Mt. San Jacinto College Computer Information Systems
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Tutorials: Programming: Tools: Visual Studio

Visual Studio

How to Get It


You have three choices for accessing Visual Studio to complete your class assignments. Each option is listed here:

  • Microsoft Imagine
  • MSJC's remote desktop system (RDS)

If you have access to a personal computer, laptop or desktop (no tablets or other mobile devices will work), and have full administrative access to that computer, then downloading the software and installing it on that computer will be your best option for writing and testing code in your CIS classes which require you to do so. If this is the case you can download the latest complimentary version, currently called Community from or you can download the Professional version from Microsoft Imagine (formerly DreamSpark; you will receive an email during the first week of class with instructions on how to access the Microsoft Imagine Website and how login to it). If you are curious about the differences between the two version view the Compare Visual Studio IDEs chart. Either one will suffice for accomplishing all coding tasks you will be asked to complete in any of our CIS courses which require it.

If you do not have administrative access to the personal computer that you will be using to complete your coding assignments, then using Visual Studio remotely from the MSJC remote desktop system (RDS) will be your best option (Internet connection required).

Depending on which of these three options will work best for you, please read the instructions for using that option under one of the headings below.

Please note: Microsoft changes the free Visual Studio install procedures all the time. These instructions represent the procedures required at the writing of this tutorial. If you have problems downloading or installing the Visual Studio program, contact your instructor or the CIS Webmaster ( via email for assistance.

In order to download the free version of Visual Studio for use in the Internet Authoring classes complete the following steps:

  1. Free Visual Studio icon.
    Click the blue button that reads "Download for Windows" under the Visual Studio IDE heading/icon to download the current Visual Studio Installer package.
  2. Locate the downloaded file and double-click it to begin the installation process.
  3. A Windows Security Warning may appear, if it does - click the Run button.
  4. A Visual Studio Setup screen will appear on your computer screen. Click the check box to accept the license agreement, make sure you enough free hard drive space (10 GB) available, and then click on the Install button that appears.
  5. The Visual Studio setup should install itself unattended from that point forward. Once the installation is complete, you may get a screen asking you to install cross-platform features, just click the Skip button on this screen.
  6. On the Start with a Familiar Environment screen, choose Web Development or Visual C# depending on the class you are enrolled in, from the drop-down list of options (see Installing Video Studio to insure you install the correct workload(s) needed for the CIS class or classes you are enrolled in.
  7. For Development Settings choose the Theme of your liking.
  8. Click Start Visual Studio and on the next screen you'll see a message that Visual Studio is being prepared for first use. Once that step is completed, Visual Studio should appear on you screen.
  9. The next screen should have a big Launch button at the bottom of it. Click Launch to open Visual Studio.
  10. Once you close Visual Studio, in order to re-open it check your Start Menu, All Programs folder and you should see the Visual Studio folder, open it and click on the Visual Studio program to start it.
Microsoft Imagine

During the first week of class you will receive an email which instructs you on how to access your Microsoft Imagine account which you have access to free of charge when you are enrolled in any of the CIS Programming or Internet Authoring classes.

On the Microsoft Imagine Website you can download and install the most recent full retail version of Visual Studio.

Once you add Visual Studio to your Shopping Cart and purchase it ($0.00) you will have two options:

  1. Web-based install (recommended - easiest install)
  2. Download an ISO image file (requires burning to a DVD or mounted by a virtual drive before you can run the Install program.
  3. View the Installing Visual Studio instructions to complete the install operation.

If you have questions about Microsoft Imagine or problems gaining access to Dreamspark contact Kaye Melsheimer for assistance via email,

MSJC's Remote Desktop System (RDS)

If you would prefer to not install Visual Studio on your personal computer or if you don't have administrative access in order to install it on the computer you will be using for class, you can use MSJC's Remote Desktop System (RDS). The computer you will be using for class will need to have Internet access and a Web browser installed. To access Visual Studio remotely type this URL into your Web browser's address bar Once you see the MSJC RD Web Access page, login using the same username and password you use to login to If you are having problems with the login process, you can click on Help for more detailed Login instructions.

Once logged into the MSJC RDS, click to open the Programming folder and then click the Visual Studio icon to run the program. Depending on the Web browser you are using, there me be a file automatically downloaded to your computer which you will need to run before getting access to the Visual Studio program through your Web browser. If you are asked for a secondary login, again type the same username and password you used to login to the RDS in the first place.

