Visual Basic is a third-generation event-driven programming language and integrated development environment (IDE) from Microsoft for its COM programming model first released in 1991. Microsoft intends Visual Basic to be relatively easy to learn and use. Visual Basic was derived from BASIC and enables the rapid application development (RAD) of graphical user interface (GUI) applications, access to databases using Data Access Objects, Remote Data Objects, or ActiveX Data Objects, and creation of ActiveX controls and objects.
A programmer can create an application using the components provided by the Visual Basic program itself. Programs written in Visual Basic can also use the Windows API, but doing so requires external function declarations. Though the program has received criticism for its perceived faults, version 3 of Visual Basic was a commercial success, and many companies offered third party controls greatly extending its functionality.
The final release was version 6 in 1998. Microsoft’s extended support ended in March 2008 and the designated successor was Visual Basic .NET (now known simply as Visual Basic).
Though Visual Basic 6.0 is no longer officially available there remains a sizable number of developers who still prefer Visual Basic 6.0 over .NET.
A dialect of Visual Basic, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), is used as a macro or scripting language within several Microsoft applications, including Microsoft Office
Like the BASIC programming language, Visual Basic was designed to accommodate beginner programmers. Programmers can not only create simple GUI applications, but to also develop complex applications. Programming in VB is a combination of visually arranging components or controls on a form, specifying attributes and actions for those components, and writing additional lines of code for more functionality. Since VB defines default attributes and actions for the components, a programmer can develop a simple program without writing much code. Programs built with earlier versions suffered performance problems, but faster computers and native code compilation has made this less of an issue.
Though VB programs can be compiled into native code executables from version 5 on, they still require the presence of around 1 MB of runtime libraries. Runtime libraries are included by default in Windows 2000 and later. Earlier versions of Windows (95/98/NT), require that the runtime libraries be distributed with the executable.
Some of the derived languages are:
- Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is included in many Microsoft applications (Microsoft Office), and also in many third-party products like SolidWorks, AutoCAD, WordPerfect Office 2002, ArcGIS, Sage 300 ERP, and Business Objects Desktop Intelligence. There are small inconsistencies in the way VBA is implemented in different applications, but it is largely the same language as Visual Basic 6.0 and uses the same runtime library. Visual Basic development ended with 6.0, but in 2010 Microsoft introduced VBA 7 to provide extended features and add 64-bit support.
- VBScript is the default language for Active Server Pages. It can be used in Windows scripting and client-side web page scripting. It resembles VB in syntax, but is a separate language—executed by vbscript.dll instead of the VB runtime. ASP and VBScript should not be confused with ASP.NET, which uses the .NET Framework for compiled web pages.
- Visual Basic .NET is Microsoft’s designated successor to Visual Basic 6.0, and is part of Microsoft’s .NET platform. Visual Basic.Net compiles and runs using the .NET Framework. It is not backwards compatible with Visual Basic 6.0. An automated conversion tool exists, but fully automated conversion for most projects is impossible.[