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.

Leave a Comment
  • Please add 3 and 5 and type the answer here:
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  • What about Silverlight? Rests in peace?

  • When would Visual Studio 2012 - Ultimate available for MSDN subscribers?

  • Thank you so much for this.  There were many people, myself included, who were worried there would be no good FREE desktop development environment going forward when the 2012 Express line was initially announced.  The Express line of Visual Studio is so important because it allows anybody to get into programming with a truly world class IDE.  This looks amazing, even if it is extremely gray. :-)

  • Good news!

  • Really pleased that you have looked at the database connectivity issues. I haven't tried it yet but I'm hoping we will get all the entity framework designer stuff that Pro has.

  • Thank you for providing a desktop version for Visual Studio Express 2012. It is really appreciated.

  • That is so great, congratulations for this excellent decision!!!! That made my day so happy! Best regards

  • Thank you guys who decided this, I love you!

  • What about MFC Library will it be included in Professional Version

  • TFS Express is free...why would you want to use another source control provider? ;)

    Ok ok...I do understand that some of us use other source control providers, I being one of them at work. But I use TFS at home. In my opinion...the Express editions are for personal use...whether that be for learning or that side project your working on. Either way, the best source control provider to use would be TFS Express would think.

    When your using the Professional and higher edition...sure use whatever source control you want. I don't see why Express would need this.

  • Is this compatible with the theme editor plugin so we can do something about the user interface?

  • Tried VS2012 for the first time, after Express for Desktop was released. The UI is even more horrible than expected, although I already disabled All Caps. I can't/won't work with it - I'll stay with VS 2010 Ultimate. Maybe there is a way to use the VC11 compiler in VS2010 - it might solve the C++11 problems as soon as XP support is available.

  • Please let the users know how to obtain a visual studio express for the windows desktop edition that has a product key, as the addition of  visual studio express for the desktop edition I downloaded 09/12/2012 is the evaluation copy! the microsoft web site said that this was the release addition when I downloaded it, but the addition I downloaded was mislabled, and I installed an evaluation copy for visual studio express for the windows desktop edition. Do I have to reinstall  visual studio express for the windows desktop edition every 30 days to continue to use what microsoft said was the free addition!

  • When I click the download for Visual Studio for windows 8 here: I get an installer for Visual Studio for Windows Desktop. Are these the same product now or are the links broken?

  • Great, except I also think the UI is ugly.  I preferred the old look, and not happy with the new Metro-ness of the way things are going.

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