Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop is Here

Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop is Here

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A few months ago, Soma announced plans for a Visual Studio Express 2012 edition for Windows Desktop. Today, we are happy to share that this new Express product is available for download. (You can find the system requirements and download details here.) This post is written by Jennifer Leaf, one of the program managers working on the new product.

It would be impossible to list every feature in Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop. However, in this post I want to tell you about some of the new tools and capabilities in the product that have not been available in any other Express products in the past. I’d also like to answer some of the questions you’ve been asking about what we’re including in this edition. Unless otherwise mentioned, the features listed are supported for all languages that are included in Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop – C++, C#, and Visual Basic.

Project Types

In Express for Windows Desktop, you’ll be able to create the same projects that you could in Visual Studio 2010 Express, for example, WinForms, WPF, Console and Class Libraries for Visual Basic and C#, and Win32 projects, class libraries, and CLR apps for C++. You can also combine C++, C#, and Visual Basic projects into a single solution, making it easy to write a single application using any of the available languages. Finally, you can round-trip your projects with Visual Studio 2010 SP1.

New Project dialog in Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop

Unit Testing

We wanted to make it easy for you to write and run unit tests for your projects. To make that possible, Express for Windows Desktop includes our existing unit test framework for C# and Visual Basic and the new native C++ unit test framework. This lets you write, run and debug unit tests directly inside Visual Studio. Unit Test project templates are also included so you can start writing unit tests right away.

Unit Testing in Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop

Code Analysis

We added a targeted set of code analysis rules to Express for Windows Desktop, which are the same code analysis rules that we added to Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows 8. For C++ projects, these rules help detect common coding errors, such as buffer overflows, dereferencing null pointers, using uninitialized variables, or misusing APIs. These errors can potentially lead to security vulnerabilities or application crashes if the errors are not fixed. For managed projects we included rules that help ensure correct object disposal, comparison, and garbage collection performance.

Code Analysis in Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop

TFS Integration

This release, we introduced Team Foundation Server Express 2012, as well as the Team Foundation Service at We also included Team Explorer, which allows for integration with your TFS server into all of our Visual Studio 2012 Express products, including this one. We wanted to make it simple for you to use the source code control, work item tracking, and build automation that TFS provides.

Team Explorer in Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop

Dependency Management with NuGet

Express for Windows Desktop includes NuGet, which makes it easier than ever to integrate libraries developed within your organization, or from 3rd parties, into your projects. To add or manage package dependencies for your projects, simply select the “Manage NuGet packages…” option from the project, or from the solution context menu in Solution Explorer.

NuGet in Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop

Language specific features

The new VS 2012 language and library features are available in Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop, including the async and await keywords in Visual Basic and C#, C++ AMP, and improvements to C++ 11 Standards conformance.

You can use Express for Windows Desktop with your Visual Basic and C# applications to target both .NET 4.0 and 4.5.

We also included the C++ 64-bit cross-compiler and libraries, so you can build 64-bit desktop applications without needing to install an older version of the Windows SDK.

Data Connections

In previous Express products, the ability to connect to a data source was limited to Database File. In Express for Windows Desktop, this capability has been extended to support all SQL Server data sources. For example, in Database Explorer, you can connect, navigate, query against and edit database objects through the latest SQL Server 2012 and Windows Azure SQL Databases.


We look forward to hearing your feedback on the release. Please submit bugs to the Visual Studio Connect site, and suggestions to Visual Studio UserVoice.

Special thanks to the following people who reviewed or contributed to this post: Mathew Aniyan, Aaron Bjork, Howard Dierking, Erick Ellis, Lisa Feigenbaum, Federico Kolliker Frers, Erin Geaney, Andrew Hall, John Hart, Saurabh Jain, Eric Knox, Phil Lee, Rong Lu, Karen Ng, Peter Provost, Pete Steijn, and Theo Yaung.


Jennifer Leaf – Senior Program Manager, Visual C++

Short Bio: Jennifer is a Senior Program Manager with the Visual C++ team. Prior to joining Microsoft in 2010, she spent the previous 9 years leading teams that developed C++ and C#-based tools for simulation and network data instrumentation and analysis.

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  • It seems very unfair and stupid that Visual Studio 2012 Express supports TFS, but don't allow other source control plugins.

  • Congratulations. Sounds like you've really improved this freebie. Can't wait for the XP support to be added to.

  • This looks really good, thank you microsoft for providing it for free.

  • everything is great except new terrible studio ui!

  • Great job guys, thank you very much!

  • What do I get from Pro 12 that I don't get from Ex 12?  Plugin/extensions, right. Why would I want to buy for evil genius Pro 12 at 500 when Ex is 0?  Assume evil genius only makes c/c++ code, uses debugger, and desires remote debugging abilities. That type.

  • This new IDE is just plain UGLY.

  • I have seen your video here

    Hey, You read the word from the other-side of camera. How you do that. IS microsoft have any special gadget for this or just a big screen to make your job easier.

    Let me know if you do something else but I am sure you read the text you are saying. Right !

  • Again an ISO without any way to verify the download was complete and correct.  What's up?  We aren't all newbies lost in the woods, you know.

  • For this title I qualify . 2012 Express/DT to be "free" and "clear" I presumed, but for a Product key I am prompted, of which in possesion I have not.


  • No way to create windows form app for C++! and no way to get product key, as login for live account through VS express for desktop does not work!

  • This looks great and im loving it ...

  • Amazing tool and its free... !!!

  • @rudy: I haven't checked the Express yet, but in VS 2012 Pro it's possible to just create C++/CLI console app, make some manual changes in code and project properties, then add a new Form.

  • Great Job on the new Express SKU. It's almost not worth purchasing the Pro edition.

    I actually really like the new UI, especially with the Dark theme.

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