Microsoft Visual Studio Express

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Microsoft Visual Studio Express
File:Microsoft Visual Studio Express logo.png
File:VWD2008 Screenshot.png
Visual Web Developer 2008 Express in HTML View running on Windows Vista.
Developer(s) Microsoft
Operating system Microsoft Windows
Type Integrated development environment
License Microsoft EULA

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. 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 final versions were released on November 19, 2007 and the service pack 1 version were released on August 11, 2008. In line with popular demand since the Visual Studio 2005 Express Editions,[2] these editions will always remain free-of-charge. Visual Studio 2008 Express Editions require Windows XP or a later Windows version; Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 and Windows 9x are no longer supported. Visual Studio 2005 Express Editions can be installed on Windows 2000 SP4. As of late April 2009, Microsoft has discontinued all previous versions of Visual Studio Express, including 2005. It is no longer possible to obtain these previous versions from the Microsoft website.



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

J# was not updated for this release and is currently not planned. The version shipping with Visual Studio 2005 will be supported until 2015 as per the product life-cycle strategy.

An F# edition is being developed for Visual Studio 2010.

Visual Basic Express

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:

The Express Editions (2005 and 2008) mostly have the same following limitations:[3] (Specific 2008 Express editions limitations here[4])

  • 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

Visual Web Developer Express

The 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 & 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.

VS2005 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. [5]

VS2008 Express Web Developer SP1 supports both class library and Web Application projects, which were not supported in VS2005 Express.[6] It also includes a new integrated HTML designer based on Microsoft Expression Web. However, the functionality to publish the website you develop is not present in this edition.

Visual C++ Express

Visual C++ 2008 Express can build both native and managed applications. Included is the Windows Platform SDK which can be used to build applications that use the Win32 API. Applications using either MFC or ATL require the Standard Edition or higher, and will not compile with the Express Edition.[7]

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.[8]

The Visual C++ 2008 Express Edition can be used to compile .NET as well as Win32 applications immediately after installation. However, natively compiling 64-bit applications through the IDE is not supported without some involved configurations. If the freely available 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 64bit compilers to the Visual C++ 2008 Express Edition is possible, but remains cumbersome. [10]

Visual C++ 2008 Express does not include OpenMP support, 64-bit compilers, or a resource editor. The higher-end commercial editions of Visual Studio, specifically the Professional and Team Suite editions, have these features.[11]

Visual C# Express

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:[12]

  • 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.[13]

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.

SQL Server Express

SQL Server Express is a freeware, light-weight, and redistributable edition of Microsoft SQL Server. It provides an integrated data storage solution for developers writing Windows applications and Web sites that have basic data storage needs. SQL Server Express replaces MSDE 2000 and significantly expands on its feature set.

The SQL Server Management Studio Express can also be downloaded to provide a graphical user interface for administering SQL Server Express.

The SQL Server Express Edition has the following limitations:[14]

  • Limited to one physical CPU
  • Lack of enterprise features support
  • 1 GB memory limit for the buffer pool
  • Databases have a 4 GB maximum size[15]
  • No Data mirroring and/or clustering
  • No profiler tool
  • No workload throttle
  • No UI to import/export data to table
  • 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".[16][17] 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".[18]

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. "Visual Basic 2005 Editions". Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 2007-07-19. 
  4. "Visual Basic 2008 Editions". Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  5. "Which features are missing from Visual Web Developer Express: Mikhail Arkhipov's blog". Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  6. Scott Guthrie. "Scott Guthrie's post on VS2008/.NET Framework 3.5 SP1 Beta (bottom of page)". Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  7. "Visual Studio Express FAQ". Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  8. "Source SDK wiki: Compiler Choices". Retrieved 2009-08-12. 
  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. "Technologies site about MSDN". MSDNER. Retrieved 2007-10-21. 
  13. "Aaron Stebner's WebLog". Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 2004-10-20. 
  14. Microsoft Corporation (2006-04-07). "Upgrading MSDE 2000 to SQL Server Express". Retrieved 2006-10-26. 
  15. "Comparing SQL Server Express with MSDE". Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 2006-10-29. 
  16. "Introducing the Visual Studio SDK". Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  17. "Visual Studio 2008 Shell - Details". Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  18. "Dan Fernandez's Blog : Visual Studio Express and TestDriven.NET". 2007-05-31. Retrieved 2009-06-28. 

External links

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