If you are from the USA or Canada you can try and get a free copy of Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 standard edition. All you have to do is watch three webcasts after you've signed up at the promotional site. What else will you get? A Microsoft Developers Security DVD, a 50% discount on a Microsoft Certified Professional Exam and a voucher that allows you to buy Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition with an MSDN Professional Subscription at renewal pricing (a $400 savings).
This seems to be a great deal even though the offer is only valid while supplies last. Be one of the first before it makes it to Digg front page.
Update: Both the offer and Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 are not available anymore. Microsoft is now offering so called Express Products next to standard versions of Visual Studio. These Visual Studio Express versions are free to use, but limited in comparison to their commercial counterparts.
All Visual Studio Express versions can be downloaded from the official website. The latest version at the time of writing is Visual Studio 2010. A first beta version of Visual Studio 11 has been released on the other hand which indicates a refresh of the series later this year.
Visual Studio 2010 is a complete development environment from Microsoft for creating web applications, client (Windows) applications, and Windows Phone 7 applications. In contrast, Visual Studio 2010 Express is a set of free, entry-level products that features streamlined interfaces and core capabilities that focus on providing the tools that you need for creating applications for a single platform. For example, Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone provides the tools that you need to create games and applications for Windows Phone 7. Integration with Visual Studio Team Foundation Server, and advanced design, development and test capabilities, such as 64-bit development, unit testing and remote debugging, are not included in the Express products.
Update 2: Microsoft has released Visual Studio 2012 which is now the latest version available. You can still download Visual Studio Express 2012 for free to your system, or instead try out one of the commercial applications instead. Note that the 2012 versions of Visual Studio are only compatible with Windows 7 and newer versions, and not Vista or XP.
Microsoft is still making available the 2010 product editions at the same website so that you can download those instead.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.