Download Visual Studio Express Orcas – We need your Feedback


We just released a Community Tech Preview download of Visual Studio Orcas Express, the next version of Visual Studio Express. Kudos to Doug for arguably the coolest beta page on MSDN ever (pictured above)


We need your feedback

As John mentions in his post, the big things we need feedback on are the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) designer and the DLINQ designer.  In addition we want feedback on meta questions


Meta Question - Compatibility vs Features for Express

Another big question I'd love feedback on is how we handle Express going forward. Express is all about simplicity and the more decisions you provide to users, the harder it is for them to understand what to do.


Presentation Technology Choices

For the CTP of VB and C# Orcas Express, we chose the third option and support both WPF and Windows Forms. By supporting both, it's caused our download size to go up and the paradox of choice makes Express more complicated than previously when there was only once choice before. Our team has had a lot of debate and the options available are:

  • Support just Windows Forms - Good: This keeps the size small and Windows Forms has great support for data and backwards compatibility. Bad is that WPF is much easier for building more attractive and interactive applications like games and people may think Express doesn't support the newest, coolest technology.
  • Support just WPF - Good: keeps the size small and since the 2005 Express versions will continue to be on the Web for download, you can use Orcas for WPF and use 2005 for Windows Forms. Bad is that Windows Forms has a much more robust feature set for building form applications and better data support.
  • Support both WPF and Windows Forms - Good: makes everyone happy by providing the choice between features, Bad is that the size is larger and it can be confusing when to use which and what features are supported depending on what presentation technology you chose.

VWD Orcas has only one presentation technology so this isn't an issue and C++ does not support WPF so the choices here are just for VB and C#.


Data Technology Choices

Similarly on the data side of VB and C# Orcas Express, we chose the third option

  • Support just SQL Server Express - Good: Existing apps can migrate forward and you get DLinq+Designer and ADO.NET support with SQL Server Express. Bad is that SQL Server Express is large (80MB) and needs to run as a service. SQL CE is specifically designed to be a great desktop database.
  • Support just SQL Server Compact Edition - Good: Tiny size, designed to be a desktop database, copy/paste deployment, access-like experience, ADO.NET Design support. Bad is that SQL CE does not work with DLinq+Designer.
  • Support both SQL Server Express and SQL Compact Edition - Good:makes everyone happy by providing the choice between features, bad is that the size is larger and the features supported depend on what database you use.


VWD Orcas has only one data technology choice, SQL Server Express, as SQL CE is built and designed for desktop apps while the C++ Express team has explicitly decided to only support SQL Server Express instead of SQL CE.


Questions for You

  1. Which of the presentation/data choices would you have picked?
  2. Would you be okay if new versions of Express only supported new APIs, so long as there was an Express product also available for the previous APIs  (ex VB 2005 for Windows Forms instead of VB Orcas for Windows Forms)?
  3. Is it more important to support the latest and greatest API's like WPF and LINQ even though they may be more complex and not have as rich tools support than existing APIs like ADO.NET and Windows Forms?
Comments (27)
  1. Jonathon says:

    Leave both in–  that way, existing projects can be upgraded to use Orcas and .Net 3.5 without having to change the whole user interface over to WPF.  

  2. ben2004uk says:

    Hi Dan,

    Just installed the CTP and the download size was more than I expected – maybe being shown 900mb download I would have been discouraged to use it, if I wasn’t so passionate anyway.  Luckily, no one is in so I had all the bandwidth 

    When you give the user the choice to install MSDN Library, and SQL. Would it be possible to give the user the choice regarding WinForms and WPF?  Or are they too well integrated to break apart.

    This would allow the user to tailor the application to what they want to know about, play with and a lower download size.  This does give them more choice in the installer, but less in the creating of a new project.

    Also, I can’t fully remember with 2005 editions, but can Orcas Team Suite and Orcas Express be installed side by side?  Also, can Orcas Express and Visual Studio 2005 be side by side?

    Answers from me (likely to change as I use it more, and sleep on it):

    1) WPF to allow fast, interactive great looking applications – plus its more fun.  Data is a harder choice as both have different requirements. I like the fact that VWD has gone with the only logical choice – removing the need for the user to decide. If they don’t have to decide – why should they?

