Can Microsoft teach you how to code for free? It sounds like a sensational title but it is true, Microsoft can help you learn to code by providing you the tools and curriculum to do so. Microsoft provides aspiring (and seasoned) developers every opportunity and tool needed to start on your path of being a successful developer within the Microsoft ecosystem, and if you stick with me for the next few minutes I’ll prove it to you.

First of all, Microsoft continues to offer free programming tools and IDEs (Integrated Development Environments), for beginners to experts with the Visual Studio Express packages. We all know Microsoft is a commercial software company, so why would they give software away for free? Well, the answer is simple; They want to continually keep a fresh pipeline of new developers developing for their products and using their services.

Make no mistake, Microsoft benefits tremendously from people learning to use their programming languages and programming on and for their platforms. Of course it is a mutual benefit, because while using their free tools you can create some fantastic software while developing key skills for future success in both your business and private lives. Knowledge enrichment as they say.

Enter the Visual Studio Express packages. They offer fully functioning and awesome tools for developing apps across all of their platforms. They offer Visual Studio Express 2012 for Web development and apps, Windows 8 apps, Windows Desktop apps, Windows Phone apps and Team Foundation Server. The languages you can program vary greatly, but C#, Visual Basic, JavaScript and HTML 5 are featured heavily.

VisualStudioExpress

So what? They offer tools to program, doesn’t everyone right? This is true, but Microsoft also has a vast library of free training series and tutorials geared specifically towards beginners. We’ve discussed a few of these in the past, but we’re going to discuss many more here. Microsoft’s video site Channel 9 (http://channel9.msdn.com) is a fantastic asset for beginners and experts alike. Let’s dive in a bit shall we?

As mentioned in earlier posts (1, 2) Windows 8 apps for the Windows 8 app store are written in either Visual Basic, C# or a combination of JavaScript and HTML5 with CSS. Microsoft has once again worked with Bob Tabor of LearnVisualStudio.net to bring you premium-level video training series for all of these languages.

Want to start at the foundation and learn the basics of HTML 5 and CSS (cascading style sheets) before digging your teeth in to a compiled language? Then the 21-part video series HTML5 & CSS3 Fundamentals: Development for Absolute Beginners is for you. In the series Bob takes you through the fundamentals of HTML5 and CSS3 while building working concepts. Great for true beginners.

From there you can build upon your now working knowledge of HTML and CSS to JavaScript, which compliments them both nicely. JavaScript Fundamentals: Development for Absolute Beginners is another 21-part video series where you can build upon your new found HTML and CSS knowledge to build web-based video games, enhanced user interfaces and dynamic web pages.

Now you’ve gotten your feet wet  with the web-based languages it may be time to dive in to compiled code. C# Fundamentals: Development for Absolute Beginners is a 24-episode video series which walks you through getting to know Visual Studio and teaches the core concepts of C# while also introducing you to debugging for the first time.

If C# wasn’t the compiled language for you there’s always the old-faithful Visual Basic. In Visual Basic Fundamentals: Development for Absolute Beginners Bob walks you through 25 episodes that follows along quite similarly with the C# video series. You’ll take a walk around the Visual Studio IDE while learning the core concepts of the code and debugging features.

The videos on Channel 9 aren’t simply for beginners either. For those looking to publish an app to the Windows Store there is Windows Store apps for Absolute Beginners with C#, Build your first Windows Store app, Migrating apps from Windows Phone to Windows 8, Windows Phone 7 Development for Absolute Beginners, Windows Phone Design Bootcamp and many more.

The items I’ve listed here are just scratching the surface of the content at Channel 9. Microsoft gives aspiring developers more tools and utilities to succeed than any other company around. Other than the learning series at Channel 9 they also have many ongoing web series with countless subjects to choose from.

Add on to all of the learning essentials provided, they also provide guidance as well. The Microsoft DreamSpark program gives students the ability to have access to development tools and guidance, while the Microsoft BizSpark program does the same for small businesses. I’ll go more in to detail about these fantastic programs later, but if you’re a student an individual or small business, check these programs out now!

Finally let us not forget our pals at Generation App who are there to help aspiring and experienced app developers publish their first apps on the Windows 8 or Windows Phone marketplaces. They will happily give you free design and technical consultations to help you be well on your way to publishing your app in just 30 days.

So there you have it. There are no excuses. If you have the time and can put in the effort, you can publish your very own apps in the Microsoft ecosystem. Microsoft is there to both guide and support you along the way. If you build an app or already have, be sure to let us know and maybe it could be featured! Stay coding my friends.