What Is Visual Basic Used For?

5 minutes

Back in the early ’90s, Visual Basic was considered cutting-edge because it was one of the first languages to use a more readable syntax. Nowadays, while it isn’t the newest programming language, it’s still used today by companies worldwide. And it makes sense why: it’s a powerful tool for back-end programming, and while it’s often used to build internal systems, you’ll also find it in web and system applications and even chatbots.

What is Visual Basic?

Visual Basic (VB) is an object-oriented programming language (OOP) introduced by Microsoft in 1991. It derives from an earlier programming language called BASIC, which stands for “Beginners’ All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code.” VB was designed to enable rapid application development (RAD) of graphical-user interface-based (GUI-based) applications and access to local and remote databases.

Why is Visual Basic so popular?

BASIC was one of the first programming languages to incorporate more everyday words into the syntax so the language could be easier to learn and remember. This is a big reason why Microsoft wanted to release a programming language that stemmed from BASIC.

Another innovation of VB was its use of graphical elements within Visual Studio, Microsoft’s integrated development environment (IDE) for Visual Basic. Rather than having to designgraphical components like menus and buttons, developers could resize menus with their mouse or drag and drop elements such as buttons and text. In other words, Microsoft added a “visual” part to the BASIC language — thus, Visual Basic.

So, not only was Visual Basic programming easy to learn, but its visual-based IDE made it much faster and cheaper to develop applications. It’s no wonder that VB has been so popular for so long.

Visual Basic vs. Visual Basic.NET

After the release of Visual Basic 6.0, Microsoft introduced Visual Basic.NET (VB.NET) in 2002, which ran on the newer .NET framework for developing software applications for Windows. (Note that “VB.NET” also refers to the version of Visual Basic that first employed the .NET framework.) Compared to VB 6.0, VB.NET is a fully object-oriented language like C++ or Java and it offers better performance and reliability.

Today, the Visual Basic 6.0 IDE is no longer officially supported. However, you’re still likely to come across VB 6.0 as a developer, particularly in companies that use older systems that are too time-consuming or costly to migrate to VB.NET. But when you hear about Visual Basic programming today, then you’re likely hearing about VB.NET.

What is Visual Basic programming used for?

The best part about Visual Basic programming is its flexibility. Front-End Developers and Full-Stack Developers can use VB to create customized applications that run in Windows or web applications. Plus, it can run from any browser or device.

VB is still one of the quickest and easiest ways to create applications that rely on forms, selections, and inputs. It’s also a popular choice for developing console applications — applications that run using only a command line rather than a GUI. VB applications are especially popular among medium and large companies for:

  • Inventory management
  • Data collection
  • Accessing databases
  • Communications

And as a web development tool, VB is used to create server-side scripting programs. Server-side scripting programs are run on a web server rather than within a browser. Web developers use VB to create web forms and applications. If you’ve ever communicated with a chatbot on a website, then chances are that you’ve interacted with Visual Basic programming.

Since VB.NET runs on Microsoft’s .NET framework, developers who use Visual Basic can access the full suite of .NET libraries and easily work with other .NET software applications. A few examples of typical .NET applications include:

  • Messaging platforms
  • Small-scale social media platforms
  • Order processing applications
  • Logistics management and invoice generation applications

Visual Basic behind the scenes

You may have noticed that the most common VB applications are for business-related functions. That’s because most Visual Basic programmers develop applications that perform particular tasks that you can’t do with traditional, off-the-shelf business software. Most VB applications aren’t mass released at all but instead used as internal or proprietary software.

Visual Basic vs. VBA

Chances are that you’ve heard about Visual Basic for Applications or VBA. On the surface, the two programming languages seem to be the same, or at least very similar. Both were developed by Microsoft, and both use a very similar syntax. But while both Visual Basic and VBA come from the same original programming language, Basic, the two languages have different functions.

Visual Basic is written in Visual Studio and can be used to create executable files that can run independently. 

On the other hand, VBA only works within a Microsoft Office host application: Word, Outlook, Excel, Access, or PowerPoint. These applications include the Visual Basic Editor (VBE) to create and run VBA code. People use VBA to automate complex or repetitive tasks within these host applications, such as generating forms in Word or creating standardized graphs and charts in Excel. But while VBA is more limited than Visual Basic, there is one big advantage: you can run VBA within most Microsoft Office for Mac applications.

Who should learn Visual Basic?

Just because you don’t hear about Visual Basic being behind the latest web app doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t learn it. In fact, VB remains one of the most popular programming languages. Companies all over the world rely on VB programmers to develop applications to perform critical business functions.

Visual Basic is a must-have skill if you’re interested in becoming a business-to-business (B2B) software developer.

And if you’re a business analyst, data analyst, or anyone who works extensively with Microsoft Office, then learning VBA will help you work more efficiently by automating repetitive tasks.

Developers still should know Visual Basic

Visual Basic might not be the newest programming language out there, but that doesn’t make it obsolete. If you’re a new Front-End Developer, Back-End Developer, or Full-Stack Developer ready to get into B2B software, you’ll want to add Visual Basic to your toolkit of skills and programming languages along with SQL and C#.Our final bit of advice: to keep your skills sharp, never stop learning. There’s always something new to learn with an online programming course. If you’re not sure what to do next, our developer Career Paths will guide you along your new career path.

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