(Free) WinForms/WPF is Dead in VS2012 Express

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.


  1. peterchen

    maybe if students are not cheap they can pay for this softwares.

    I think you’re wrong regarding a big success of Win8.
    I like the tile interface.

    Windows 8 look is very bold beautiful and fluid.

    im so happy for codename:Windows 8 and i think Windows 95 was a big deal for users and developers alike.

    Overall, this release feels smoother, faster, snappier, and more stable.

    with this your luck can be perfect.

    now with touch you can have all your requirements plus even more.

    My prediction is clear and I know that there will be a much perfect luck for the whole W(P)8(RT) universe than Microsoft can imagine.

    and dont forget mark as answer and log uri

  2. Sorry @peterchen but Michael is absolutely correct -Windows 8 is a great operating system underneath but the forced imposition of Metro on a desktop is way beyond a bad decision and it will fail big time. Metro on a tablet form factor would be a viable contender in the existing Android/iPad marketplace but you only have to spend half an hour surfing Google to see that 80% of people who have tried it think it is a disaster, with the other 20% absolutely loving it. It’s curious but I have yet to see a half-way opinion where anybody thinks it is not brilliant but just OK enough to warrant paying for an upgrade.

    Microsoft are committing commercial suicide, and the metro issue will be the basis for case studies for business students to chew over for decades to come.

  3. Michael Taylor

    To be clear I don’t think Metro is a bad idea or that Win8 is completely useless. I just believe that Metro isn’t going to be revolutionary or even overly meaningful until Windows vNext simply because it requires Win8 and the new OS isn’t going to supplant XP or Win7. Once post-Win8 OSes become prevalent then Metro stands a chance but, at least today, I don’t think it makes good business sense to write/migrate an app to Metro given that it only works on Win8 and the amount of code that would have to be redone. It isn’t like Metro is just another .NET platform. It has its own subsystem (or portion thereof). I think it will take a while before it’ll catch on, if at all.

    Win8 is targeting touch environments which are not that popular on desktops or notebooks (which continue to be the predominant computing environment for Windows). So forcing everyone to use a touch-friendly UI is foolish. Windows has from the earliest days supported multiple shells. The familiar desktop of Windows is nothing more than Windows Explorer (unfortunately the exact same program that is also the file management tool) but that is not the OS. MS could have easily created the touch-friendly shell of Win8 and determined (or allowed the user to select) which shell to use based upon whether touch was available. Instead we’re all burdened with it. I haven’t found anybody yet who finds the new UI intuitive especially compared to the old one. I think the stuff coming in Win8 will be useful down the road but not at this point in time and not for the predominant hardware that Windows runs on. It’s just my opinion though.