Microsoft has launched the Express Editions of Visual Studio 2005:
- Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition
- Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition
- Visual C# 2005 Express Edition
- Visual C++ 2005 Express Edition
- Visual J# 2005 Express Edition
Each of these is a simplified and streamlined version of Visual Studio 2005 focused on development in a single language (except Visual Web Developer, which includes Visual Basic and C#). A full run-down of the feature differences between these Express Editions and the full Visual Studio 2005 can be found in the product feature comparison matrix.
In short, all the essential features for building ASP.NET 2.0 Websites are here. The Express Editions include a simplified user interface and limited features (e.g., you can only interface with databases on your local computer), but for developers building simple sites or just getting started with .NET for Windows desktop or Web development, there’s more than enough meat in these products. Visual Web Developer Express Edition, in particular, is a must-download for anyone currently working with ASP.NET Web Matrix, though developers should note that these Express Editions are not backwards compatible with version 1.x of the .NET Framework — they can only be used to develop for .NET 2.0.
Although Microsoft had previously announced each of these Express Editions at a price point of US$49, it has instead launched them as free downloads for one year. In a year’s time, Microsoft may elect to begin charging for the software, but anyone who has downloaded it during the free download period will have it for keeps–this is not expire-ware.
Also available is SQL Server 2005 Express Edition, the successor to the aging MSDE database. Perfectly suited for use as a local database for Web development, SQL Server 2005 Express Edition will remain free for as long as the product is available.