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Create Your Own Programs From Thin Air With A Free Development Environment

Software development products for Windows, especially professionally-produced ones, tend to be expensive, complex, large, slow, and difficult to learn.  Thin Basic is, thankfully, none of these. 

The language syntax is not difficult to pick up, although to be fair it's nowhere near as similar to Basic as the product's name would have you believe.  Maybe that's why the IDE, or Integrated Development Environment, is actually called Thin Air rather than Thin Basic.  Or maybe its developers just liked the name.

Anyhow, if you want to get started writing programs for Windows, Thin Basic (or Thin Air if you prefer) is a great place to start.  The download is a very modest 12 MB, the product is entirely free, and it comes with loads of free example scripts that are ready to run.  The one shown below is actually a full-blown web browser and, in the highlighted line, you can see how I've changed the text on the "back" button.

Thin Basic is an interpreted language.  As soon as you press F5, the program runs.  There's no delay while any compilation takes place, which keeps the development process fast.  It does, though, mean that you can't distribute your finished programs to people who don't also have Thin Basic.

From my brief foray, I have to admit that the whole product seems very well put together, and was reliable during my testing.  And according to Virus Total, there are no nasties lurking within it.

You can download the product from  It should run on Windows XP and above.  The web site also has loads of other scripts that you can download, in addition to the ones that are installed alongside the IDE.




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by Balaji Ramanathan (not verified) on 16. November 2011 - 14:32  (83383)

All the microsoft visual studio express IDE's are totally free too (C#, C++, Basic as well as SQL Server Express), and the languages as well as the IDE's are a lot more powerful (though they may involve a steeper learning curve). But if you are going to learn programming, you might as well spend the time to learn something that has some commercial value. And you can generate .exe's out of visual studio that will run on any computer with or without visual studio installed on it.

by Thomas Hard (not verified) on 20. November 2011 - 0:00  (83571)

Yeah but the Microsoft free development tools are limited. You have to buy the Pro version to do more complex things like write your own DLL files and libraries. Plus some of us don't want to be tied down to Microsoft Visual Studio as it always changes standards that breaks code and makes our job a lot harder to convert from Visual BASIC 6.0 to VB.Net 2002, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2010 and then 2011. Meanwhile Thin BASIC does not do that, and seems to be faster and more stable as Visual BASIC is bloated with unneeded code and crap we don't need.

by Jero (not verified) on 18. November 2011 - 17:21  (83491)

Balaji, you make a very good point. Thank you for the info about the Free MS development tools. I never would have guessed MS would give away something for free:-)

by erosolmi on 16. November 2011 - 15:12  (83387)

I cannot agree more, but this does not mean that it is the only way to do things.
In any case thinBasic does create stand alone executables that run without the need to have thinBasic installed.

by Eros Olmi (not verified) on 16. November 2011 - 11:19  (83377)

thinBasic supports the creation of "bundling" executable too. They are called "bundled" instead of "compiled" to be honest and extremely clear that they are not real executable but instead a sort of bag containing all the needed stuff necessary to execute your scripts without having thinBasic installed. Inside bundled executable, source scripts are obfuscated in such a way they cannot be see as source code.

by VelvetElvis (not verified) on 16. November 2011 - 9:12  (83372)

For those who find this appealing, you might want to check out "AutoIt".

Its one big advantage is you can compile your code into a standalone .exe.
Free, of course, excellent included help, and an active user forum.

It was covered here in September, if you missed it:

by MilesAhead on 17. November 2011 - 22:04  (83459)

I use AutoIt3 also. But saying it "compiles to exe" is a bit misleading. It wraps the interpreter engine and your script into an exe so that you may run the script without AutoIt3 installed. But it's still interpreted.

A free basic compiler that I use is called FreeBasic. It is multi-platform. Uses gcc to compile stand-alone exe files. Also you can download free 3rd party tools such as Firefly Visual Designer(kind of a mini-Delphi drag and drop form creator.)

The incredible thing about FreeBasic is it compiles very tight exe progams. Many of my small single form utilities with a custom icon come in at about 21kb.

Search FreeBasic to get download and forum links.

The thing AutoIt3 has that FreeBasic doesn't have is simple COM support. COM and ActiveX in FreeBasic is tough sledding. But for creating a single form small utility it's tough to beat.