Are there free Visual Basic compilers available?
The short answer is yes. The one that I've seen the most is Envelop, available here
. I've never used it personally but I've heard and read that it's very similar to the (expensive) Microsoft IDE (integrated development environment).
The downfall to using a non-MS IDE is that most, probably all, VB books and tutorials are written for the Microsoft environment. That means that if you learn something from a VB book, it might not work in Envelop. (Syntax is the same but the GUI probably differs.)
However, most Visual Basic books come with what's called a working model edition of the Microsoft Visual Basic, which lets you do everything except make .exe's out of your programs. If you don't want to spend a thousand bucks on the Microsoft program but you still want to learn VB from a book, a good option is to learn VB from the book with the working model edition that comes with it. Once you're comfortable enough with the language and you want to start distributing your programs as .exe's, download the Envelop compiler and use that. I would imagine that it would be a lot easier to use Envelop once you've already learned the Microsoft IDE.