Microsoft Visual Studio Express

Microsoft Visual Studio Express
Microsoft Visual Studio Express
Logo VSE2010.png
Developer(s) Microsoft
Stable release 2010  (April 12, 2010; 19 months ago (2010-04-12)) [+/−]
Preview release none  (n/a) [+/−]
Operating system Microsoft Windows
Type Integrated development environment
License Registerware

Microsoft Visual Studio Express is a set of freeware[1] integrated development environments (IDE) developed by Microsoft that are lightweight versions of the Microsoft Visual Studio product line. Express Editions were conceived beginning with Visual Studio 2005. The idea of Express editions, according to Microsoft, is to provide streamlined, easy-to-use and easy-to-learn IDEs for users other than professional software developers, such as hobbyists and students.



The first versions of Visual Studio 2005 Express were released on October 2005 and the Service Pack 1 versions were released on December 2006. Visual Studio 2005 Express Editions ran on Windows 2000 SP4 and above Windows NT-based platforms. In response to popular demand since their original release,[2] Microsoft has stated that these editions will always remain free-of-charge. Visual Studio 2008 Express editions were released in November 2007 and their SP1 on August 11, 2008. Visual Studio 2008 and 2010 Express Editions require Windows XP SP3 or a later Windows version; Windows 2000 is no longer supported for development but can be a target platform if using 2008 Express. Windows Phone support is only available on Windows 7 and Vista. Microsoft may make previous versions of Visual Studio Express unavailable. Visual Studio 2005 Express editions are available for download from Microsoft's website.[3]

Visual Studio 2010 Express Editions were released in April 2010 alongside Visual Studio 2010. Free registration is mandatory in order to continue using Visual Studio 2010 Express Editions beyond 30 days.[4] Earlier with Visual Studio 2005 and 2008 Express Editions, registration was not required for the ISO version but was required for the web download version.


Visual Studio Express consists of the following separate products:

  • Visual Basic Express
  • Visual Web Developer Express
  • Visual C++ Express
  • Visual C# Express
  • SQL Server Express
  • Express for Windows Phone

There was a Visual J# Express Edition released for 2005 but it was discontinued for future releases. The version shipping with Visual Studio 2005 will be supported until 2015 as per the product life-cycle strategy.

Visual Basic Express

Visual Basic 2005/2008 (but not Visual Basic 2010) Express Edition contains the Visual Basic 6.0 converter that makes it possible to upgrade Visual Basic 6.0 projects to the Visual Basic.NET. The Express Editions (2005 and 2008) mostly have the same following limitations:[5] (Specific 2008 Express editions limitations here[6])

  • No IDE support for databases other than SQL Server Express and Microsoft Access
  • No support for Web Applications with ASP.NET (this can instead be done with Visual Web Developer Express, though the non-Express version of Visual Studio allows both web and windows applications from the same IDE)
  • No support for developing for mobile devices (no templates or emulator)
  • No Crystal Reports
  • Fewer project templates (e.g. Windows services template, Excel Workbook template)
  • Limited options for debugging and breakpoints
  • No support for creating Windows Services (Can be gained through download of a project template)
  • No support for OpenMP
  • Limited deployment options for finished programs
  • VB Express lacks some advanced features of the standard versions. For example, there is no Outlining feature Hide selection to collapse/expand selected text.

Despite the fact that it is a stripped-down version of Visual Studio, some improvements were made upon Visual Basic 2008 from Visual Basic 2005. Visual Basic 2008 Express includes the following improvements over Visual Basic 2005 Express:

Visual Web Developer Express

Visual Web Developer Express is a freeware web development tool that allows developers to evaluate the web development and editing capabilities of the other Visual Studio 2008 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 other web technologies (e.g., CSS, JavaScript, XML), and integrated, design-time validation for standards including XHTML 1.0/1.1 and CSS 2.1.

Visual Studio 2005 lacks certain features, such as the Accessibility Checker, the ability to create standalone Class Library Projects (which can be done by the other language-specific Express Editions), the extensibility support necessary to load third-party add-ins, macros and some other features.[7]

Visual Studio 2008 Express Web Developer SP1 supports both class library and Web Application projects, which were not supported in Visual Studio 2005 Express.[8] It also includes a new integrated HTML designer based on Microsoft Expression Web. However, the functionality to publish self-developed websites is not present in this edition.

Visual C++ Express

The Visual C++ Express Edition can be used to compile .NET as well as Win32 applications. The Windows Platform SDK compilers and core files are included which can be used to build applications that use the Win32 API. To build applications using either MFC or ATL, the libraries have to be obtained from alternative sources such as the free-to-download Windows Driver Kit.

However, natively compiling 64-bit applications through the IDE is not supported without some involved configurations. If the freely available full version of the Windows SDK is installed, 64-bit applications can be built on the command line using the x64 cross-compiler (Cl.exe) supplied with the SDK.[9] True integration of 64-bit compilers to the Visual C++ 2008 Express Edition is possible, but remains cumbersome.[10] In Visual C++ Express 2010 however, it is as simple as changing the Platform Toolset to the Windows SDK instead of the built-in v100.

