Microsoft has this week made its top development tool, Visual Studio 2008, available for download to its professional developer subscribers.
The product line includes several editions, ranging from the low-end Visual Studio 2005 Express for students and hobbyists to Visual Studio Team System, a suite with a server geared at teams of programmers.
Formally code-named Orcas, Visual Studio has features for developer productivity, workflow, data handling, and front-end development for Windows Vista.
The release includes technology called Language Integrated Query (LINQ) which is aimed at making it easier to build applications that tap into different data sources.
The product also includes visual modelling tools, a step in the company's plans to simplify application modelling and make it mainstream. It is based on the latest version of the .NET Framework, the underlying software for developing and running applications written with Visual Studio.
S. Somasegar, vice president of Microsoft's tool division, said that the company sought to include regular customer feedback in the development process.
"When I look back over the last few years at how we were able to ship these two products, I truly believe that both our customer input and our renewed focus on intentional engineering allowed us to release a great product in the timeline that we originally set out to hit," he said in his blog.
Visual Studio 2008 will be formally launched on 27 February next year along with Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008.