If you are looking for an Open Source Free alternative to the VC++, gcc is the right choice. GCC is the GNU Compiler Collection, which currently contains front ends for C, C++, Objective-C, Fortran, Java, and Ada, as well as libraries for these languages. It is available for almost all the platforms. Here I will describe the various distributions of gcc and tools for Windows platform. The home page of gcc is at http://gcc.gnu.org/
There are two major windows distributions for gcc, CygWin and MingW.
Cygwin is a Linux-like environment for Windows. It acts as a Linux emulation layer providing substantial Linux API functionality and it also provides Linux look and feel. In this environment it provides gcc for creating your windows programs.
MingW is Minimalist GNU For Windows. Following is the description of MingW from there site
MinGW: A collection of freely available and freely distributable Windows specific header files and import libraries combined with GNU toolsets that allow one to produce native Windows programs that do not rely on any 3rd-party DLLs.
Besides the compiler it includes make tool, resource compiler, Profiler (gprof), strip ( for stripping debug information to make executable's size smaller), debugger, library archiver and many more tools.
Development Environments - DevC++
There are many development environments which can be used for developing with gcc. DevC++ is one of them. It comes with mingW version of gcc. But it can be also used in combination with CygWin. It has nice support for creating projects, source level debugging, profiling etc.
Windows Framework - wxWindows
Using a C++ compiler with a development environment and win32 api calls we can create windows applications. But it is much easier to write programs if we have a Windows Framework like MFC. There are many such platform indendent GUI frameworks available. I personally like wxWindows. It is a MFC type GUI framework and comes with many sample programs to get you started. A dialog editor also comes with it to visually create dialogs. Various libraries like jpeg, tiff, zlib , png and regular expression are also included with it.
A tool named visualWx is available freely which lets you create GUI applications visually for wxWindows. The screenshot at the top shows this tool. It has support for wxWindows for c++, python and perl.
Using the combination of a free compiler (gcc), a development environment (DevC++) , A GUI Framework (wxWindows) and a visual GUI editor (visualWx) we can find a platform independent alternative to Microsoft's Visual C++.