>is microsoft visual C++ the same as any other C++ programing tool?
Yes, if by "the same" you mean it compiles something called C++ that may or may not be the standard definition of the C++ language. Otherwise, no. Compliers and development environments are all different, but if they claim to support standard C++ then you can make quite a few assumptions about features they all share.
>and what do you recommend?
What do you need? I use Visual C++, but I don't use most of the features because my job doesn't require them. I could get away with using a simple command line compiler (and I do quite often), but someone who writes code for, say, high end graphical games would hesitate to do so because Visual C++ has features that would make their life much easier. What you use depends heavily on what you will use it for.