Visual Studio Express – Free? I think not.

Microsoft has recently released a ‘free’ version of Visual Studio, their developer suite. Microsoft may or may not do a good job on their other products, but their developer tools are excellent. So with the release of a ‘free’ version, there was much rejoicing in the developer community, particularly with yours truly. Shelling out $300 or more just to write code isn’t much fun.

Unfortunately Microsoft has crippled the free version. They’ve left out (purposely) some rather key components, which make the free version all but useless to anyone trying to write windows code. There are three glaring omissions:

  1. The first is that rather than releasing one product, they’ve divided Visual Studio into several products, none of which interact well.
  2. The second is that they’ve left out the ATL/COM portion of the Visual C++, which is rather crucial for anyone not developing code for the .NET platform (which is, like, everyone. Or at least me).
  3. And lastly, I’m not sure how or why they did this, but third party plugins like this product don’t work. The third party plugins provide wizards or project templates that don’t work with Visual Studio express.

This is (again) a very dissappointing move from Microsoft. Coming from the Java world, I’m accustomed to getting some very good developer tools at no cost, including Eclipse and NetBeans. Microsoft makes it sound like they’re following that trend, making their tools more accessible to developers, but then leave out some crucial parts which force people either to move to a different platform, or spend the hundreds or thousands for their products. Either way I’m not a happy developer today.

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