Fun Things to Make With Visual Basic

Microsoft's Visual Basic offers a great way to learn Windows programming. Its full-featured Integrated Development Environment (IDE) includes an easy to use, drag-and-drop form editor, a smart-text editor that almost writes the code for you and a debugger that features "edit and continue" while testing. The best feature is its price -- free. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started and build some fun apps while learning.

Get Visual Basic Express

Download and install Visual Basic 2010 Express. Click the download link in Resources and follow the instructions to download and install the program. Make sure to check the box that installs Microsoft SQL Server Express 2008. SQL Server is a powerful database and the new Entity Framework included with VB 2010 makes database programming easier than ever.

Get Familiar with the Program

Visual Basic uses a form-based, drag-and-drop approach to programming. Windows forms, Windows Presentation foundation and Web form projects all start with a blank form designer panel. Simply drag and drop labels, text boxes, check boxes and buttons onto the form to create a program. Double-click each element to add the code that makes the program go. Use the references found in the Microsoft Developer's Network to get tips, sample code and tutorials.

Create a Course Manager Database

Microsoft's Quikstart (see References) walk-through illustrates how to create a simple database driven program to track students and courses. Follow the walk-through and then enhance it to include additional information. The walk-through teaches you how to build a database using SQL Server Express 2008 with the server explorer built into the program. Once the database has been set up, the walk-through helps you build user interface forms and connect them to the database. Although the web page suggests that the tutorial will take about 30 minutes, it may take a little longer, but the VB skills gained are well worth the effort.

Build Another Database App

Visual Basic offers a wealth of programming tools. Almost anything imagined can be built. Using the skills gained through the tutorial, build another database app. Here are a few suggestions:

Create a personal organiser to track contacts, appointments, to-do lists, notes and expenses. The start-up form should contain several buttons, with code under each button to open one of the five forms.

Create a program to track your home budget. One table can contain each budget category with monthly limits. Another table can contain expenditures by budget category, amount spent and date. The main form compares monthly expenses to budget limits.

Create a health tracker. Create forms to track diet, exercise, weight and other health measures. The opening form can present a dashboard with graphs comparing weight, hours of exercise and other health measures over time.

Visual Basic offers a wealth of programming tools. Almost anything imagined can be built and this introduction only scratches the surface.

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