Thank you for contacting us and for choosing Sitefinity!
It is possible to do all the stuff you already mentioned without Thunder. Thunder is a tool that makes easier some implementations, but it is not absolutely necessary.
Also, to achieve those goals, you don't even need a paid version of Visual Studio, the Express
version works perfect, unless you are planning to build custom modules, such as the products sample module from the SDK; only in this particular case you will need a paid version.
Thank you again for using our products, and please, feel free in getting back to us anytime if you need further assistance.
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