How the mighty have fallen, eh, Microsoft? In an attempt to adapt to the new prevailing business models, and to accompany the launch of the Visual Studio 2015, it’s just been announced that Visual Studio 2013 can now be downloaded and used completely free. The Community edition, unlike its Express counterpart (which is soon to be withdrawn), offers many of the features of the Professional edition and gives you access to more than 5,000 extensions that enormously expand its possibilities.

There are no requirements or restrictions on its operation beyond being limited to non-commercial use for work groups of up to five people. It can be used to create all sorts of apps or services, whether free or paid. As it includes all the features of Visual Studio Professional, it lets you work with all sorts of languages: C++, Python, HTML5, JavaScript, and Microsoft’s proprietary languages C#, Visual Basic, and F# for .NET platforms.

Its install wizard lets you automatically download the developer kit and additional software needed to program on certain platforms, allowing you to create apps for both iOS and Android or Windows Phone. For instance, the latest version includes an Android emulator to test your apps to make sure they run properly on virtual devices with various different specs. Another useful tool for mobile development is its integration with Apache Cordova to use advanced device features by making use of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

With regard to the development environment, it offers all the features common to other IDEs with regards to code detection, code highlighting and autocomplete, as well as debugging features with ‘breakpoints’ even for projects on mobile platforms. It also lets you work in groups, with online project management and version control tools.

With all this, Microsoft aims to eat into the market share of other completely free IDEs, like Eclipse and Android Studio, that have become the development standards for certain platforms. Also, this launch includes Update 4, the most recent update since October 2013 which includes GPU diagnostic tools, improvements to the JSON editor, and support for SQL Server 2014.

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