If you’ve been programming with ObjectARX for a while, you already know that each version of the ObjectARX SDK only works with a specific version of Visual Studio. Mazhar Basa touches on the subject in his article Components of ObjectARX Applications. My VCBuildHook utility makes it possible to build for multiple target AutoCAD versions from a single Visual Studio 2005 solution, but this utility still needs the older versions of Visual Studio to be installed on the same system in order to perform its magic.
The problem is, legitimate licenses of older versions of Visual Studio are hard to come by. Back in the Visual Studio .NET 2003 days, you could purchase a new license of VS 2003, then get a free license downgrade from Microsoft that allowed you to install Visual Studio 2002 side by side on the same system. That combination allowed you to target AutoCAD versions as far back as AutoCAD 2004. Unfortunately, Microsoft stopped offering the VS 2002 downgrade license when Visual Studio 2005 began shipping in November of 2006.
The end result is that new ObjectARX programmers are faced with a dilemma if they need to target anything older than AutoCAD 2007. One of the attendees at my “High-Octane ObjectARX” class at AU 2006 reminded me that MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) members can download older versions of Visual Studio from the MSDN subscriber download center.
I have verified that Visual Studio .NET 2002 (VS 2002) is available for download to MSDN Professional subscribers, but I could not find Visual Studio 6.0, which is required to target AutoCAD 2000 – 2002. Visual Studio 4.2 (required for AutoCAD R14) is available though, so maybe I’m just not looking in the right place.
If you are a professional software developer, whether commercial or in-house, you should consider subscribing to MSDN for various reasons. If you’re an ObjectARX programmer and need to target older versions of AutoCAD, MSDN may be the only way to obtain the older Visual Studio build tools and libraries that you’ll need.