Visual C++ 2008 provides a powerful and flexible development environment for creating Microsoft Windows–based and Microsoft .NET–based applications. You can use it in an integrated development system, or you can use individual tools. Visual C++ consists of the following components:
The Visual C++ 2008 compiler tools. The compiler supports traditional native code developers and developers who target virtual machine platforms such as the common language runtime (CLR). Visual C++ 2008 includes compilers to target x64 and Itanium. The compiler continues to support targeting x86 computers directly, and optimizes performance for both platforms.
The Visual C++ Libraries. These include the industry-standard Active Template Library (ATL), the Microsoft Foundation Class (MFC) libraries, and standard libraries such as the Standard C++ Library, consisting of the iostreams library and the Standard Template Library (STL), and the C Runtime Library (CRT). The CRT includes security-enhanced alternatives to functions that are known to pose security issues. The STL/CLR library brings STL to managed developers. A library, the C++ Support Library, with new features for data marshaling, is designed to simplify programs that target the CLR.
The Visual C++ Development Environment. The development environment provides powerful support for project management and configuration (including better support for large projects), source code editing, source code browsing, and debugging tools. This environment also supports IntelliSense, which makes informed, context-sensitive suggestions as code is being authored.
In addition to conventional graphical user-interface applications, Visual C++ enables developers to build Web applications, smart-client Windows-based applications, and solutions for thin-client and smart-client mobile devices. C++ is the world's most popular systems-level language, and Visual C++ gives developers a world-class tool with which to build software.
The Visual C++ Express provides a subset of the functionality that is available in other Visual C++ editions. Therefore, some components, libraries, or features available in these editions are not available in this version of the product, even though they might be discussed in the documentation. For these features, you would have to upgrade to another version of Visual C++. For more information about these editions, see Visual C++ Editions. The documentation that is included with Visual C++ Express is a subset of the documentation of other versions of Visual C++. Therefore, you might encounter links to topics that are not available. Complete documentation is available at http://msdn.microsoft.com/library.
If you are just getting started learning C++, we recommend the "C++ Beginner's Guide," written by Herb Schildt.