What is in Visual C# Express?

So far, the first two comments I’ve gotten on my blog have been asking essentially the same question, “What is C# Express?”  This seems like a good indication that I should try to explain what you are getting when you go and download C# Express.


First off, Visual C# Express is only for writing Windows applications in C#.  For web applications, you can use Visual Web Developer Express, and for other languages, there are Visual Basic Express, Visual J# Express and Visual C++ Express. 


That said, here is a rundown of some of the things you’ll find in C# Express.  Please note that this is a beta , so by the time the Express products are released, there may be some new features added, and there may be some features trimmed down to enhance the experience.


C# Editor


C# Express includes almost all the cool editor features you’ll find in higher end Visual Studio products.  For instance:

-         Support for the C# 2.0 language, including new language features like generics.

-         Full IntelliSense, including all the new IntelliSense features that have been added in the 2005 version.

-         Code Snippets, a new 2005 feature that lets you insert common blocks of code instantly, for instance property definitions.

-         Some Refactorings, such as intelligently renaming a field or extractinging a method.  There are a few additional refactorings which are not available in C# Express.

-         And so many more…




The debugging environment has been streamlined a little to provide a simpler and easier to use debugger without all the windows that you are likely to never use. For instance, we have taken the disassembly window out, and cut back to having only one watch window instead of four.  C# Express does have all of the debugging features you use (or will use) all the time like:

-         Breakpoints

-         Watch window

-         Call stack

-         Data Tips (hover over your code while in debug mode to see what these are)

-         Visualizers (click on the little magnifying glass in the watch window to see what these are)

-         And many more…


Windows Forms Designer


The Windows Forms designer in C# Express is the fully functional designer from other versions of Visual Studio.  All of the form layout and databinding features are available in C# Express along with some of the new features in 2005 like:

-         Snaplines

-         Smart tags to help you do common tasks with your controls.

-         A bunch of new controls

-         Strongly typed resources

-         Settings designer

-         And many more…


Data Connectivity

With the included SQL Server Express, you can write applications that connect to a local database.  See the VSData team’s blog for details about this.  And with full support for consuming webservices, you can easily write applications that talk to Amazon, Google, or any of the other thousands of webservices out there.


Some Things You Won’t Find in C# Express

Although it is a very full featured environment, there are some things you won’t find in C# Express that you would find in other Visual Studio products. 

-         Source control

-         Add-ins and Macros

-         Class Designer

-         ClickOnce deployment

-         Remote debugging

-         Mobile development

-         Unit testing


If these are features you use a lot, C# Express probably won’t be the right development tool for you.  However, if you are looking for a great small tool for writing C# Windows applications, C# Express will be a great choice.


But why trust me, go download the beta and see for yourself!  Then come back here and let me know what you think.

Comments (26)
  1. Andy says:

    Thank you for posting this! I’ve been looking for this sort of list ever since I first heard about C# Express. I couldn’t find it anywhere I looked, but you saved the day. 🙂

  2. Indeed this list is pulling me over the line, installing a guest os on virtual pc right now!

  3. bg says:

    shame about the missing unit testing stuff. I’ve been using it (c# express) for a couple of days and really like it. Its fast not over bloated with bitsnbobs, and so far very stable. just add the missing tdd stuff and I would use it over the full vs.

  4. Ian Ringrose says:

    Not include unit testing is a big mistake, as C# Express is likely to be used by lots of people leaning to program. We want then to lean the right things from the start!

    Also if we have C# Express users having to use nUnit, and everyone else using the new unit testing framework in msdev.next, then we have the case that we can not run each others tests!

    ringi at bigfoot dot com

  5. Atul says:

    Looks like it’s missing ASP.NET / Web Services support also. I installed it on my XP box w/ IIS and didn’t see an option to create aspx files and / or web projects…


  6. Atul says:

    Well, guess those features are included in the Visual Web Studio that I am just downloading :)…

  7. Sean Malloy says:

    "Looks like it’s missing ASP.NET / Web Services support also. I installed it on my XP box w/ IIS and didn’t see an option to create aspx files and / or web projects… "

    Thats because those features are included in Visual Web Developer.

    I’m actually dissapointed about addins support.

    Unit Testing could be offered if there was Addin support. The excuse about not wanting to increase the download size is ridiculous. Its all about not eating into the profit of its big brother.

    You could also argue that not including source control is another error on Microsofts part. Still, theres always CVS or SourceGear Vault. Both can be used in a non-integrated way, so beginners don’t REALLY lose out except that the stuff isn’t integrated

  8. I’m very disappointed in the lack of source control and unit testing features in the Express products. As a tech lead for my dev company, I’m heavily involved in the hiring of new candidates – its already hard enough to find new talent with strong technology skills. Its almost impossible to find new grads with any concept of best practices. If I had my druthers, I’d say the enthusiast version of VS had mandatory built in source control.

    I can understand toning down the debugger, and removing some of the more enterprise level features, but removing the tools that help people make quality software is just insane. People will use this tool, and you’re forcing them into using software worst practices, which is makes bad Windows software.

    By these features alone, Eclipse and the free IDEs for other platforms are still way ahead.


  9. Roy Dictus says:

    MS isn’t forcing people into software worst practices with the Express products in my opinion — you can still use Visual SourceSafe with your projects, by using the VSS client rather than VSS integration…

    BTW, I never use Visual Studio’s built-in support for source code control, I always start up the VSS client separately. I prefer working that way and it doesn’t clutter up project and solution files… I expect that approach should also work beautifully with the Express products.

    Just my 2 cents…


  10. MCP.NET says:

    Will this product be a free or will required paying for it?

  11. While waiting for the beta relase to VS.NET 2005 to show up I am playing with the c# express version. One question, will I be able to import my code in the ful vs.net when I get it?

  12. Luke Hoban says:

    Bruce – Absolutely. The project system is the same, and you won’t even have to use any "upgrade wizard" like you would from VS2003 to VS2005. You should also be able to move your projects back to Express if you want to.

  13. Desi says:

    I understand that class designer is not included in VC# express but the Class Viewer (seems to be included) is missing functionality (??). It doesn’t show fields,properties, methods etc., or am I missing something??

  14. Desi says:

    Never mind, I found it. You just have to go to the class view, click on the class name and look in the split window where it has them all…


    I understand that class designer is not included in VC# express but the Class Viewer (seems to be included) is missing functionality (??). It doesn’t show fields,properties, methods etc., or am I missing something??

  15. Desi says:

    FAQ says that :


    Are the Express Edition products free?

    Answer: We have not announced pricing and licensing and will not do so until next calendar year. For the time being, we can tell you that the Express Editions will be low-cost and will continue to be easy to acquire.


    Does this mean that Express Editions are replacement of student edition Visual Studio products since they will be low-cost (but not free)?

  16. Bob says:

    Why isn’t there one geared towared mobile development? That is a shame! Or at least make all the express versions do it in their own languages.

  17. Liam says:

    I have been using the C# express version, where is the signing dialog box to allow putting a strong name on com references, there doesn’t seem to be one? Overall everything looks quite nice, if only I could build without key errors….sigh

  18. Ello says:

    Does anyone know if the binaries created from a C# program need to run on .NET 2.0 Beta framework as well?

  19. Robert says:

    I also regret very much, that obviously Mobile development is missing. Is it planed to offer that afterwards ? I would really enjoy it.

  20. John Roberts says:

    Can you do WMI development with the Express Edition?


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