You probably already know this, but just in case you didn’t: Microsoft is making the Express versions of its Visual Studio development software free for a year. These are full-featured compilers for the Visual Basic, C++, C# and J# programming languages, and yes, you can make commercial software with them.

I don’t know why Microsoft hasn’t been doing this all along. One of the reasons I am where I am today was because I found a book that had a learning edition of Visual C++ 6 on it. The learning edition put a “Not for Commercial Use” popup at the beginning of every program you made for it, but was otherwise full-featured, giving me very valuable experience that later got me my first programming job. I always wondered why they didn’t make that edition available for free download from their web site.

Of course, this is probably Metrowerks’ worst nightmare, and this will probably coax the last few Borland users into the arms of the behemoth. Still, when the behemoth makes it easier to learn software development and reduces the development cost of making commercial software, you can’t help but be a little grateful.