    If SQL CE will not support Linq to SQL, and you can’t include this support, then I feel SQL Express should be the data backend to provide the user with default support for the latest technologies.  Seems odd to have an Orcas release without Linq to SQL support…

    2) That sounds good.  But there definitely needs to be support for the older technologies, as if this product wants to be used within Universities then they generally move slower than the industry and they would need the confidence that the material they create, ie lecture slides, will be valid for a few years.  This is from what I have found anyway.

    3) Think my comments have already answered this.  Ideally, support for the latest and greatest to get people playing with the software.  However, for Universities there does need this support for existing technology – difficult call 

    But it’s a difficult call to make, not sure if this feedback helps or not.  If you want to ask me anything, or want more depth on my thoughts then please give me a shout.  Sure I will provide more on this as time goes by.


    Ben Hall

    UK Microsoft Student Partner

  3. Kevin Daly says:

    I would’ve gone for both the "Both" options.

    (if I had to choose between database engines, I’d lose SQL Server CE for the desktop).

    As to your third question, it’s probably more important to provide rich support for WPF and LINQ (etc.), because these will frankly be more useful to Express users than Windows Forms and ADO.NET…provided of course you don’t scale the latter back ridiculously (but given that some features in WinForms have never worked quite right with EnableVisualStyles and so on, perhaps that’s a page we should turn as quickly as possible).

    But there’s something I’d like to add as well: there really, really *should* be an Express sku for Devices. There is a large group of highly talented, hightly motivated, really poor mobile developers that Microsoft should be courting.

    That’s where tomorrow’s innovations in the mobile space will come from, not the (yech) Enterprise.

  4. eilert says:

    This has nothing to do with the feedback you are seeking, however I went to the download site and it feels very grade 1 toy like. Are you realy only targeting grade one’s?Are’nt there any other hobbie’st?

  5. ben2004uk says:

    Good point, something which I have thought about but not put two and two together.  Mobile Express would be neat!

  6. ben2004uk says:

    "Also, can Orcas Express and Visual Studio 2005 be side by side?"

    Looks like my base VM image already has 2005 installed, so indeed it does work… 🙂

  7. Garry Trinder says:


    Been waiting for this for quite some time, since the full CTP’s thrashing my machine…

    Will Get back with the feedback once I use it: I’m the target audience 😀

  8. Ian Sinke says:

    I would have picked both presentation options and both data options! Really, the more, the better. I might end up only ever using one or the other, but being able to try everything is VERY important. Also, it is nice to have everything together in the latest version. That way, I only have to download and install one version. plus, I get all the UI benefits etc. of the new version.

  9. AndyC says:

    1. WPF for UI, probably SQL CE for database as it’s a lot more lightweight.

    2. I think that’s definitely the way to go. Keep the Express versions nice and simple.

    3. I think maybe it is. Express is most likely to appeal to people enthusiastic about technology and I expect they’d be most keen to play with the newest stuff.

  10. Ira says:

    My heart sank yesterday when I tried this with the Visual C# Codename "Orcas" Express Edition CTP, and I determined that It would just a matter of time before another user encountered the error. the steps are,


    The error message is: The project file ‘c:Documents and SettingsMy NameLocal SettingsTempWPFApplication1.csproj’ cannot be opened.

    The project type is not supported by this installation…OK? – HELP?

    Similar error encountered when attaempting creation of a WPFBrowser App, steps are,


    The error message is: The project file ‘c:Documents and SettingsMy NameLocal SettingsTempJSJ1Q5NK.ZCZtempWPFBrowserApplication1.csproj’ cannot be opened.

    The project type is not supported by this installation…OK? – HELP?

    VWD Express "Orcas" appears fine though with the new WCFService and Expression Web editing tools. Best of all changing between design-split-code views is brisk!

  11. Andy Wilkinson says:

    I think that the Express editions should keep up with the latest technologies. As AndyC pointed out, many of the Express edition users are hobbyist programmers (aside from beginners) and are the people most likely to want to ‘play’ with the latest technologies. Therefore I’d vote for WPF, but keep an older Express edition available for WinForms support for all those older apps we have written (although how does this affect support/bug fixes/etc. for two editions released at once?). And thinking about it, what if you wanted to incorporate LINQ with your old WinForm app?

