Microsoft has made freeware "express" editions of it's Visual Studio
IDE products and SQL Server available free of cost. Supposedly, they
were to become payware in November 2006. This is definitely a smart move on Microsoft's part; an effort to capture some of the armies of developers moving to free tools like Eclipse, Netbeans, MySQL, PostgreSQL, etc.
The free IDEs are stripped down versions of Visual Studio and with a few missing features. They're suitable for folks getting started with .NET 2.0
development using C#, VB.NET, J#, C++ and ASP.NET, but they're missing some
key features you'll need for "real" development. The Visual Studio site has a feature-by-feature product comparison
that shows the differences between the Express, Pro and Team System versions. Here's my summary of what's missing from the free IDEs:
- No source code control - you can't even hook-in SouceSafe
- No unit testing - you need the big-dollar Team System for that
- No XSLT support - but some XML tools are available
- No mobile device support - oh well (try the Netbeans Mobility Pack instead)
- No 64-bit compilers
I've tried a couple of the express editions and they didn't look very stripped down to me, except in comparison to the current crop Java IDEs. None of the features I was using in Visual Studio C# 2003 were missing.
I recently upgraded the RSS and Atom in Action
examples to .NET 2.0 using the express editions of Visual Studio C# 2005 and Visual Web Developer 2005. My overall impressions were mixed. I was a little disappointed that I had to install two completely separate IDEs to get C# development ASP.NET development capabilties, but I was glad to see that Visual Web Dev. includes a test web server, so you don't have to muck with IIS. All and all, free is good and I'm definitely happy that my readers can build and run all of the examples in the book with free-of-cost IDEs from Sun, IBM and now Microsoft as well.