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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  • syntax coloring doesn't work right. I opened a fairly large VS2010 project with VS2012, and one of the files wasn't colored at all. When I click in it, the coloring comes up, then disappears a few seconds later. The code isn't disabled by a macro or anything like that.

  • Really interesting that the download page does not work in IE8 or IE9, but it works fine in Chrome.

    Just wonder if MS staff also use Microsoft product.  Maybe they also feel that IE is so poor (espeically int he JavaScript engine), so they never test with IE after they have develop the web site. ^_^

  • I'm having a rough time with the gray icons especially in the solution explorer. These icons just don't cut it when you have a dozen or so projects in the solution with hundreds or thousands of files, it's just a pain in the neck and frustrating. Can we please have the option of selecting the VS2010 icons? What's the big deal? Do I have to go the extent of manually replacing the icons in the dlls myself? I can do it but it's ridiculous that we have to go to this extent. You know in the end Microsoft loses out as we should be writing code for Microsoft's app store rather than fixing this mess.

  • When will the GUI get fixed?

  • @Alin: Re:  I don't remember seeing a page requiring leg measurement numbers and I don't know what Cancel button you clicked, but it seems to me you canceled the registration process.

    The first line on the registration page states "Thank you for taking the time to fill out the following online form. If you do not want to submit your information, click Cancel." Well, since I never fill in marketing information for anyone unless they agree to pay me, I pressed Cancel. What it doesn't say is "If you press cancel, we won't give you an activation key"

    So to test your theory, I got a local 5 year old who goes by the name of "Micky Mouse" to fill out the registration form. And sure enough, It DID supply me a registration key. So now Mickey Mouse has a registered copy of VS2012 Installed.

    Thiss is all under IE8, so you CAN use IE8 to register VS2012 Desktop providing you're prepared to fill in the M$ questionairre.



  • @Judwin: "So now Mickey Mouse has a registered copy of VS2012 Installed."

    :-) Good for Mickey!

    Anyway, I opened a bug for the external team in charge with the registration pages to allow obtaining product ids if that marketing data is indeed optional, or otherwise make clear that canceling the registration process will result in a product Id not being provided.

  • No Add, New Solution folder.  You can Add, New filter, but that's within a project. There is no way to add a folder outside a project, not by a right click on the solution name, then add, then new solution folder.  Not there in X.

    The good news is that 2012 uses the same solution and project file formats as 2010.  If you have 2010 Pro you can use that to add the folders.  Something so basic left out of X.  I was about to reinstall, thinking it broke, but it always was this way.

  • Hi

    I would like to understand more about the problems you are having with the Express registration.  If you see any issue, it would be great if you can share any details on the errors you are seeing with me, the url that is causing the error, your configuration details, etc.  You can reach me at carl dot brochu at Microsoft dot com.  Thanks!


  • I tried to install "Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop" on a Windows 7 Professional 64 bit OS (the ISO and also the download editon) but got the message "... missing component ..." but the component that is missing wasn't listed. Is there a log where I could look what went wrong?


  • @Andreas: Logs should be in the windows\temp directory. Also see the below link and note Microsoft's post which is the 4th post from the bottom that page. Also you might want to check to see if the .Net 4.5 framework installed properly.

  • This is great! I have been wanting to use C++11 features that are not implemented in VC++ 2010.  Looking the gift horse in the mouth, I see one big abscessed tooth. Can you PLEASE make it possible to use the look-and-feel of 2010? PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE? That gift horse was beeeautiful.

  • Oh my. The dark theme is even worse than the light one. I dearly want to see one more item in the drop-down menu, under "Dark" and "Light", i.e., "VS 2010 Exactly". Until that happy day, I guess I will just have to use the Light theme and turn down the contrast on my monitor.

  • When would be able to compile binaries for Windows XP? Is the support for WinXP executables on the cards in the future?

  • Since Microsoft released VS2012 a couple of weeks ago, they have completely discontinued VS2010.  Unfortunately we need an additional seat, and we cannot buy one.  Every time we upgrade VS versions it causes havok with our product development and our customers.  Upgrading to 2010 took one of our developers two weeks to make it compatible, and it took us two months to shake out all the bugs that were introduced by API incompatibilities between MFC library versions. It also causes installer problems for us. Because of these issues we don't like to switch until we issue a major release of our own product.

    This is a big problem for us.  How can we get another VS2010 seat?

  • This is great, thank you microsoft :)

    One issue I have is with directx debugging. Previously I was using pix from the directx sdk but now that directx has moved so the windows sdk included with the compiler this is no longer available. Instead graphics debugging is incorporated into visual studio, which is great. Except that the express edition no longer includes it so it's no longer possible to debug direct3d applications using the free tools.

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