Want to learn how to write applications for computers and devices? Microsoft is opening up Visual Studio and .NET to individual developers for free!

Visual Studio is one of the tools I use to write some of the web and console applications my clients use each day.  Visual Studio offers a pretty stable and user-friendly environment for writing Windows, Android and iOS applications, this would be a good environment to learn in if you would like to start programming.

Here are a few steps to get started (perform these steps on your home computer):

  1. Make sure you have at least Internet Explorer Version 10 installed on your home computer (you don’t absolutely have to have IE 10 but having version 10 will be a little less problematic). If you would like to install IE 10, you may install it from here: (first close all running applications on your home computer) http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/internet-explorer/download-ie and reboot after the installation.
  2. Install IIS on your home computer (first close all running applications on your home computer). Installing IIS on your home computer will allow you to easily view and test web applications from your home computer. If you do not install IIS, then you will not be able to easily test any web applications you create on your home computer, you will be forced to deploy your code to a web server somewhere to properly test it. Carefully review the screenshots on this page. The screenshots demonstrate how to install IIS on your home computer (the steps vary depending on your Windows version but this gives you a good idea of how the installation is done): http://www.howtogeek.com/112455/how-to-install-iis-8-on-windows-8/.
  3. Download and install the Visual Studio software and tools to your home computer from here (read the system requirements before installation, the system requirements are towards the bottom of the download page and also close all running applications on your home computer prior to install): http://www.visualstudio.com/en-us/products/visual-studio-community-vs. You may keep the default selections during the installation. This installation may take up to two hours depending on the processing power of your home computer so plan on starting the installation and walking away (just check on it every 20 minutes or so). Do not attempt to do any other work on your home computer during this installation.
  4. Reboot your computer once the installation is complete. At the end of this installation it tells you that you may immediately launch Visual Studio but just out of best practice I always reboot following any installation. So, either click on “Launch” at the end of the installation or reboot and then find the Visual Studio icon on your desktop and double click on it to open Visual Studio (it may be in your start menu under Start > All Programs > Visual Studio 2013).
  5. You don’t have to sign in right now, I would recommend doing it at some point but as you are learning you can skip sign in by selecting “Not now, maybe later”.
  6. You might be prompted to set up your environment for the first time.  If you are, select “Visual C#” from the Development Settings dropdown menu.  You don’t have to select this.  C# is just what I select since I know I will primarily write in the language C#, this can be changed later to something else. Choose a color theme if you are prompted. Select Start Visual Studio. Note: opening Visual Studio for the first time may take several minutes.
  7. With Visual Studio open, you are now in the exploration and experimentation phase. This is where you will look around, read, watch tutorials, and try out sample code to learn as much as you can before jumping in. The first link you should see towards the top of the interface is “New to Visual Studio? Check out coding tutorials and sample Projects” (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/vstudio/dn439939), click on this link and begin! Expect to spend at least 40 hours in this exploration and experimentation phase to get a strong understanding of the environment and writing basic code. I would also recommend watching youtube.com tutorials on Visual Studio (ex. from youtube.com search on this phrase: visual studio community 2013 tutorial).

If you’ve made it through the exploration and experimentation phase of step 7 above, and you are still excited about programming, then it is time to jump into the deep end:

  1. Now is as good a time as any to decide what kind of programmer you will be.  Avoid lying to yourself, you know you better than anyone else ever will.  If you think you are a bad person then you will probably write code with malicious intent.  If you think you are a good person then you will hopefully write code with good intentions.  If you think you are a bad person but believe your ‘badness’ will go undetected because you will write code with malicious intent disguised as code with good intent, you are mistaken.  In the end all secrets are revealed, it doesn’t matter how well you attempt to conceal them.
  2. Carefully review programming rules and best practices from the following sites: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa260844(v=vs.60).aspx and http://www.w3.org/standards/. They may not make much sense now but they will as you begin to code.
  3. Carefully review code of ethics postings for computer professionals, ACM has a really good one:  http://www.acm.org/about/code-of-ethics, or Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programming_Ethics.
  4. Complete an introductory computer science book (ex. Invitation to Computer Science by G. Michael Schneider and Judith Gersting).  Make sure you read every chapter and successfully complete every exercise in the book.
  5. Learn HTML, the most basic language for creating web pages.  Go through the fantastic tutorials and chapters found here: http://www.w3schools.com/html/.

I will add more steps soon, happy coding!

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