We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
Software Reviews
15,670 Reviews PC Advisor Gold Award

Visual Studio 2005 Express

Free

Manufacturer: Microsoft

Our Rating: We rate this 4.5 out of 5

The latest release of Microsoft's Visual Studio has come with a surprise: a release of separate Express editions of its main development tools that are available for free.

The latest release of Microsoft's Visual Studio has come with a surprise for many users who might be tempted to experiment with programming, but are unwilling to invest in the full application. It consists of a release of separate Express editions of its main development tools that are available for free.

Each of these editions is a standalone product. While you can use the professional release to combine different languages to create your own programs for Windows and the web, most of the Express releases use one language and are targeted at producing Windows applications.

Visual Studio 2005 Express is an impressive collection of development tools. The supported languages are Visual Basic, the Microsoft language C#, C++ and J# for Java. The Visual Web Developer Express Edition supports multiple languages but, as its name suggests, this is designed for web solutions. Finally, SQL Server Express is the database engine for the other languages.

Visual programming

The appearance of each Express edition is similar to the full suite, making use of an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) that simplifies greatly many aspects of creating and developing apps. By dragging and dropping controls into the form designer that dominates the IDE, you can modify properties quickly and easily and then, when required, add code for specific tasks.

Unlike the other versions of Visual Studio, there's no support for Windows Pocket PC devices. Some of the more technical features have been restricted. Each release includes enhanced tutorials and startup kits for beginners. And there's plenty of online documentation to get you started.

While Visual Basic and C++ have both been around for some time, C# and J# are more recent additions to the Microsoft stable. The latter is Microsoft's version of Java, but while C# sounds as though it should be a variant of C or C++ it's been developed for creating .NET applications, and is close in syntax to Java.

Visual Web Developer Express is the one release that cannot be used for Windows development, but rather produces web-based programs employing the ASP (Active Server Pages) .NET technology. This requires a .NET server, of course, but does mean that creating sophisticated online applications is relatively simple from within the same IDE as used for the other releases – just be prepared to search around for server support.

SQL Server Express

It's a powerful database engine that's more than sufficient to drive a small web server or Windows applications. In addition, it does not make use of a visual developer, but instead is intended to run behind the scenes. Actual design of your databases (such as including fields or tables) takes place in one of the other Express programs.

Visual Studio 2005 Express Expert Verdict »

600MHz processor (1GHz recommended)
Windows 2000/XP/Server 20003
192MB RAM (256MB recommended)
1.3GB hard disk space (full installation)
  • Ease of Use: We give this item 7 of 10 for ease of use
  • Features: We give this item 8 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 10 of 10 for value for money
  • Overall: We give this item 9 of 10 overall

With a powerful debugger, drag-and-drop components to get you started and excellent tutorial support, the Visual Studio Express editions are a real boon for budding programmers. They're not packages for professionals, but as a free introduction to Windows programming no other tools come close.

  • Visual Studio 2008 SP1 review

    Visual Studio 2008 SP1

    Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 (VS08) Service Pack 1 (SP1) took eight months to arrive. Considering the capabilities that have been added, eight months might not seem so long.

  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1 review

    Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1

    Although not without problems, Microsoft Visual Studio is the premier IDE for developing applications with the Microsoft .Net Framework and at least a contender for the best Windows-hosted C/C++ IDE.

  • Microsoft Expression Studio - the definitive review

    Microsoft Expression Studio - the definitive

    Microsoft's new Expression Studio suite brings together four programs that stake out some new territories for Microsoft and strengthen the company's presence in existing ones. They form a design suite for internet and desktop applications.

  • Microsoft Windows Azure CTP review

    Microsoft Windows Azure CTP

    Microsoft's Community Technology Preview reveals in the Windows Azure Services Platform a thoughtfully designed cloud-computing architecture where seasoned .Net developers will feel at home.

  • Microsoft Expression Blend

    Microsoft Expression Blend

    Microsoft Expression Blend is a little hard to describe. It's a design tool for creating XAML application interfaces, mainly for programs that run on .Net 3.0 and the WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation). It's been superficially compared to Microsoft's take on Adobe Flash, but we're not sure that's a precise comparison.


IDG UK Sites

Apple promises developers better stability, performance for Swift

IDG UK Sites

5 things we hate about MWC: What it's like to be a journalist at a technology trade show

IDG UK Sites

Interview: Lauren Currie aims to help design students bridge skills gap

IDG UK Sites

12in Retina MacBook Air release date rumours: new MacBook Air to have fingerprint ID, could launch...