In an effort to empower business users-cum-developers to create richer business applications, Microsoft today made Visual Studio LightSwitch 2011 generally available.

The tool is designed to simplify attaching data to applications using wizards, templates and designers, so basic line-of-business applications can be created without the writing of code, according to a blog post by Microsoft’s Jason Zander.

However, he said, developers comfortable working in Visual Studio can use code to address issues specific to a business or company without the need for setting up classes and methods.

Among the benefits of LightSwitch are the ability to use starter kits to begin creating applications, as well as the ability to publish LightSwitch applications directly from the IDE to the Windows Azure cloud, Zander pointed out.

Free trial downloads of the software are available.

“The desire of the end user [to create his or her own applications] has been there for some time, going back to the [Visual Basic] 3 days,” said Jason Beres, vice president of product management at Microsoft component provider Infragistics. “LightSwitch takes it to another level. It’s a much more rich environment.”