After I got my new laptop the first thing I installed was the Express versions of Visual Studio – VWD Express, C# Express and VB.NET Express (http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/express/). Also I installed the MSDN Express Edition. Really these are very powerful software absolutely at free – Amazing!
Even if you think this from two year back perspective it was not possible. And any one can built really very cool and powerful software from these express edition. This is really a great opportunity for the hobbist and ISV market who do not have to pay big bucks for license. But still can take the benefit of all the features of .NET Framework. I still remember once I searched the web for free version of VB6. Still it’s not available for free!
I also installed the SQL Express version and Management Studio Express Edition. So now I have everything – a great front end tool for UI and Business Logic and a database for storing my data.
They inbuilt development web server (Casini) feature of ASP.NET 2.0 also helps greatly as you can now create local file system webs sites even if you do not have IIS. That solves lot of issues related to debugging ASP.NET applications without Admin Rights.
This is the first time I am actually using the Express versions. Before this I have always used VSTS Team Suite Edition. I was just wondering if we can have a express version of VSTS also with little bit class diagramming and application diagramming support.
May be in future we will have express editions for TFS also.
I think things are changing rapidly. Now all the major development platforms has distinct offerings for hobbist and small ISVs including Microsoft, Sun and Oracle. Oracle also has an Express Edition – Oracle 10g database. This is also freely downloadable – http://www.oracle.com/technology/software/products/database/oracle10g/index.html. I have started playing with it. I will blog about some of its’ cool features in future blogs.
I think going forward all the companies will put major stress in community effort. There will be more sites like CodePlex (http://codeplex.com) and tools like PowerTools (earlier PowerToys) for TFS built as community project. The biggest example probably is Eclipse. I hope some day .NET community will also come up with such beautiful IDE.
I will end this article with a small nice feature of Express editions. The Options dialog in Express versions has a small checkbox called "Show all settings" in the bottom left of the window. By default this option is unchecked and shows only important and popular options. If you check the checkbox then you’ll get all the options similar to other versions of Visual Studio. I think this checkbox should be there in other versions also – may be it should be checked by default. But it allows to clear up advanced settings for beginners.