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Microsoft on Thursday posted for download a public beta of the next version of its Visual FoxPro development tool.

The public beta of Visual FoxPro 9.0, code-named “Europa,” is available on the download site.

The new version will include a number of user-interface tweaks, as well as some incremental new features for developers, such as IntelliSense support.

The final version of FoxPro 9.0 is due to ship by year-end, according to information on the Visual FoxPro Developer Center site.

Microsoft isn’t pushing Visual FoxPro outside of the product’s existing user base. However, according to some estimates, there are still hundreds of thousands of FoxPro users.

Microsoft has pledged to continue to support the product through 2010.

Although Microsoft doesn’t state it quite so bluntly, Visual FoxPro’s foremost competitors are Visual Studio, Microsoft Access and SQL Server. That explains in large part why the Redmond software vendor isn’t jumping through hoops for Visual FoxPro.

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