Quantum computing making its way out of the labs and into general use might be some way off, but any developers who want to prepare for that time can do so with Microsoft's Quantum Development Kit.

After it was first revealed at the Ignite conference in September, Microsoft has now announced it is releasing a free preview version of its Quantum Development Kit. The package consists of the Q# programming language and compiler, as well as a quantum computing simulator.

As there still aren't many quantum computers, the unnamed simulator included in the kit will let developers debug and test their programs. The local version can simulate around 30 logical qubits of power using a typical laptop. For larger projects, Microsoft is offering an Azure-based simulator that can simulate more than 40 logical qubits of computing power.

While quantum computing is complex, to say the least, Microsoft says its kit is designed to be used by all developers, including those who aren't experts in the field of quantum mechanics. And as it's deeply integrated into Visual Studio, many elements will be familiar to devs who regularly work with other programming languages.

The kit also comes with a suite of documentation, libraries, and sample programs to help introduce developers to some of quantum computing's unique elements, such as quantum teleportation.

"What you're going to see as a developer is the opportunity to tie into tools that you already know well, services you already know well," said Todd Holmdahl, Microsoft's VP in charge of its quantum effort. "There will be a twist with quantum computing, but it's our job to make it as easy as possible for the developers who know and love us to be able to use these new tools that could potentially do some things exponentially faster - which means going from a billion years on a classical computer to a couple hours on a quantum computer."