    As for database, for the target audience of the express editions I think the the SQL server compact edition is most likely to be used for small projects, but I can also see a large number of people wanting to ‘play’ with the DLINQ tools. Put both in is probably best (with an optional download of SQL Server itself)

    As some people have posted about the 900Mb size of the download. I found that although the installer reported well over 800Mb (without MSDN librart of full SQL server) for the download, the actual download took a lot shorter than I expected (and I mean a lot!). Is the download size reported by the installer correct???

  12. Name (required) says:

    1. As much as I like WPF and will cherish the day that WinForms goes extinct, I know that will not happy anytime soon. Realistically, you need to support both for the time being.

    2. No really realistic because of versioning issues.

    3. WPF and LINQ are a requirement. Without them, there really isn’t much reason to move from 2005. (That said, I am getting the same error that Ira mentioned and can not use WPF. This is a known issue: )

    I absolutely love the Express product line. At work I am required to use Professional, but at home choose to downgrade from Professional to Express. It is much more productive. I like Express so much that I once planned on paying for it, but now it is entirely free. I know many other professional programmers who feel the same way as I do. I only wish you would stop treating us as hobbyist and beginners.

    Simplicity and size are non-issues to me.

  13. greenflash says:

    It’s good for home usage, but when working its better to use pro versions.

  14. Hello Dan,

    I would highly suggest leaving the two versions of Visual Studio integrated. It’s really nice to be able to see one product work with older versions of the framework, and really, even .NET 2.0 isn’t even that old! Microsoft seems to just be working really hard to release new versions of the framework that do cool stuff, which is awesome. It’s hard to keep up with everything, so it would be nice to have a single product that works with all available frameworks.

    I just downloaded the Express Orcas CTP release and I must say I’m quite impressed! I posted in the MSDN forums about a problem that I’m experiencing, specifically with XAML element tags not completing themselves (closing the opening tag doesn’t automatically create a closing tag), but I’m sure you guys will have this corrected. Thanks for the release! You make lots of people, like myself, quite happy with these free products!

  15. Eduardo says:

    I think Visual Studio Express is excellent because is free.

    Finally, Microsoft is giving some free tools for the developer community. In my work I’m using VS 2005 Pro, but at home I’m using Express products, and one thing I’m missing the most in VS Express is the lack of the addin capabilities. I can’t install GAC  and GAX and use SCSF from p and p for example.

    My point is, Microsoft should think to release a more powerful dev tool for professional developers who can’t afford to buy at least the Standard edition (Why not give the next version of VS Standard for free, only in my dreams I know 🙂 ). Here in Portugal we are not so well paid as in the US for example :), most of us win less than 10$ / h.

    Answers from me:

    I think VS Orcas Express should support all the features in VS 2005 Express plus the new ones (WPF, WCF, WF, LINQ, and others).

  16. Andrew says:

    Q1.  Which of the presentation/data choices would you have picked?

    For me personally I’d have picked WPF + Windows Forms and SQL CE only. But thats just me, I’ve never used SQL Server Express, it’s always seemed too heavyweight so SQL CE seems much more appropriate for home use.

    Q2. Would you be okay if new versions of Express only supported new APIs, so long as there was an Express product also available for the previous APIs  (ex VB 2005 for Windows Forms instead of VB Orcas for Windows Forms)?

    No. Once I’ve got something in a product I expect it to be in the future upgrades of the product. It’s a pain keeping around different versions of the same product and trying to remember which one has which feature.

    Q   3. Is it more important to support the latest and greatest API’s like WPF and LINQ even though they may be more complex and not have as rich tools support than existing APIs like ADO.NET and Windows Forms?

    Yes, I’d like to see support for new and interesting stuff. Easily accessible documentation is more important to me than rich tool support.

    In general I suspect you have (at least) two distinct classes of users. One class is the true hobby programmer, somebody who does not earn their living in software development/test and the other class is the professional software developer/tester who also writes software at home as a hobby (or to improve their skills on their own time). There is probably a third group in the middle that used to be software developers but are now doing something different, like stay-at-home parent, manager etc.

