The Goals of this Module

• Understand the relationship between the .NET Framework and Visual


• Identify the version of Visual Studio.NET that is best for you

• Install Visual Studio.NET

• Customize the startup of Visual Studio.NET

• Know how to create a Windows application

When I was an elementary school student (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, as far as my daughters are concerned), I learned through countless teacher-imposed exercises to multiply and divide several digit numbers in my mind. Fast-forwarding more decades than I care to count, when I now ask my daughters to compute the answers to less complex math homework problems, they whip out their calculators and tell me the answer—quite quickly and accurately, to be sure. When I then ask them instead to calculate the answer in their heads, they look at me as a prehistoric relic and tell me, "Pw, Dad, no one does that anymore."

Calculators do make our lives easier. Imagine the long line at your local fast food outlet if orders had to be calculated by pencil and paper rather than with the calculators built into cash registers. In business, software programs such as Microsoft Excel enable you to perform spreadsheet calculations in minutes that might take you hours with pencil and paper.

Calculators also have a negative side effect, however. Human nature being what it is, if we don't need to learn something, we may decide it is not worth the time and trouble. Research suggests that the availability of calculators has contributed substantially to a decline in students' computational skills. Despite calculators, computational skills still are necessary, not just in everyday situations in which a calculator may not be available, but also as a foundation for students to develop skills in creating algorithms and analyzing problems—skills essential in, among other areas, computer programming.

Just as calculators automate computation, Visual Studio.NET automates the creation of applications. For example, creating GUI elements such as menus, toolbars, and other controls strictly through code is difficult, whereas Visual Studio.NET e nables you to create these GUI elements simply by dragging and dropping. Indeed, Visual Studio.NET, consistent with prior versions of Visual Studio, enables you to create a Windows application without writing a single line of code! While the resulting Windows application is basic, being no more than a window with default functionality, it also is important in that it is the starting point, or foundation, for all of the Windows applications you will write in the following modules.

There is a danger of Visual Studio.NET doing so much for beginning programmers. They may be seduced by how easy Visual Studio.NET makes creating a Windows application. Consequently, they may just plunge in and start writing programs without really understanding the code they are writing or how the different parts of the program fit together. I have witnessed this with programming students working with prior versions of Visual Studio. They try to write more complex programs, are unable to do so because they don't understand the necessary foundation, become frustrated, and quit.

Because of the importance of understanding the code generated by Visual Studio.NET, this module will analyze that code line by line, as well as show you step by step how to use Visual Studio.NET to build a Windows application. Please resist the temptation to skip the code analysis and race ahead to writing programs in the succeeding modules. The relatively little time you spend now to understand the code will save you much time when you write code later.

You do need to take care of a few minor details before you start using Visual Studio.NET to write programs. First, you need to buy it. This module cannot give you tips on how to come up with the money. However, it will assist you in deciding which of the several versions of Visual Studio.NET is best for you.

You also need to install Visual Studio.NET. Visual Studio.NET is a complex application and has a correspondingly complex installation sequence. This module will walk you through the steps of installing Visual Studio.NET and also give you tips for customizing it once it is installed.

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