Getting Started with Programming

Getting started with choosing the right tools for Programming.

Ashwin Vasanth

One of the first steps people take, once they have chosen a programming language of choice, is choose an IDE or an Integrated Development Environment. People who delve in the .Net world have the advantage of being able to use the same IDE i.e. Microsoft Visual Studio irrespective of the programming language. You must have heard that Visual Studio supports the programming languages of C# (C sharp) and VB (Visual Basic). What most people do not know is that apart from the above mentioned two languages, Visual Studio supports a plethora of other programming languages like C#, VB.Net, Visual C++, HTML, XML and XAML. Visual Studio also supports, through extensions, PHP (VS.php), Ruby (IronRuby), Python (IronPython), J# and F# (Language Services). Support also exists for XSLT, xHTML, LINQ, CSS and JavaScript. For more information regarding such extensions Live Search them ;).

Visual Studio can be used to build both GUI and Console applications. The Windows Client and Server System, The Web, Windows Mobile, Microsoft Office System, the .Net Framework, the .Net Compact Framework and the new and exciting Silverlight platforms are all supported and can be targetted using Visual Studio. Whether you are planning on building a simple HTML page with your C.V. on it or if you were planning on world domination through the next best thing on the Interwebs or your version of TradeMe, then Visual Studio might just be the thing you need. You might not know this but TradeMe is an ASP.Net web application. XNA Game studio for building games whether be it for Windows or the XBOX 360 gaming platform is also supported.

Now that you have enough reason to pick up a copy of Visual Studio, lets make sure that you have the right version to get started. Unlike certain fruit named companies who think one size fits all, Visual Studio comes in a number of flavors each for a different audience of users.

First is the Express line which is free and is for people who just want to get their hands dirty with Visual Studio and .Net but cannot or do not want to pay for it. Then comes the Standard, the Professional and finally the Team System lines. The differences are quite a lot and require more than one blog post to cover it. If you want to know more about the different versions of Visual Studio and also a brief description about what version of the product would best suit the needs for your next project then check out the Visual Studio 2008 Product Comparison index on the following page:

You do know that the express line is free and can be downloaded from the Microsoft MSDN website. What you might not know about is that Visual Studio in its Standard and Professional flavors can be acquired for free if you are a tertiary student doing Computer Sciences and/or Information Sciences degree under a program called MSDN AA or MSDN Academic Alliance.Not only can you get Visual Studio for free but free legal licenses are also available for various other Microsoft products such as Windows XP Professional, Windows Vista Business, Windows Server, Microsoft SQL Server and so on. None of that dodgy torrenting or high bandwidth solutions required.

What is that you say? You are a student at a University but currently are not enrolled in any IS or CS based degree. Fear not. Even you too can get Visual Studio and others for free. Keep an eye out for announcements regarding Project DreamSpark on your campus.

Microsoft Student Partners present on university campuses across the country will soon start talking about Project DreamSpark and will also be able to answer any questions you might have with regards to the existing MSDN AA program. For more information about the Student Partner(s) on your campus check out the list on the left for your campus.

And until next time look out for presentations on how to use Visual Studio for cool and amazing things coming to a campus near you.

About Ashwin
Ashwin is the Microsoft Student Partner for Massey University in Albany. Check out his blog

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