I'm having trouble finding a feature comparison between Visual Studio 2012 Express Edition and the professional edition. I'm using the trial Professional version at the moment, but it'll run out soon, so I need to make a decision whether to purchase the full version.

Obviously, I can just try both initially and see if the Express edition is suitable, but the problem is that there are that many features in Visual Studio, there might be a really useful feature that was missing in the standard edition that I didn't even know existed! Or I didn't spot it was missing until later down the line. I could really do with a feature comparison list like the one for all non-Express editions here. It's a shame that page doesn't include the Express edition.

  • 1
    It's not worth a proper answer, but if you're doing desktop graphics, the Graphics Debugging feature is currently only available in paid SKUs. Sep 29, 2012 at 18:42
  • If you are a startup - a small, new company - you can get Visual Studio Professional free through Microsoft's BizSpark program. And lots of other software and goodies too.
    – MarkJ
    Nov 15, 2013 at 13:10

3 Answers 3


The biggest difference is that Express editions do not support plugins (No ReSharper, no add-ons). Additionally, the non-express versions are all combined, meaning you don't have to switch back and forth to get features from individual express versions if you have a project that crosses web, desktop, etc.

UPDATE 8/6/2015 - If you're looking for a free edition of Visual Studio today, you will most likely be using the Visual Studio Community Edition, which is very different from the Express edtions (better). Community Edition is essentially Professional Edition, but free for Individuals, and DOES support plugins!

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    Thankfully in 2012, they at least combined the different languages into a single Desktop edition. Sep 29, 2012 at 18:41
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    No Resharper?! Looks like I'm buying the Professional edition then. Can't live without it! There's also a bunch of other add ons that I'd really miss.
    – Dan
    Sep 29, 2012 at 21:51
  • @Dan express doesn't even support the web essentials plugin!
    – Nikos
    Feb 2, 2013 at 16:50
  • Without Resharper I ended up having all my classes in a single file on a small project I was doing at home, and VS lacks all the nice refactorings :( Apr 6, 2014 at 19:34

Short answer: Your link is good, but you are looking in the wrong place.

A good reference to compare Express with Standard is Comparing Visual Studio and Visual Studio Express 2012 for Web edition.

In general, the Express edition is lacking all design tools that you may need for architecture.

In prior VS Express versions, there was also lack of the NuGet support, and all the add-ons that you may get from Tools tab.

Also as mentioned, in order to develop a web-application and a Windows mobile application, you have to install two different versions of the Express edition, while it is not the case with other versions.


Microsoft makes the Express version for students, learners and newcomers. It's very easy to get started and is specially designed for doing one thing. This thing make learning faster and confuse someone new to programming less than a professional.

As noted above.

  1. Visual Studio Express web 13 only supported Web programming.

  2. Visual studio Express Desktop only supported Desktop programming.

Of course, the Express version doesn't provide plugin support and many good features.

Visual studio Professional is a paid version for professionals. If you got into development then you need more features, so Visual Studio Professional is more reliable in that condition.

I hope this answer helps :)


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