Microsoft Hearts Programmers! 11 Free Development Tools From MS

Christine Chan 10-01-2019

If you use Microsoft Windows and have an interest in programming, you may feel overwhelmed with where to start. After all, programming and development is a big industry, and there are many different languages and software programs. Maybe you don’t even know how to code yet, but want to learn.


It’s never too late to learn something new, including coding. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, you need a starting point. There are plenty of resources out there, but some of the best development tools for Microsoft users come from Redmond.

Here are some great development tools from Microsoft, including cross-platform options.

1. Visual Studio 2017

Visual Studio 2017

Visual Studio 2017 is a fully featured integrated development environment (IDE), and it’s jam-packed with plenty of powerful features:

  • Uses a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) interface, focusing on drag-and-drop visuals
  • Emphasizes Projects & Solutions
  • Comes with auto-completion, a debugger, database integration, server setup and configurations
  • Features source control, bug tracking, and deployment tools for a variety of different app types
  • Best for .NET developers
  • Still works great for developing on iOS, Android, and Windows
  • Supports C#, Visual Basic, C++, TypeScript, F#, JavaScript, Python, etc.

Visual Studio Community 2017 is the free version, and it’s designed for students, open-source, and individual developers.


Microsoft also has Visual Studio Professional 2017 for professional and small business development teams, as well as Visual Studio Enterprise 2017 for larger companies, but these two only have a free trial. Professional has a MSRP of $499, and Enterprise goes for $6000.

Download: Visual Studio for Windows | Mac (Free)

2. Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code is a lightweight code source editor that still packs a punch in terms of features.

  • Used for viewing, editing, running, and debugging various application source code
  • Doesn’t have the visual WYSIWYG elements of Visual Studio
  • Geared towards files instead of projects
  • No scaffolding support but has built-in Git commands
  • Features IntelliSense so it provides smart completions based on variable types, function definitions, and imported modules
  • Highly customizable with extensions for new languages, debuggers, new services, and more.

We also have some useful productivity tips for Visual Studio Code 10 Essential Productivity Tips for Visual Studio Code Visual Studio Code blows other programming text editors out of the water. It's free, open source, lightning fast, and packed with productivity features. Read More , as well as a full rundown on the excellent Mac version Visual Studio Code Is the Perfect Text and Scripting Editor for Mac Microsoft's text editor supports myriad languages, and you don't even need to compare it to Xcode, since they serve different needs. Read More .

Download: Visual Studio Code for Windows | Mac | Linux (Free)

3. XML Notepad 2007

XML Notepad 2007

Microsoft’s XML Notepad 2007 provides users with a simple and intuitive interface to view and edit XML documents. Key features include:

  • Tree View that’s synchronized with Node Text View, so you can quickly edit code names and values
  • Incremental search
  • Cut/copy/paste functionalities
  • Drag-and-drop interface
  • Infinite undo/redo for editing operations
  • Configurable fonts and colors

Even though the program name has “2007” in it and appears old, it’s still a very powerful piece of software from Microsoft that makes dealing with XML documents simple.

Download: XML Notepad 2007 for Windows (Free)

4. Small Basic for Kids

Small Basic for Kids

If you have a kid who’s interested in programming, then you should check out Small Basic.

  • Beginner-friendly programming language and UI
  • Specifically made to teach kids how to code
  • Easy-to-understand text-based programming language and tool
  • Integrates Fun, Social, Simple, and Gradual programming dynamics
  • For children 3 and up

Download: Small Basic for Windows (Free)

5. Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure is a fantastic resource for anyone looking into development on Windows and other platforms.

  • Free to sign up
  • Receive a $200 credit to explore paid Azure services for 30 days
  • Won’t be charged anything until you upgrade
  • Free services include testing and deploying enterprise apps
  • Create customized mobile experiences
  • Gain insights from user data to create better experiences

To get Azure, just sign up for a free account. You’ll need a phone number and a credit card, but they only put a $1 hold charge on the card to verify, and you won’t be charged anything unless you choose to upgrade.

