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Not a trial, but a truly free version that they offer users to download....

I was wondering in case I somehow missed the option on their website. Any version of Visual Studio will do.

If not, are there any open-source alternatives (that have similar functionality, or possibly degraded equivalent) of Visual Studio? I am running on Windows 7 if that makes any difference...

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You might get the full-cost version for free: see programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/8055/… –  Kate Gregory Sep 1 '11 at 12:49
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@Dark Though you did not ask, some of the features included in the paid versions of VS can be easily replaced with Open Source alternatives. For instance, VS Express doesn’t include MS’s test suite (MSTest), but you’re free to use Open Source alternatives like NUnit, MBUnit, xUnit, etc. –  user179700 Sep 2 '11 at 7:53
    
Btw, if you have been watching microsoft VS express free download for years, you will know they once released a VS2008 express version which come as a single integrated one, instead of the current version, which they split VS into C#, C++, Web and BASIC. If you had kept the exe, you are lucky. –  lamwaiman1988 Oct 11 '11 at 9:06

4 Answers 4

up vote 51 down vote accepted

Visual Studio Express is a set of freeware integrated development environments (IDE) developed by Microsoft that are lightweight versions of the Microsoft Visual Studio product line.

A comparison is available here.

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If you are a student you may want to take a look at DreamSpark.

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+1 Didn't know about Dreamspark. –  Jalayn Sep 1 '11 at 6:21
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@Dark Templar: Like someone mentioned in a comment, BizSpark for startups is free for 3 years. I don't what the policies are after that. But seems you aren't very seen on all features so the Express edition sounds fine. –  Jungle Hunter Sep 1 '11 at 14:29
    
There is supposed to be a registration needed for VS Express 2010 - after you've been using it for about a month you need a serial or some such. Until that's done, I think the license is for evaluation only. I still use VS Express 2008, which doesn't have that minor hassle. –  Steve314 Oct 11 '11 at 10:00
    
VS Express works great. For C# and C++, it has many features of the paid versions. There are some cases where you might need the paid version, but you can do a lot with the Express versions. –  B Seven Oct 11 '11 at 15:29
    
@Steve314 Registration is required after the "evaluation" period, but registration is free. –  Dalin Seivewright Jan 9 '12 at 17:35

The Express versions

The free versions of Visual Studio are "degraded" version of their big brother, each dedicated to a specific task (or language for 2010 versions). "Degraded" because Express versions do not support the whole Visual Studio plugin ecosystem. They are great if you are on your own, or even within a small team of developers. They are freely available for 30 days and then require a free product key for ongoing use after 30 days (it takes only a few seconds to get the key, no big deal).

Both 2010 and 2012 versions are still available and nearly all compatible with Windows 7. The lone exception being Visual Studio 2012 for Windows 8 which is technically installable on Windows 7, but requires considerable human effort to be able to build Win 8 apps.

Depending on what app you want to write, here is how to choose:

  • Windows Store (Win 8 and Win RT) apps:
    • Visual Studio 2012 Express for Windows 8
  • Desktop Windows/Console apps:
    • Visual Studio 2012 Express for Windows Desktop (Silverlight and XNA too)
    • Visual C++ 2010 Express (no WPF support, but COM+ support)
    • Visual C# 2010 Express
    • Visual Basic 2010 Express
  • Web apps (ASP.NET, MVC 3/4):
    • Visual Studio Express 2012 for Web
    • Visual Web Developer 2010 Express
  • Windows Phone (Silverlight 3/4, XNA) apps:
    • 7.5/8 apps: Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Phone
    • 7/7.5 apps: Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone

The full trial version

Note also that you can install trial versions of the Visual Studio 2012. If you are on your own it's overkill to try the "Ultimate" or "Premium" version. They all have a 90-day trial limit, which is pretty good I think to get a good feel about it, or even to conclude a small-sized project.

The "Professional" version contains everything you need to build apps for everything mentioned above, plus other types of apps more related to a "business" environment such as Sharepoint, Office, or Biztalk for example.

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Note that you can also use the Express editions for commercial development too. –  In silico Sep 1 '11 at 7:04
    
@In-silico Of course, I just wanted to indicate that you won't probably need the whole enterprise, team-related features found in the full version. –  Jalayn Sep 1 '11 at 7:09
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The only thing degraded about express is that it can't do VS plugins - it doesn't produce any poorer code –  Martin Beckett Dec 17 '11 at 4:00

For open source, there are a couple like SharpDevelop and MonoDevelop.

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+1 for Sharpdevelop ( sharpdevelop.net/opensource/sd ) it is pretty good and keeps evolving. An older comparison between the express edition and sharpdevelop are in this SO question : stackoverflow.com/questions/554382/… –  KeesDijk Sep 1 '11 at 7:53

Well, you can use the free version of Visual Studio Express. For alternatives, you can try:

Personally, I prefer vim for development work (obviously on Linux).

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