Mapping Visual Studio products to version numbers

Yesterday, I was searching for a Visual Studio solution I’d worked on a few months ago, and when I found it, I paused and stared blankly for a moment. The solution file’s icon had the number 15 in the upper right corner, but I knew this was a Visual Studio 2017 solution, nota Visual Studio 2015 solution.

Suddenly, with a dramatic facepalm accompanied by a loud “Doh,” I remembered the briefly-forgotten secret knowledge — the solution icons contain the product’s internal version number, which almost never matches the year appearing in the product name. Solutions created in Visual Studio 2017 have a version number of 15.

During the course of a typical workday/worknight, I typically use a variety of versions of Visual Studio for different clients’ projects. But even if you only use one version of Visual Studio, you’ve likely run into this minor dichotomy yourself.

To remind myself of the mappings of product names to version numbers, as well as some other version-specific information, I decided to put together the following table as a handy reference, and to share it with you.

Product NameProduct VersionRelease DateFree Edition(s).NET Version(s)
Visual Studio 201715.03/2017Community3.5 through 4.7
Visual Studio 201514.07/2015Community2.0 through 4.6
Visual Studio 201312.010/2013Community2.0 through 4.52
Visual Studio 201211.09/2012Express Editions2.0 through 4.52
Visual Studio 201010.04/2010Express Editions2.0, 3,0, 3.5, 4.0
Visual Studio 20089.011/2007Express Editions2.0, 3.0, 3.5
Visual Studio 20058.011/2005Express Editions2.0, 3.0
Visual Studio .NET 20037.14/2003none1.1
Visual Studio .NET7.02/2002none1.0
Visual Studio 6.06.06/1998nonenone
Visual Studio 975.02/1997nonenone
Microsoft Developer Studio4.04/1995nonenone

Note that there was no “Visual Studio 4.0” in 1995. Prior to 1997, the programming languages and tools were sold individually (e.g., Visual C++, Visual Basic, Visual SourceSafe, etc.), and Microsoft Developer Studio was bundled with Visual C++ 4.0. Microsoft Developer Studio evolved into Visual Studio.

It seems that we got lucky when Visual Studio 2010 happened to line up with version 10.0. The last time we were that lucky was way back in 1998, when Al Gore was still Vice President, and the The Simpsons was only in its ninth season.

Speaking of luck, you may have noticed that version number 13.0 is missing from the table. Some superstitious product teams prefer to skip version 13.  (I am reminded of the old saying, “Our building used to have a thirteenth floor, but that’s another story.”)

Side-by-side cooperation

You can have multiple versions of Visual Studio installed on the same system, and they peacefully coexist with each other, as long as you install them in order from earliest to latest. This can be useful, if you’re developing or maintaining multiple projects for clients who have required a specific version of Visual Studio. On a system with multiple versions installed, if you look in the Program Files or Program Files (x86) folder, depending on what flavor of Windows you’re running, you’ll see that the product version numbers are used as part of the folder names, as shown here.Screen shot of Visual Studio product folders

This particular system has the following installed:

  • Visual Studio 2008 (shown as 9.0)
  • Visual Studio 2010 (shown as 10.0)
  • Visual Studio 2012 (shown as 11.0)
  • Visual Studio 2013 (shown as 12.0)
  • Visual Studio 2015 (shown as 14.0)
  • Visual Studio 2017 (shown with no version number, at the top of the screen shot)

Notice that Visual Studio 2017 doesn’t include the version number in the folder name. Instead, the folder is named “Microsoft Visual Studio” and there is a 2017 subfolder. So, both the folder structure and naming convention have changed in Visual Studio 2017.

Finding your version

As service packs and updates are applied to Visual Studio installations, the major version number doesn’t change, but the minor version numbers do change. For example, at the time of this writing, Visual Studio 2017 is at version 15.5. If you want know the full version number of your Visual Studio product, start it up and click Help | About Microsoft Visual Studio.

By the way, if you look at a Visual Studio entry in Control Panel | Programs and Features, you might see a version number listed there that doesn’t match anything I’ve talked about here. The version number in the list of installed programs might appear as the installer version number, not the product version number.

Pardon my French, but “Vive la version nombre — as long as you can figure out which product it belongs to.”