Microsoft has announced it will ship a version of its Visual Studio Express 2012 for building Windows desktop applications, reversing an earlier decision to limit the Express version of the toolkit to building applications for the Windows 8 Metro user interface.
The change means users will be able to use Visual Studio Express to develop applications for the "traditional" Windows desktop UI. Visual Studio Express is the free version of Microsoft's more robust Visual Studio that's geared toward students and casual developers.
Microsoft, in a blog posted Friday, said the new Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop would land later this year - around the same time Windows 8 is widely expected to ship.
It's also the expected timeline for Visual Studio 2012, the next major release of the Microsoft flagship development toolkit. Microsoft debuted a Release Candidate version of Visual Studio 2012 late last month.
Last month, a blog posted by the Visual Studio team outlined the company's plans for Visual Studio Express, noting that developers wanting to build Windows desktop apps would have to use Visual Studio Professional or higher.
Developers were not happy at the Metro UI-only approach.
"Is the person responsible for these decisions trying to sabotage Microsoft?" asked one respondent named Chris.
Another saw the move as "evidence that [Microsoft] is scared that Metro might not succeed [on its own] without twisting people's arms. Talk about lack of self-confidence...," said NC72 in a comment.
Apparently the criticism hit home. The addition of a version of Visual Studio Express for desktop applications was disclosed in a new blog, posted by S. Somasegar, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Developer Division.
"As we've worked to deliver the best experience with Visual Studio for our platforms with Windows 8, Windows Phone, and for web and Windows Azure, we 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," Somasegar said.
"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," he said.
This time, responses to the blog were generally positive.
"This is huge - I want to thank Microsoft for this, what a reversal, such a great decision," said one commenter named Mike.
"A boneheaded decision was reversed! Whew. One step back from the brink," said jschroedl.
But others continued to criticise Microsoft.
"Why does there need to be a separate product for Desktop? This is stupid. You need to simplify your products. This is why Apple is stomping you, but you don't get it. Removing the ability to build desktop applications from Express was stupid to begin with," said one commenter named Joe.