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It sounds like a coffee mug; “You don’t have to be a student to get great software deals but it helps”.

A lot of high-end software companies provide extremely good value packages for students often involving completely free giveaway editions, stripped-down versions or huge discounts on the off-the-shelf price.

Maybe you hate Microsoft for charging so much for its operating system, but at least it also has plenty of great free software giveaways (such as Windows Live). This year it has released two great deals, one for students only and the other for anyone else interested in getting into software or web development:

Visual Studio 2008 Express Editions

The Visual Studio Express editions are feature-limited but not in a way that will affect most beginners just wanting to try out development themselves. The Express editions are available for anyone to download and include four main applications, the two main stand-outs being;

Visual Basic 2008 Express

If you’ve ever wanted to have a go at learning how to develop your own Windows applications then this is the best place to start. 2008 Express includes the capabilities to create applications using the new Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and Microsoft provides plenty of free guides, tutorials, samples and extra resources.



Visual Web Developer 2008 Express

Visual Web Developer is for the design and creation of web pages and more. 2008 Express includes a lot more support and tools for using CSS, building JavaScript applications and more complex data-driven web sites.

It’s great for learning for the same reasons described above, you’ll find plenty of tutorials and assistance.


The Express editions also includes Visual C# 2008 and Visual C++ 2008 for more.



DreamSpark is restricted to students currently attending a university or academic institute which has been accredited and signed up for this program. The number of universities is actually pretty comprehensive and I would guess most universities around the world have actually joined up.

You’ll have to use the student number and password you should have received from your university. Verification is simple and instant before you can download for free any of Microsoft’s software for designers and developers. These aren’t trial or feature limited in anyway and are the exact tools you can buy off the shelf for hundreds of dollars:

Visual Basic 2008 Professional Edition

Provides the features missing from the Express edition. Create software for Windows, the web and devices running Windows Mobile. You can also create applications with then new Office 2007 Ribbon UI or create addins for the Office applications like Word and Outlook.

This file is downloaded as an ISO file which you’ll need to burn to a DVD before installing The Best, Free Alternatives to Nero CD/DVD Burner The Best, Free Alternatives to Nero CD/DVD Burner Don't waste money on a CD/DVD burning tool! A freeware application might be all you need. Here we have compiled five alternatives to Nero Burning ROM for your Windows PC. Read More . Or if you have a mount program to mount ISO files Mount Zip Files and CD/DVD Images with Pismo File Mount Mount Zip Files and CD/DVD Images with Pismo File Mount Read More that should be fine as well.

Expression Studio 2

Expression Studio is Microsoft’s set of products designed to compete with Adobe’s developer and designer software such as Dreamweaver and PhotoShop. This installation is 500MB and includes:

  • Expression Web
  • Expression Blend
  • Expression Design
  • Expression Media
  • I’m still only trying these products out for myself so I can’t really give you a honest opinion at this point. For the price of free though there is little to complain about. Incidentally the Expression 2 applications were all re-written in WPF. An interesting point although I’m not sure what advantage this gives, perhaps someone can help me?


    XNA Game Studio 2

    The strength of this application is that it enables developers to easily create games for both Windows and Xbox 360 which have support for the Windows Live and Xbox Live respective multiplayer gaming networks. This application is for hobbyists and independent developers, for fun or profit.

    The student download also includes a 12 month trial subscription to XNA Creaters Club which would normally be $100 per year. You won’t get access to premium content though. Seriously, what’s with these stingy companies these days?

    If you try these tools you’ll discover the software alone isn’t the best part of this, but the community, the extra resources, free assistance and tutorials and sample code and templates which will go a long way to helping people who are teaching themselves.

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