This post had been updated on November, 2014 with important licensing considerations.
If you are interested in diving into the authoring extensions, but don’t want to commit by spending money on the full Professional or Ultimate editions of Visual Studio, you have a couple options.
Recently, Microsoft had released Visual Studio Community 2013, which allows us to use the authoring extensions as well.
There are specific licensing terms that need to be read in the fine print. In some cases, you may not use the free “community” edition or the “shell” versions to develop management packs for your organization.
You must read the Visual Studio Licensing Whitepaper to understand when and how you may use these free versions.