This is fun! If you want to get started using Visual C++ to write managed or unmanaged code, but you don't want to buy the full product, what can you do? You could use the free Visual C++ Toolkit, which I've told you about before, but that doesn't include the IDE though it does include some very nice samples and whitepapers: one blogger was nice enough to say “the samples alone are worth the download.” At Tech Ed Europe, Microsoft has announced the Express versions of the 2005 products, including Visual C++ 2005 Express (that means they're in beta now, whereas the toolkit is the current released version. You can't release products you create with a beta.) You can download now, so go ahead!
ps: if you know who the gentleman is at the top left of that Visual C++ 2005 Express Beta page, please drop me a note. I swear we've met and it's going to bug me until I get a name.