Visual Studio 2010 Express – No tests, please.

So Visual Studio 2010 has been released today. I recognize that .NET 4 is a great step forward, and Silverlight 4 just sounds sweet. But for people who are not provided with licenses by their employer, there’s quite a drawback.

The Standard edition has gone away. The previously cheapest edition of Visual Studio is no longer offered. With Visual Studio 2010, the lowest possible license is the Professional Edition which comes for $550 with a basic MSDN subscription for one year and $1,200 for a license with one year of a full MSDN subscription. Now if you’re an enthusiast or self-employed on the lower end of the food chain, this might be hefty price tag – and a significant increase compared to Visual Studio 2008 Standard (approx $280).

So at a first glance, moving away from the full versions of Visual Studio to the Express versions might sound tempting. You can have multiple Express Editions on the same machine (e.g. C# for Windows Services and Web Edition for ASP.NET and Silverlight), and the license does not prohibit commercial use.

However, there is one drawback that sounds like a massive deal breaker to me. Running Unit tests with Visual Studio 2010 is not (easily) possible.

Firstly, the integrated MSTest feature does not seem to be included. It’s not in the menu, and the ASP.NET MVC2 template comes without the test project it normally includes. Well, I could live with that, as I am a confession NUnit aficionado.

But: in Express Edition, you cannot attach the debugger to NUnit. The usual workflow is: start NUnit, attach the debugger to the NUnit process, debug your test. In Express Edition, the ability to attach the debugger to an exisiting process has been removed. And as plug-ins don’t work due to licensing restrictions in Express Edition, it’s not possible to retrofit the ability to run tests. (Visual NUnit for example won’t install.)

Steve Dunns has published a workaround for NUnit; it works by turning the unit test project into a command line application and bootstrap NUnit. That’s a nice trick and not the opposite of elegant, but far from ideal.

I’m not one who says everything should be free. Microsoft do not claim to offer a free full-blown development environment; that’s OK. But from all things that you can leave out: why does it have to be the all abilities to run unit tests? That seems like a strange signal towards the importance of quality.


Christian is a software architect/developer. He lives in Germany, reads a lot, and likes cycling.

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Posted in Testing, Tools
5 comments on “Visual Studio 2010 Express – No tests, please.
  1. zoldello says:

    My guess would be that Microsoft does not want you to get comfortable with the free version. It does not make a buck of its profit selling Visual Studio; nevertheless, money is money and so it seems likely they would add discomforts like this to make you pay for Visual studio.

  2. […] are equally surprised by this absence;  Christian Heger last April in his Greenicicle blog elegantly argued that of all the things the Express edition had to leave out, the absence of […]

  3. hexsaw says:

    Very interesting points made, all of which I agree with. I expand on this topic in, referencing this entry.

    Best regards,

    Steve Westwood (Hexsaw)

  4. i made Visual Studio Project Template, based on this Article

    Probably somebody found it usefull

  5. Marcus Pontin…

    […]Visual Studio 2010 Express – No tests, please. « greenicicle[…]…

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