Microsoft adds Windows 8 Desktop support to Visual Studio 2012 Express

The free Express version of Microsoft's Visual Studio 2012 tool suite will allow developers to build more than just Metro-Style, Win RT-based apps for Windows 8.

The team building the next release of Visual Studio has responded to developer criticism and is adding support for building Windows 8 Desktop apps to VS 2012 Express.

Last month, there was quite a bit of developer outcry when Microsoft officials revealed the decision to limit Visual Studio 2012 Express -- the free, entry level version of its product -- to development of Windows 8 Metro-Style, Win RT-based apps only. "No-cost desktop software development is dead on Windows 8," wrote Ars Technica at the time of the announcement.

"If you want to develop desktop applications — anything that runs at the command line or on the conventional Windows desktop that remains a fully supported, integral, essential part of Windows 8 — you'll have two options: stick with the current Visual C++ 2010 Express and Visual C# 2010 Express products, or pay about $400-500 for Visual Studio 11 Professional," said Ars' Peter Bright.

Microsoft rolled out its system requirements for Visual Studio 2012 SKUs in late May. At that time, the company said there would be free Express SKUs for Windows 8 Metro Windows Phone and Windows Azure, but not Windows 8 Desktop.

In a June 8 post to the Microsoft Visual Studio blog, Corporate Vice President Soma Somasegar notified developers of the change:

"(W)e heard from our community that developers want to have for Windows desktop development the same great experience and access to the latest Visual Studio 2012 features at the Express level.

"Today, I’m happy to announce that we will add Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop to the Visual Studio 2012 family. This will bring to the Visual Studio Express family significant new capabilities that we’ve made available in Visual Studio 2012 for building great desktop applications."

The Visual Studio Express for Windows Desktop SKU will allow developers to use C++, C# or Visual Basic to create Windows desktop and console apps, Somasegar said.

He also confirmed that Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop will be available this fall, the same time that Windows 8 is expected to be generally available. Update: As Ars' Bright noted, though, the Desktop version of VS 2012 Express will not RTM when the rest of Visual Studio 2012 does; it will be later. (Fall is also the same time that Microsoft may hold its Build 2.0 conference, according to some of my tipsters. October could be a busy month....)

Today isn't the first time the Visual Studio team has changed direction as a result of feedback from the testing community. Recently, the team altered the look and feel of Visual Studio 2012 in response to push back from those unhappy with the color scheme and other UI elements in the Visual Studio 2012 Beta release.