Microsoft's Visual C++ compiler was first released in 1993, more than a decade ago. Over the years there have been many versions; some represented only a small improvement over the previous versions while others were dramatically improved. The release of Visual C++ .NET 2002 as part of Visual Studio .NET 2002 was perhaps the largest change in the tool since the original release. Everything that had been in earlier versions of Visual C++ was still in the 2002 version, but in addition a door had opened into the new world of managed code and the .NET runtime.
Unfortunately for C++ programmers, the full promise of the .NET world didn't pour out of the Visual C++ .NET 2002 box. There were so many things that Visual Basic.NET and C# programmers could do in the managed world that Visual C++ programmers could not. That's because the effort involved in making "It Just Works," to use one of the phrases the developers of Visual C++ applied to some of their successes, made it impossible to get everything else into the released product.
Then along came Visual C++ .NET 2003. I think of this, to borrow a phrase from an article by Stanley Lippman of Microsoft, as the "Still In Love With C++" release of Visual Studio. Features that had been missing from the 2002 release are in this one, which placed C++ programmers on a par with C# and VB programmers. For example, the WinForms designers can generate C++ code now, allowing you to build managed Windows applications with Rapid Application Development techniquesand the same classes and methods from the Base Class Libraries as the other managed languages.
It's also become quite clear, in the time since the .NET runtime was first released, that managed C++ occupies a special place in the pantheon of managed languages. It's the language of choice for integrating the old and the new worlds , and much of this book demonstrates to you how to combine old-style unmanaged code and new-style managed code in the same application. If interoperability is important to you, you're probably going to be working in C++ more than any other language.