There are some limitations to using this option:

  1. The MSJC RDS can be slow depending on how many students are using it at any one time and the speed of your Internet Connection. If you do not have a broadband connection to the Internet (50 mbps down/5 mbps up or higher) we do not recommend using this option.
  2. The version of Visual Studio should be, but may not the most recent version, however it will work fine for all the CIS Programming and Internet Authoring classes.

Installing Visual Studio

Read the text below for course specific installation info. If you run into problems downloading and/or installing Visual Studio, you might try the Microsoft Web-based tutorial titled Install Visual Studio.

When installing Visual Studio, on the Workload tab, you will need to choose which "workload(s)" you want included in your Visual Studio installation as shown in the figure below. Review the table below to learn which workloads you will need installed in order to complete your CIS coding classes.

Visual Studio Workloads screen (see table for course/workload matrix).
This image shows the Workload tab used by the Visual Studio Installer. The workloads boxed in purple each have a letter which is used in the table below to identify which workloads are need for which CIS classes. Depending on the class you are in select the appropriate workload(s) for your class when installing Visual Studio. You can change which workloads are installed by re-running the installer.
Course Requirements for Visual Studio Workloads

Below is a mapping of MSJC's CIS courses which use Visual Studio and the workload you will need installed to complete the assignments in that class.

Course Number Workload Requirement
CSIS 111B Include .NET desktop development (A), ASP.NET and Web development (C), and Python development (D)
CSIS 113A and CSIS 123A Include the Desktop development with C++ (B) workload.
CSIS 113C and CSIS123C Include the .NET desktop development (A) workload
CSIS 115A, CSIS 125A, and CSIS 116B Include the ASP.NET and Web development (C) workload.
CSIS 116E and CSIS 126E Include the Python development (D) workload.

First Time Opening Visual Studio

 No matter which option you choose for accessing the Visual Studio IDE, the first time you run the program there will be a couple of dialog boxes that pop up asking you to make some choices.

These are the choices you will need to make before getting access to the Visual Studio program:

  1. Do you want to use a Microsoft account while using Visual Studio.
    This will synchronize your Visual Studio environment across multiple devices when logged-in with your Microsoft account (MSJC student email accounts are Microsoft accounts!)
  2. What environment settings you prefer
Using a Microsoft Account
 Image of the screen you will see the first time you open Visual Studio.

The first dialog box you will see is asking you if you want to login using a Microsoft Live account. Making this choice will allow you to sync your preferences and options settings between multiple devices should be using Visual Studio on more than one computer, like home and the classroom.

Rumor has it that your MSJC email account is a Microsoft Live account and will work for this purpose. However, experience has shown that it seems to work for some student email accounts and not others. Your professor and MSJC take no responsibility for your outcome here - that responsibility belongs completely to Microsoft.

If you want to try using your MSJC email account for logging into Microsoft each time you open Visual Studio, then click on the Sign In button, otherwise click on Not now, maybe later.

Environment Settings
 Image of the Environment Settings screen you will see when opening Visual Studio for the first time.

The second dialog box you will see after opening Visual Studio for the first time is the Environment Settings dialog box. Near the top of the dialog box you will see a Development Settings drop-down list box, click on the down arrow to open it and view the available choices. Depending on the class you are taking, one of two choices will be best suited for your needs:

  1. Visual C#
  2. Web Development

If you are in the CSIS 105A, CSIS 113C, or CSIS 123C classes, choose Visual C#. If you are in CSIS 115A or CSIS 125A, then choose the Web Development option, not the Web Development (Code Only) option. Choose the Web Development option even if you are in the CSIS 125A Web Development Level 2 class. I know this is essentially a JavaScript class, but you will want to be able to create HTML and CSS files in addition to JavaScript files, so Web Development is still your best choice here. Note: no matter which option you choose you can always change your development environment later from the Visual Studio Tools —> Options —> Environment —> General options screen.

Once you have selected your Development Settings, you may also want to change the default choice of how your Visual Studio program environment will look. Choose a Color Theme to your liking; once again, you can change this later if you want.

Image dsiplaying the Visual Studio Development Environment choices.

After you have made your selections, click the Start Visual Studio button. From there the program should load and be ready for you to create your first Web development or Programming assignment.

Where to Go Once You Have Access to Visual Studio

There are some additional configuration options that you might want to make which will make things a little easier for you. To learn about these options, please read the Visual Studio Basics tutorial.