    I’m sure you’ve done the studies, but I suspect the second and third groups far outweigh the first. These groups are far more likely to be interested in the new/cool stuff than the first group who’d probably be happy with a simple editor and compiler.

  17. grauenwolf says:

    Supporting both LINQ and WinForms is a must. LINQ is required because novices need to learn it if they are to graduate to professional development, and WinForms because they are already using it.

    An option in install only WinForms or only WPF would make sense to me. I for one expect to only use WinForms, but I can easily see others only using WPF.

  18. grauenwolf says:

    PS I think SQL Server CE makes more sense if you are only including one.

    With the problems of constantly attaching and detaching databases, Express is just too hard to use. And more than once I managed to delete a database instead of detatching it. In short, I find myself having far less problems with a full copy of SQL Server than with SQL Server Express.

  19. annoying aussie says:

    Choice is always a good thing. So is simplicity.

    With this in mind, I tend to agree with Ben Hall.

    Give the choice of WinForms or WPF (or both) on installation. This way once inside the development enviroment the user can have a peek at either without committing to both. If he does not like one he can just choose the other without mucking around with a completely different IDE.

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  21. I would say that when you start a New Application that you are given the default choice of WPF Application or a Windows Forms Application in the Visual Studio Installed Templates section.

    I was actually coming to this blog just to specifically ask that under the project properties (Project > program name Properties) that there be an option to restrict stuff to .Net 2.x if at all possible. Intelitype would then restrict itself to just .Net 2.x stuff, and at compile time you would get compiler notices that some stuff is .Net 3.x only, but wouldn’t stop it from compiling and running, just a simple notice pointing out .Net 3.x stuff in the application. The big question is if adding such stuff would make the footprint nearly as big as having two separate development environments (i.e. having Express 2005 and Orcas installed) then you may as well leave it at two different ones, though I would think Orcas would need to be able to import 2005 stuff.

    Having read some of the comments, I would agree also with giving the developer a choice at install time would be the best bet. Then if the developer chooses to install both, it would then function as I noted above. If not an install choice at install time, then perhaps a downloadable template to add Windows Forms and .Net 2.x restrictions, this would keep the initial download size smaller and more manageable.

    If we had to restrict to just one choice, obviously it would have to be WPF over Windows Forms.

    Of course I am speaking from the perspective of somebody learning C#, and not an established and experienced developer, so take my comments for what you will.

  22. Brian A. Thomas says:

    I forgot to add.

    I don’t know enough about SQL Server to decide between Express and CE. I would say it needs to support both, but as to which ones it downloads with and installs by default I don’t know. I would say again that this should be an install time choice, at worst a downloadable option later to keep the initial download size smaller. I do like the idea that my user doesn’t need to start a service just to use my program…

  23. Abdullah says:

    My feedback is that you should try and use as minimal number of folders as possible.

    When I installed it, it created so many folders scattered around my system, with so many files, nested deeply.

    Simplicity is best.

    I like the way that only one single item is added to the Start Menu. That is how it should be.

    But it installed so many folders in my Program Files folder and installed loads of stuff in my Windows folder and in my User folder.

    Please keep it simple. Look at the Mac — one directory installs!!!

  24. NIkolas says:

    I suppose it’s a little late for feedback as this is a 3 month old thread, but I recently downloaded VB.NET Express, and Visual Studio Web Dev Express Orcas editions, and after using them for a couple weeks, I dont know how I got along without them before. 🙂 And kudos to you guys for basically giving out copies of Visual Studio Express, I didn’t know MS was doing that until earlier this year, and all the free documentation and tutorials you guys have floating around and for free no less, keep up the good work!

  25. Paul says:

    I will try this software to improve my skills in programming

  26. Alistair says:

    The problem is compatibility. I can’t run my programs on other computers they have .net framework 2.0. I think they might need the new .net framework or maybe it is my fault. just thought you might like to know.

  27. Can i do Linq to SQL using the VS2008 express products?

    I want to use SQL Server 2000 or 2005 for database

    Is this even possible in the express products for Linq to sql?


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