Did you know that the Visual Basic 2005 compiler is available to you free of charge? You can download the .NET Framework with all included compilers directly from Microsoft's web site, and start using it immediately to develop and distribute your own .NET applications, all without shelling out a single penny.
Well, there are a few caveats. The main one is that you will have to use a tool such as Notepad to write all of your source code. And you will need to hand-type the statements that start the compilation process through the Windows Command Prompt. But other than that, it's a piece of cake. And it's still free.
If you're not that bold, you should probably fork over a little cash to obtain Visual Studio, the programming environment of choice for .NET application development. Although it's not free, you definitely get what you pay for.(Actually, Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition is free, so you get even more than you pay for.) Visual Studio is stuffed with features and support tools and visual designers and behind-the-scenes automatic code generation wizards, all of which let you concentrate on developing great code without having to worry about the picky details of setting up the compiler and deployment options.
This chapter discusses some of the snazzy features included with Visual Studio 2005. As with all the chapters in this book, we have concentrated on Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition. However, most, if not all, recipes in this book should work with any edition of Visual Studio.