Why Visual Basic 2005 Express?

When Microsoft started offering free Express editions of its Visual Studio Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and the main .NET languages, I was interested. On several occasions I could have done with a way to write small Windows applications, and Visual Basic looked nice, but it cost money and even when I had the cash available, I just never really got round to it.

Microsoft had been hyping Visual Basic.NET as a proper language, the one that dragged the old Visual Basic into the 21st century. Even as a non-programmer, I couldn't fail to hear about the bitter fighting between old VB users and Microsoft over the new .NET version of the language. The users of the outgoing VB6 were furious that VB.NET broke their programs and made their existing skills obsolete. Microsoft responded that VB.NET was a proper programming language, on an equal footing with their new baby, C#. Since I had no time or cash invested in VB6, this wasn't an issue for me.

I could easily have chosen C# 2005 Express Edition to start programming .NET, as it is also available as a free download that lets you create real, working Windows apps. However, I went with VB 2005, and having learned a lot since then, I don't regret the decision. Here is the reason that led me to choose VB 2005 Express:

Syntax. Having used BASIC for many years, I am comfortable with its verbose syntax. Although I'm not scared of semicolons and curly brackets, and have used them in  PHP and Javascript, I don't really care for them. I know that many professional coders prefer the sparse, clean C#, but professionals spend a great deal of time looking at code, and I don't. It always takes me a little longer to get into the way of things when I look at such code after days or weeks. I just get up to speed quicker with the english-like verbosity of VB. When caffeine-deprived, my brain prefers to see "End While" rather than having to go hunting for the owner of that "}", especially when there are a few Ifs, Whiles and Fors nested together. Why kid myself by using curly brackets like the cool kids, when in my head I'll always be translating them into the familiar old BASIC syntax?

Of course, I was also persuaded by Microsoft's promises that it treats VB on an equal basis with C# these days, and that VB 2005 has reinstated some of the features that the old VB6 crowd loved so much. Although I didn't really know anything about .NET, I did of course look at some of the online VB.NET versus C# debates. Hidden amongst the hordes of  teenagers flaming each other were comments from people who seemed like wise old hands, saying things like, "Its all about .NET, dummy! Just choose the language that has the syntax you're happiest with." That seemed like reasonable advice, so I took it.

Next I'll talk about my experiences of learning VB 2005.