Can you suggest some Windows programming tools for a very rusty, very amateur programmer?
July 17, 2004 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Can you suggest some Windows programming tools for a very rusty, very amateur programmer? (More within)

Years ago, in pre-internet days, I banged out a few simple programs just for fun, and when I came across a few stories about Microsoft offering a (temporarily) free beta version of their latest visual C++ package, I thought that it would be fun to mess around with. Unfortunately, even after I held my nose and jumped through all the hoops they set up to download the package, it refused to install, and from further reading it sounds like the whole deal is really aimed at building mindshare for .net rather than just letting someone like me build a few fairly simple programs. So I'm looking for something else that would let me try my hand at writing the occasional program to run in Windows XP pro. Skill-wise, I am (or rather, was) well beyond "Hello, world", but I won't be trying to create a new web browser or 3D graphics engine in this lifetime.

My wish list, in no particular order, includes: C/C++ (though I'm open to other languages, if you'd care to suggest one), legal and philosophical compatibility with the Free/Open Source world (just on general principles), and access to the Windows GUI in some form or another.

So with that in mind, I'd be most grateful for any suggestions the community could offer.
posted by Zonker to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
ActiveState Python is a pretty nice Python package for Windows, and the language has a good reputation among amateurs.

Oh, you want C++? Well, then you're asking for MinGW. Then just dig around for an IDE you like. Or are you asking for IDE reccomendations?
posted by majick at 8:09 AM on July 17, 2004

Response by poster: Yes, I think I'm looking for an IDE, though your other links look helpful too.
posted by Zonker at 8:14 AM on July 17, 2004

Eclipse is about as good as they get, although you can pretty easily get by with just UltraEdit if you're OK with a proprietary package.

A lot of people run their entire development environment from vim, for which there is a very good Windows port.

Python comes with an IDE (or two), but there are others. Or you can just use Eclipse again.

How much I do you like in your DE?
posted by majick at 8:19 AM on July 17, 2004

if you want an ide and windows gui integration i'd suggest trying again with the ms download. but give c# rather than c++ a try.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:28 AM on July 17, 2004

What error did you get when installing the VS Express package? It downloads in a nonstandard way, but you can grab it manually (second post here will tell you how). I've been using Visual Studio Express C# at home and enjoying it -- if you don't want C# (and don't want MS's VSExpress C++ kit, or can't get it to work), then Bloodshed's Dev-C++ IDE is also pretty good.
posted by j.edwards at 8:47 AM on July 17, 2004

Response by poster: I'm not sure how much "I" I'm looking for. Part of what I'm interested in is how the world of programming has developed in the last 15+ years while I've been off doing other things, so I suppose I'd prefer more of it rather than less. That's largely why I don't want to go with something like vim; I love it for editing config files on my Linux box, but would like to see what more modern tools look like.

It's been a week or so since I tried to install the MS package, so I don't recall the exact error it gave me, just that it was about the most spectacularly unhelpful error message I've ever seen. Something along the lines of "the package has failed to install correctly" would not be far from the mark. It then gave me a chance to submit the info to MS through their feedback agent, but doing that didn't give me any help, or any clues. I'll try it again through the direct link, if I can get their accursed passport ID to work again, but I'm not too optimistic.

Both Eclipse and Bloodshed look interesting so far -- I'll have to take a closer look at them as well.
posted by Zonker at 9:05 AM on July 17, 2004

if you're interested in how languages have changed, as well as their editors, try haskell ;o)
posted by andrew cooke at 9:18 AM on July 17, 2004

I'd suggest taking another crack at getting VS Express up and running. I'm not sure how much they've cut out of those, but Visual Studio .NET is a fantastic IDE, although not politically correct with the open source crowd. It's a great example of a modern tool (the IDE) and a modern platform (.NET).
posted by tirade at 9:37 AM on July 17, 2004

Also, if you want to try C#/.NET and VS isn't working for you, you could give Fidalgo a try. I haven't personally used it but many of my coworkers love it.
posted by j.edwards at 9:46 AM on July 17, 2004

Visual Studio is still the best IDE regardless of what any linux advocates say. I would recommend you make a more concerted effort with the express versions since they do provide most of what you want.

What is your exact installation problem?
posted by srboisvert at 9:54 AM on July 17, 2004

Borland provide cheap (and sometimes free) copies of Delphi and C++. I've programmed on and off with Delphi for years now, and it's a fantastic language for the part time programmer. The IDE is simpler and faster than the equivalant visual Studio IDE, but it provides everything you need. I personally prefer it to the Microsoft equivalant.

They also tend to push older versions of their software for free on Magazine Disks, so keep an eye out for these.

I'd provide links, but the site seems to be down at the moment. I have a copy of Delphi 7 - Personal edition, and it didn't cost me a penny.
posted by seanyboy at 12:39 PM on July 17, 2004

You could use Dev-C++ with wxWidgets. Then you can write cross platform software while you're at it.
posted by cmonkey at 3:49 PM on July 17, 2004

I'm thinking you might want to get a well-regarded current book targeting the type of programming you would like to become good at, and let that dictate the IDE and language.
posted by billsaysthis at 6:20 PM on July 17, 2004

You may want to look at Mono, an open implementation of .NET. There is a Windows Version available.
posted by weston at 11:34 PM on July 17, 2004

In your position, I'd probably suggest wxPython -- it comes with a knock-yer-socks-off demo that demonstrates tons of the various available widgets in one tabbed window and shows you the sample code in another.
posted by RavinDave at 6:58 AM on July 18, 2004

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