Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Visual Studio Community: A Free Development Tool from Microsoft


For nearly a decade Microsoft has provided free versions of its development tool, Visual Studio. This article presents an overview of these no-cost tools and provides instructions on where to acquire the latest versions of these tools.  The installation and setup of  Microsoft's latest free development tool, Visual Studio Comunity 2013, will be reviewed.

Visual Studio supports developing applications in C#, C++ and VB.NET, The platforms supported include web, desktop, store/app, phone, database and cloud-based development. The first iterationsof Microsoft free development tools were called Visual Studio Express editions (2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012). The current edition of Microsoft's free development tools are called Visual Studio Community 2013. Visual Studio Community 2013 added support for extensions/plugins.

Visual Studio Express

In 2005 Microsoft released several versions of Visual Studio Express 2005. This product was provided at no cost to developers in response to the plethora of free development tools from the open source community. The versions of Visual Studio Express released are  target specific languages and included Visual Studio Express 2005, Visual Studio Express 2008 and Visual Studio Express 2010. The flavors of Visual Studio Express released are:
  • Visual Basic Express
  • Visual C++ Express
  • Visual C# Express
  • Visual J# Express (only Visual Studio Express 2005): support for this language ends in 2015.
  • Visual Web Developer Express
  • Visual Studio Express for Windows Phone (only Visual Studio Express 2010)

As of 2012, Microsoft moved from per-language versions of Visual Studio Express to per-platform versions of Visual Studio Express. The versions of Visual Studio Express released after 2012 include:
  • Visual Studio Express 2012 for Web
  • Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows 8
  • Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop
  • Visual Studio Team Foundation Server Express 2012
  • Visual Studio Express 2013 for Web
  • Visual Studio Express 2013 for Windows: original download supported Windows 8.1 only. Update 2013.2 added support for Windows Phone 8.1.
  • Visual Studio Express 2013 for Windows Desktop
  • Visual Studio Team Foundation Server Express 2013

Visual Studio Community

On November 12, 2014 Microsoft released Visual Studio Community 2013 edition (Visual Studio Community 2013): 


In order to install Visual Studio Community edition the requisite operating system must be Windows 8.1, Windows 8 or Windows 7 SP1.

The hardware requirements are as follows:
  • 1.6 GHz or faster processor
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 20 GB of free hard disk space
  • 5400 RPM hard-drive
  • DirectX 9-Capable Video card with 1024x768 of minimum resolution


This development tool can be downloaded from Visual Studio Community 2013 download:

Clicking on the Download button displays the following:

When the application runs it will give a warning if a version of Internet Explorer is installed that is earlier than Internet Explorer 10. When the installer for Visual Studio Community is run the following screen is displayed:

A user must agree to the licensing terms to install. The vast majority of developers do not modify the installation folder. Clicking on Next displays the following:

The previous screen is displayed during the installation of Visual Studio Community.

Once the application has been installed the screen displayed is as follows:

The previous screen is displayed once Visual Studio Community is installed. Clicking on LAUNCH, launches Visual Studio Community.

Creating a Microsoft Account

Before launching Visual Studio Community for the first team, every developer should have a Microsoft account. A Microsoft account is simply an email address from Microsoft (outlook.com, hotmail.com, live.com, etc.). Additionally it is possible to take a work/Gmail/Yahoo email address and convert it into a Microsoft account (meaning Microsoft will associated a password with the provided email). To take a non-Microsoft email can create a Microsoft account with it, visit https://login.live.com:

At the lower right there is a link that can be clicked in to sign up for an account Sign up now

Launching Visual Studio for the First Time

When Visual Studio Community is Launched for the first time, the following screen is displayed:

Visual Studio will save a developers settings "to the cloud". This means that when a user logs in the setting are the same for each version of Visual Studio. For example, a user can select within Visual Studio settings to use spaces instead of tabs and selects 2 spaces for each tab key pressed, When a user is logged into Visual Studio, these settings are the save regardless of the machine on which a user is on when they bring up Visual Studio. 

In licensed editions of Visual Studio (not Visual Studio Community), the sign in handles licensing.

On the previous screen it is possible to click on "Sign in" or "Not now, maybe later." Once a user is signed in or if they choose not to, the following is displayed:

Clicking on the "Development Settings" on the previous screen reveals the following:

Obviously, a C# developer should select "Visual C#" and then click on "Start Visual Studio" to launch Visual Studio Community edition.

Using Visual Studio

Microsoft Virtual Academy (see the following link: Microsoft Virtual Academy) provides numerous free, online classes that  that teach development skills. Of note is the class found at C# Fundamentals for Absolute Beginners. The second lecture, "02 | Installing Visual Studio Express 2013 for Windows Desktop" is analogous to this article in that it presents the steps how to install Visual Studio Express. Obviously Visual Studio Express is the free version of that was released before Visual Studio Community Edition. 

The creation and organization of a project in Visual Studio Express is nearly identical to that of Visual Studio Community. The second, third and fourth lectures of C# Fundamentals for Absolute Beginners cover present a comprehensive overview of development a first project that can be applied to Visual Studio Community "03 | Creating Your First C# Program," "04 | Dissecting the First C# Program You Created" and "05 | Quick Overview of the Visual C# Express Edition IDE."

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