Microsoft’s .NET Framework has gone open source. Bet that’s something no Microsoft dev expected to say 10 years ago.

The writing was on the wall in a lot of ways – they open sourced many parts of the .NET Framework earlier this year, as well as several complementary products such as ASP.NET MVC and Roslyn. It wasn’t really surprising to me that they opened up .NET’s codebase to the masses.  The jaw-dropping moment for me was the announcement about Visual Studio Community.

The Express Edition of Visual Studio is the gateway drug into the Microsoft dev world, but for serious devs it leaves you wanting more. The “no plugin” limitation is a serious handicap. I’ve been on jobs where all their consultants had to work with was Express and it always leaves me with a thought of “…really?”

Visual Studio Community changes the landscape in a big way. It’s basically a free version of Visual Studio Professional. Pro has a steep entry point for individual developers of $499 or $49/month. If you’re a student, you can get a copy of Pro for free, but licensed for non-commercial use. Small businesses and indie devs can start with BizSpark and get Pro for free (among other things), but that doesn’t last forever.

Enter Visual Studio Community, the latest free version of Visual Studio. You get the power of Visual Studio Professional and access to any and all available extensions, including ReSharper, VSCommands, and Productivity Power Tools. You can use it for education, open source development, and non-enterprise business development (enterprise is defined as having a business with $1 million in revenues per year OR 250 PCs or more.)

And, Visual Studio is not just for .NET anymore.  Visual Studio has a host of plugins that allow you to program using Node.js, PHP, and Python, to name a few.  Further, it has excellent out-of-the-box support for CSS, HTML, and JavaScript, especially with Web Essentials.

As a freelance consultant, I’m super excited to have the Pro version of Visual Studio for free. Yeah, I get that if you’re a productive consultant, you’ll make that $499 back pretty quickly, but it’s nice to know that I don’t have to be a slave to expensive yearly upgrade cycles or subscription plans. I get to have my cake and eat it too.

The new, open Microsoft will hopefully attract many more devs to use one of the greatest stacks on the market today. Strike expensive tooling and closed source off the list of reasons to NOT use the .NET stack.

What are you waiting for? Grab Visual Studio Community today!