Getting Started with Visual Basic: Getting the VB Software


Welcome to the world of Visual Basic, where magic happens! The weird and whacky world of Visual Basic enables you to create any program for any Windows platform. Before you can start coding in Visual Basic, you need to know where to find it and how to install it; this is what you will learn today.

Before you can continue, you need a few history lessons...

Visual Studio History

Visual Studio contains Visual Basic, C#, and many others. Here is how Visual Studio evolved into the coding powerhouse it is today.

Visual Studio 97

Codenamed Boston, starting the beginning of Visual Studio codenames, Visual Studio 97 was released in 1997. Visual Studio 1997 bundled many of Microsoft's programming tools together for the first time; all prior versions were sold separately. Visual Studio 1997 included Visual C++, Visual Basic, Visual FoxPro, Visual J++ 1.1, and InterDev.

Visual Studio 6.0 (1998)

Codenamed Aspen, Visual Studio 6.0 was released in 1998, and is the last version to run on the Windows 9x platform and also the last version before the .NET Framework. This version is also the last version to include Visual J++ because Microsoft had to remove it due to a settlement with Sun Microsystems.

Visual Studio .NET (2002)

Microsoft released Visual Studio .NET, codenamed Rainier, in 2002. The biggest change was the introduction of a managed code development environment using the .NET Framework. Programs developed using .NET are not compiled to machine language, but instead to a format called Microsoft Intermediate Language (MSIL). This was the first version of Visual Studio to require an NT-based Windows platform.

Visual Studio .NET 2003

Codenamed Everest, Microsoft introduced a minor upgrade to Visual Studio .NET, called Visual Studio .NET 2003, in 2003. It included an upgrade to the .NET Framework to version 1.1, and was the first release to support developing programs for mobile devices, using ASP.NET or the .NET Compact Framework.

Visual Studio 2005

Whidbey, or rather Visual Studio, 2005 was released in 2005. Visual Studio 2005 supported all the new features introduced in .NET Framework 2.0, including ASP.NET 2.0 and generics. New project types were added to support ASP.NET Web services. Visual Studio 2005 also included a local Web server, separate from IIS, that could host ASP.NET applications during development and testing. It also supported all SQL Server 2005 databases.

Visual Studio 2008

Visual Studio 2008 (Orcas) was released to the general public in 2008 and included the new .NET Framework 3.5. Visual Studio 2008 was focused on development of Windows Vista, Office 2007, and Web applications. For visual design, a new Windows Presentation Foundation visual designer and a new HTML/CSS editor influenced by Microsoft Expression Web were included. J# was not included. Visual Studio 2008 also supported multi-targeting, which lets the developers choose which version of the .NET Framework (out of 2.0, 3.0, 3.5, Silverlight CoreCLR, or the .NET Compact Framework) the assembly ran on.

Visual Studio 2010

Codenamed Dev10, Visual Studio 2010, along with .NET Framework 4.0, was released in 2010. The Visual Studio 2010 IDE was redesigned, which cleared the UI organization. The new IDE supported multiple document windows and floating tool windows better, while offering better multi-monitor support. The IDE shell was rewritten using the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), whereas the internals were redesigned using Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF)

Visual Studio 2012

 Visual Studio 2012 was released in 2012. Visual Studio 2012 included:

  • Code Snippets
  • Semantic Colorization
  • New Solution Explorer
  • Reference Highlighting
  • Member List Filtering
  • Automatic Display of IntelliSense list

Visual Studio 2013

Visual Studio 2013 was released in 2013.

Visual Studio 2015

The Release Candidate of Visual Studio 2015, or Visual Studio 14, was released in April 2015.

The BASIC language

Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code (BASIC) was designed on May 1, 1964 by John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz. BASIC was intended specifically for less technical users who did not have or want the mathematical background previously expected of programmers. BASIC was based on FORTRAN II, with some influences from ALGOL 60 and concentrated on supporting straightforward mathematical work, with matrix arithmetic support as a batch language, and character string functionality.

For a more detailed history on the BASIC language, have a look here.

Visual Basic History

Visual Basic is mainly used for building type-safe and object-oriented applications. With Visual Basic, developers can target Windows, Web, and mobile device platforms. Targeting the Microsoft .NET Framework, programs written in Visual Basic benefit from security and language interoperability.

For a more detailed history on Visual Basic, have a read through here.

For more information regarding the .NET Framework, have a look here.

Getting the Software

Getting the Visual Basic software is relatively easy. You have to keep in mind that there are many options available to you. Visual Basic editions can be split into the following categories:

  • Visual Studio Enterprise: An integrated, end-to-end solution for teams of any size with demanding quality and scale needs
  • Visual Studio Community: Free, full-featured, and extensible tool for developers building non-enterprise applications
  • Visual Studio Professional Professional developer tools and services for individual developers or small teams
  • Visual Studio Express Visual Studio Express editions provide free tools to develop Windows Universal Platform applications, Web sites, and Windows desktop applications.
    • Visual Studio Express for the Desktop
    • Visual Studio Express for the Web

You will have to download Visual Studio to get Visual Basic. In much older versions of Visual Basic and the Visual Studio suite, you could have acquired Visual Basic on its own, Visual C++ on its own, and so on. With the advent of the .NET Framework in the early 2000s, all the tools were shipped only as a complete bundle.

Depending on your Visual Studio Version that you would like, you could go to either of these sites to find a download suitable to your needs:


The start of your programming career can seem quite scary, but it is simple as long as you have the right tools at your disposal. These tools are well worth exploring more.

About the Author

Hannes DuPreez

Hannes du Preez is a Microsoft MVP for Visual Basic for the eighth consecutive year. He loves technology and loves Visual Basic. He has a lot of experience in .NET and loves to share his love, pain and musings about Visual Basic

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  • finding Visual Studio 2010 express

    Posted by James Mclean on 02/20/2016 09:54am

    I have been trying to find Visual Studio 2010 express for some time. I have been told that there is no such thing. I have found several sites whaich have the four languages in a file of about 700 megs. nothing gives me Visual Studio express. I have been on the Microsoft forums. They haven't helped yet. Is it possible I am doing something wrong during installation or I am missing something on my machine. I have windows seven. I don't want to go to a more modern version if I can avoid it.

    • Re:finding Visual Studio 2010 express

      Posted by on 02/22/2016 06:00am

      You will likely not be able to find Visual Studio Express 2010 for download at this point due to the fact that Microsoft is now on Version 2015. Microsoft is now pushing the Community Edition, which is a more full-featured version than the individual Express versions. Having said that, there are also Express versions, but again, they are more current. You can find them at the following URL: you have an MSDN subscription, you can often get to the older versions of Visual Studio. I'm guessing that since you are looking for an Express version, you likely don't have MSDN.

  • Great Info

    Posted by Ron Welch on 02/15/2016 09:30am

    Great info for a beginners like me. The Community Edition is an awesome feature!

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