With Azure, you can sign up for a free account and get 12 months of popular free services, a $200 credit to explore paid Azure services for 30 days, and you won’t be charged anything until you decide to upgrade.

6. Visual Studio App Center

Visual Studio App Center

Think of Visual Studio App Center as your mission control for anything app related.

  • Automatically builds apps
  • Lets you test on real devices
  • Distribute app to beta testers
  • Collect crash reports from users
  • Gather user analytics
  • Create custom events for data gathering for future improvements
  • Add push notifications to your apps in minutes

To use Visual Studio App Center, just sign up for a free account. You may use GitHub, Microsoft, Facebook, or Google accounts if it’s easier.

7. Microsoft Virtual Academy

Microsoft Visual Academy

If you’re looking to program across a wide variety of platforms and structures, then Microsoft Virtual Academy’s your best bet.

  • Hundreds of online training courses to build technical skills and advance careers
  • Windows 10 development
  • Cloud Development
  • Game Development
  • Web Development
  • Database Development
  • C#/XAML
  • Visual Studio
  • Beginners
  • Mobile App Development
  • All courses have easy-to-follow videos and directions
  • Videos can be downloaded for offline access
  • Create playlists
  • Track progress with self-assessments
  • Earn certificates for completed courses

To reap the benefits of Microsoft Virtual Academy, just make a free account.

8. MSDN Magazine

MSDN Magazine

The MSDN Magazine is a valuable online resource.

  • Provides readers with up-to-the-minute, comprehensive coverage of Microsoft development technologies
  • Great for desktop, mobile, cloud, or web developers
  • Full access to the online archive, and latest the issue is always available to anyone as a PDF
  • Features sample code and apps to experiment with

If you want some light reading and sample code to tinker with as you learn, then MSDN Magazine is a fantastic free resource.

9. Microsoft Development Newsletter

Microsoft Development Newsletter

If you want to stay up-to-date on critical developer news through your inbox, then you should subscribe to the Microsoft Developer Newsletter.

  • Issues are bi-weekly
  • Packed with current development news
  • Still retains an easy-to-digest, compact form
  • Entire archive is available online
  • Subscribe through your Microsoft account

If you don’t mind another newsletter in your inbox, this is a great way to stay up-to-date with Microsoft development.

10. Azure App Service

Microsoft Azure App Service

The Azure App Service is part of the Microsoft Azure suite that we mentioned earlier.

  • Four app types: Web App, Web App with Containers, Functions App, and API App
  • Choose from a variety of custom templates that go with each app type
  • Great for quickly and easily building web and mobile apps for any platform or device

Just sign in or create an account and start building.

11. Visual Studio Dev Essentials

Visual Studio Dev Essentials

If you want a comprehensive all-in-one hub of useful development tools, then make sure to check out Visual Studio Dev Essentials.

  • Quick access to a myriad of development tools
  • Also has more premium services that you can access trials for, such as Syncfusion
  • Shortcuts to virtual desktop applications
  • Provides user insights

Dev Essentials is a nice central hub for many of the tools we’ve discussed, and provides a few more helpful resources. All you need to access Virtual Studio Dev Essentials is a Microsoft account.

There’s Never a Bad Time to Learn Programming

It doesn’t matter who you are or how old you are, programming is a skill that anyone can learn at any point in their life if they are truly determined.

While many developers may use Apple products for their work, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any good resources or tools from Microsoft themselves. These are some of the best options to help you with development, and they come straight from Microsoft.

Now that you’re armed with some fantastic resources and tools, check out these great beginner projects for new programmers The 10 Best Beginner Projects for New Programmers Want to learn programming but don't know where to start? These beginner programming projects and tutorials will start you off. Read More .

Related topics: App Development, Microsoft Small Basic, Programming, Visual Studio Code.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Manmohan Dhawan
    July 3, 2019 at 6:35 am


  2. Manmohan Dhawan
    July 3, 2019 at 6:35 am

    Awesome !