Visual C++ 2008 and 2010 Express does not include a resource editor. The higher-end commercial editions of Visual Studio, specifically the Professional and Team Suite editions, have these features.[11]

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, are also supporting this development system.[12]

The limitations of Visual C++ Express are:

  • No resource editor.
  • No built-in MFC support.
  • No built-in ATL support.
  • No profiling support.
  • No built-in x64 compiler (you can download one from the windows SDK).
  • No support for OpenMP.
  • No support for add-ins or IDE macros.
  • Ability to attach the debugger to an already-running process is possible by enabling Tools -> Settings -> Expert settings (starting with 2010).

While Microsoft lists memory windows as unavailable in Express editions of Visual Studio 2010[13], third parties have reported that they are available when Expert Settings are enabled[14][15].

Visual C# Express

Visual C# Express is an easy-to-use, free, lightweight, integrated development environment (IDE) designed for beginning developers, students, and hobbyists interested in building console-based applications, class libraries, Windows Forms and Windows Presentation Foundation applications. It can be used to create applications and games (when combined with the XNA Game Studio) for Windows, Xbox 360 and Zune.

There is a substantial community for C# Express due to the many game enthusiasts that are taking up programming.[16][17][18]

Limitations: The list of breakpoints where the user could control the breakpoint features has been removed, so that now the user can only toggle breakpoints.

The following refactoring modes were also removed:[19]

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

This effectively reduces the refactoring capabilities of Visual C# Express to Renaming and Extracting Methods.

Developers state the reason of this removal as "to simplify the C# Express user experience". However this created a controversy as some end users claim it is an important feature, and instead of simplifying it cripples the user experience.[20]

The ability to attach the debugger to an already-running process has also been removed, 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.

Additionally it has been observed that the express version requires that the time between builds be greater than approximately 20 seconds. If a project is rapidly modified and rebuilt the target will not be updated even though the source has been modified and saved.[citation needed]

SQL Server Express

SQL Server Express is a freeware, light-weight, and redistributable edition of Microsoft SQL Server. It provides a no-cost database for developers writing basic Windows applications and web sites. SQL Server Express replaces MSDE 2000 and significantly expands on its feature set.

SQL Server Management Studio Express, which provides a graphical user interface for administering SQL Server Express, can also be downloaded.

The SQL Server Express Edition has the following limitations:[21]

  • Limited to one physical CPU.
  • Lack of enterprise features support.
  • 1 GB memory limit for the buffer pool.
  • Databases have a 4 GB size limit.[22] (10 GB beginning with SQL Server Express 2008 R2)
  • No data mirroring and/or clustering.
  • No profiler.
  • No workload throttling.
  • No GUI to import or export data from/to spreadsheets.
  • No Server Agent background process.


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".[23][24] Microsoft encourages and fosters third-party partners to create modules for Visual Studio via the free VSIP program. However, according to Dan Fernandez, Microsoft "made a business decision to not allow 3rd party extensibility in Express".[25]

See also


  1. ^ "Registration Issues". Microsoft. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  2. ^ "Microsoft Brings Programming to the Masses With Visual Studio Express". Microsoft. April 19, 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-13. 
  3. ^ "Free Developer Tools - Visual Studio 2010 Express | Microsoft Visual Studio". Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  4. ^ Visual Studio Express Support website
  5. ^ "Visual Basic 2005 Editions". Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 2007-07-19. 
  6. ^ "Visual Basic 2008 Editions". Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  7. ^ "Which features are missing from Visual Web Developer Express: Mikhail Arkhipov's blog". Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  8. ^ Scott Guthrie. "Scott Guthrie's post on VS2008/.NET Framework 3.5 SP1 Beta (bottom of page)". Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  9. ^ "How to: Configure Visual C++ Projects to Target 64-Bit Platforms". Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  10. ^ "Visual C++ 2008 Express Edition and 64-bit Targets". Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  11. ^ "Visual C++ Editions". Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  12. ^ "Source SDK wiki: Compiler Choices". Retrieved 2009-08-12. 
  13. ^ "Memory Windows". Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  14. ^ "Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Debugger". Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  15. ^ "Visual Studio Hints". Williams, Kenneth A.. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  16. ^ "Visual C# at C# Online.NET (CSharp-Online.NET)". wiki. Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  17. ^ "C# C Sharp and Tutorials on C#". Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  18. ^ "XNA Developer Center". Microsoft. Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  19. ^ "Technologies site about MSDN". MSDNER. Retrieved 2007-10-21. 
  20. ^ "Aaron Stebner's WebLog". Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 2004-10-20. 
  21. ^ Microsoft Corporation (2006-04-07). "Upgrading MSDE 2000 to SQL Server Express". Retrieved 2006-10-26. 
  22. ^ "Comparing SQL Server Express with MSDE". Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 2006-10-29. 
  23. ^ "Introducing the Visual Studio SDK". Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  24. ^ "Visual Studio 2008 Shell - Details". Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  25. ^ "Dan Fernandez's Blog : Visual Studio Express and TestDriven.NET". 2007-05-31. Retrieved 2009-06-28. 

External links

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