UPDATE: Great news!!! Microsoft has seen the error of their ways. They have formally announced that they will in fact release VS2012 Express for desktop apps (instead of just Metro) – http://blogs.msdn.com/b/visualstudio/archive/2012/06/08/visual-studio-express-2012-for-windows-desktop.aspx. This is a big win for students and hobbyists.
Well VS2012 is finally in RC mode. I have to say the UI is looking better but please, for the love of all that use VS every day, GET RID OF THE STUPID ALL CAPS MENUS!!!!! Who in the world is designing this stuff in Redmond? It’s like they never took UI design 101 classes. Everybody who has used a computer for more than 5 minutes knows where the menus are so why do they have to be highlighted? It couuld just be me but it seems like the management at MS are making more and more missteps with this release as we get closer. Now on to the really, really disasterous news for VS2012…
You will no longer be able to create WinForms/WPF apps for any OS nor any app for pre-Win8 OSes in VS 20102, for free. That’s right the only type of desktop app you can create in VS20102 Express is Metro (which only runs on Win8). We all know that Metro is not going to catch on any time soon because Win8 is not going to be that popular. Yet MS is going out of their way to force Win8 and Metro down everyone’s throat. Give it up MS. Win8 is not a mandatory upgrade so unless somebody buys a new PC (and doesn’t get the downgrade DVD) Win7 will continue to be the most heavily used OS for the foreseeable future. Yet students and hobbyist won’t be able to write desktop apps with VS2012 Express.
I can’t possibly imagine what group at MS thinks this is a good idea. As a part-time professor we use MSDNAA (or DreamSpark as it is called now) to teach classes. But it takes a couple of weeks to get the students into the system and access to the software. During this time students need to be able to write programs. Currently they can download the Express edition and upgrade (if they desire) to the full version when it is available. But now, thanks to the absolutely moronic decision by MS, schools are going to have to make a tough decision – stick with VS 2010 or switch to a different IDE. The third option (that MS is likely hoping for) – upgrading all school computers to Win8 and teaching Metro is just completely unrealistic. Firstly first year students cannot possibly be expected to write Metro-style apps after just a couple of lectures. That’s sort of what console apps are for. Secondly upgrading school computers is something that takes time, at least a semester, and never done lightly. Thirdly most schools skip a version because they can rarely justify the resources and (I believe) most schools already switched to Win7. Finally, unless you’re teaching .NET, any compiler will do and their are a lot of free compilers already available. VS is great but if the cost of using it is high then nobody will.
At this point I think MS has just put the nail in the coffin for student and hobbyist programmers. VS2012 Express is not a viable product for them anymore. Therefore they will either stick with VS2010 or switch to another product entirely. Now normally I’d say that a free product cannot be knocked but in this case one of the very big benefits of VS Express is early accessibility to new programmers which leads to a more likely use of the (paid) product professionally. But with VS2012 Express, as the current RC stands at any rate, this will not be an option.
So, fellow developers, band together and let MS know how stupid this plan to not allow non-Metro development on VS2012 Express is. Voice your opinion and force MS to change their plans before they doom the students and hobbyists to VS2010 or subpar IDEs. It can only hurt us long term as we have to deal with junior developers who have no experience with VS in school because of this draconian practice.