe project could be created and run in the IDE, but not compiled.
  • Visual Basic 6.0 (Mid-1998) improved in a number of areas [26] including the ability to create web-based applications.


  • Mainstream Support for Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0 ended on March 31, 2005, and Extended support ended in March 2008. [27] However, primary components of the Visual Basic 6 development environment run in all 32-bit versions of Windows up to and including Windows 11. [28]

Derivative languages

Microsoft has developed derivatives of Visual Basic for use in scripting. Visual Basic itself is derived heavily from BASIC, and subsequently has been replaced with a .NET platform version.

Some of the derived languages are:

Performance and other issues

Earlier versions of Visual Basic (prior to version 5) compiled the code to P-Code only. The P-Code is interpreted by the language runtime. The benefits of P-Code include portability and smaller binary file sizes, but it usually slows down the execution, since having a runtime adds an additional layer of interpretation. Visual Basic applications require Microsoft Visual Basic runtime MSVBVMxx.DLL, where xx is the relevant version number, either 50 or 60. MSVBVM60.dll comes as standard with Windows in all editions from Windows 98 to Windows 10 (some editions of Windows 7 do not include it). A Windows 95 machine would however require inclusion with the installer of whichever DLL was needed by the program. Visual Basic 5 and 6 can compile code to either native or P-Code but in either case the runtime is still required for built in functions and forms management.

Criticisms levelled at Visual Basic editions prior to VB.NET include: [31]

Legacy development and support

All versions of the Visual Basic development environment from 1.0 to 6.0 were retired by Microsoft by 2008, and are therefore no longer supported. The associated runtime environments are also unsupported, except for the Visual Basic 6 core runtime environment, which Microsoft officially supports for the lifetime of Windows 8, [34] Windows 10 [35] and Windows 11. [36] Third party components that shipped with Visual Studio 6.0 are not included in this support statement. Some legacy Visual Basic components may still work on newer platforms, despite being unsupported by Microsoft and other vendors. Documentation for Visual Basic 6.0, its application programming interface and tools is best covered in the last MSDN release before Visual Studio.NET 2002. Later releases of MSDN focused on .NET development and had significant parts of the Visual Basic 6.0 programming documentation removed as the language evolved, and support for older code ended. Although vendor support for Visual Basic 6 has ended, and the product has never been supported on the latest versions of Windows, key parts of the environment still work on newer platforms. It is possible to get a subset of the development environment working on 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 and Windows 11. [37]

Example code

The following code snippet displays a message box saying "Hello, World!" as the window loads:

PrivateSubForm_Load()' Execute a simple message box that says "Hello, World!"MsgBox"Hello, World!"EndSub

This snippet makes a counter that moves up 1 every second (a label and a timer control need to be added to the form for this to work) until the form is closed or an integer overflow occurs:

OptionExplicitDimCountAsIntegerPrivateSubForm_Load()Count=0Timer1.Interval=1000' units of millisecondsEndSubPrivateSubTimer1_Timer()Count=Count+1Label1.Caption=CountEndSub

See also

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