Microsoft delivers preview of Visual Studio 2015; new free Community version

Microsoft is rolling out a slew of Visual Studio announcements meant to enable devs to create any and all kinds of apps on a variety of target platforms.

Microsoft is making available as of November 12 a preview of its next Visual Studio release, as well as a brand-new free version of Visual Studio 2013.

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Visual Studio '14 (as it was codenamed) -- now officially christened Visual Studio 2015, is available in preview form as of today, as is the accompanying .NET 2015 preview.

Microsoft launched a first preview of Visual Studio 2015 in June 2014 , noting at that Microsoft's goal was to release the product in calendar 2015.

Microsoft's "Roslyn" .Net compiler platform , ASP.NET 5 ( codenamed Project K ) and supporting Apache Cordova tooling are all slated to be part of VS '14. Microsoft also is continuing to flesh out standards support for Visual C++ in the release, as well. Smart unit testing (formerly known as PEX) and Visual Studio Tools for Apache Cordova integrations are part of the preview, as well. 

A Microsoft-developed Visual Studio Emulator for Android, in preview form, also is available today and supports the Visual Studio 2015 preview. The emulator is aimed at developers using Visual Studio to build for Android.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is moving to replace its free Visual Studio Express SKU with a new offering: Visual Studio Community. Visual Studio Community 2013 is free and available for download today.

Visual Studio Community 2013 offers access to more than 5,000 existing extensions to Visual Studio, as well as providing a variety of Visual Studio tools, including Peek, Blend, Code Analysis, Graphical Debugging and full C# refactoring. It is meant for individual developers and developers in small companies, but not for enterprise developers, officials said.

"We really want to open up access in a friction-free way to broader set of people," said Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Developer Division chief Soma Somasegar. The Community version will "let you develop any and all kinds of apps -- desktop, web, cloud, devices. Or you can build a .NET app running on Linux. And it's free," Somasegar added, which might give this SKU might greater appeal to the open-source community.

Microsoft is currently planning to phase out Visual Studio Express, which was aimed at hobbyists, and not those developing commercial apps, over the course of the next year or so, Somasegar said.

Microsoft also is making available today Visual Studio 2013 Update 4, the fourth collection of feature updates for VS 2013 since VS 2013 was released last year.

The company took the wraps off all these new Visual Studio deliverables on day one of its Connect(); developer event in New York City.

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