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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  • Please add 6 and 4 and type the answer here:
  • Post
  • The VS2012 interface is simply: gray, sad, bored..... more words.

  • @Visual Studio for windows 8? post - this was fixed within the past hour. Thanks for calling it out.

  • Yes, the greyness is most certainly annoying and has been a sizable thorn in our (devs) side since the beta. After much venting regarding what I think is an unproductive UI (at least for me), Microsoft has provided two helpful workarounds:  

    a) A 'theme editor' which will allow the selection of alternative themes (other than dark and light), as well as allow very granular control over most aspects of UI color, and b) a method to change the UPPER CASE FILE MENU back to a more pleasing Proper Case File Menu.

    However we still are awaiting on action regarding the colorless icons, which for many of us cause a loss of productivity (difficult to pick things out), and for me continued eye strain. I think the biggest issue regarding the icons are those in the solution explorer. When you have a couple of dozen projects open and thousands of files in the solution explorer, it really is quite difficult (honestly it is) to manage without the VS2010 icons. What many (perhaps a majority) of us would like to see is the option to select a complete VS2010 theme (which I think is the apex of VS UI design), and by complete I mean with the original colorful icons, chrome, title bar, border separation etc, and which also respects the Windows theme settings (like Aero - which is actually useful to me). Maybe if we  continue to post comments about this, maybe just maybe it will happen.

    In the interim here are the links to the theme editor and case conversion which make things a wee bit more manageable:

    Theme editor:

    Case conversion:



  • @Neelesh - Visual Studio 2012 Ultimate is already available in MSDN.

    @Aditya Rao - MFC is included in Visual Studio retail editions, including Professional.

  • Visual Studio 2012 Color Theme Editor

    won't work for Express/Desktop.  Needs 12 Pro or more expensive versions. Do not waste my time!

  • What does the professional version have that the express editions don't.  What benefits to I get from buying a professional edition.

  • @Wally and other complaining about the gray UI: There is a way to use Color Themes with Express edition, see details here:

  • I made no such remark about gray, or any color.. I wasted by time downloading what obviously won't work in an Express version.  Look up at the caption bar.  My only interest in this is the opacity setting, if this is the same as 2010.  Once I set that, I removed it.  Further, since you have been slapped so much that you think everyone dislike this UI, I have no problems with it.  Icons are fine, even better than in 2010.  They make sense.  2010 icons existed, therefore they were, I think.  Fewer icon means more space, which is a plus.  Ah, now look at this waste of time that didn't do anything at all.  You are as bad as Tom.  Let's see if this post makes it.  Half of mine never appear.  But that's par for this forum software.

  • A few starters: Pro ('12) gets you Analyze, plugins, MFC/ATL (and the dinosaur they road in on), a lighter wallet, maybe a DVD, probably more tools (Spy and so on), and

  • Does have VS 2012 Express or Pro version at least bracket /  parenthesis autocomplete as other free IDEs already have or we again need to buy licence for Visual Assist X to gain proper and fast code writing?

  • I think it's really great that we can have this amazing tool for free, even with mixed C++ and C# solutions. Thanks a lot for that.

    But as many others, I'm quite put off by the GUI. Gray in gray is perfect for photo editing or other graphical apps, but please, color and contrast really make things easier to distinguish at a glance. And seriously, ALL CAPS? Considering that graphic designers come a dime a dozen these days, this is really a low point in UI design.

    Also, Express edition is not included in the comparison list. What are the actual limitations of the Express edition compared to the Professional edition?

  • The download hangs, and I can't even kill the process in Windows Task Manager!

  • Ermm...product key? Can you please address that.

  • @Gato: You need to Register with Microsoft (the link is in the install dialog, near the ProductID field). The registration is free, and you'll be given a product ID after registering.

  • @Alin: Good deal. Much appreciated!

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