Friday, June 26, 2015

Limitations of InstallShield Basic MSI projects

I have been working with InstallShield for at least the past 8-9 years so I have had quite a bit of experience with the ins and outs of InstallShield.

In my experience over the years, I have found numerous limitations in the IDE which have not been solved in all of my years working with the platform:

  1. The Themes that are provided by InstallShield are not customizable through the IDE
  2. You cannot pass parameters to PowerShell custom actions
  3. The XML File Changes view is notoriously problematic when deploying complex XML files such as Web.config or App.config
  4. The SQL Scripts View does not provide a built-in mechanism to have multiple SQL Database deployment dialogs
  5. The IIS View does not provide a default an associated IIS Dialog.  This needs to be completely manually created. 
  6. You have to pay a separate fee to Flexera Software to support Automatic Updates within your application
  7. Manipulating the Tab Order on Dialogs is very difficult and problematic
  8. Reordering the sequence of Dialogs by manipulating button events is very tedious and extremely prone to errors resulting in installation problems.
  9. When designing a Release package, the Release Wizard still prompts for deploying versions of .NET Framework such as .NET 1.0 and .NET 2.0 but never displays newer release versions such as .NET 4.0 and 4.5.  Instead, to add newer versions of the Framework, you still have to add these through the Redistributables section.
  10. There is no Intellisense for typing Properties in numerous places throughout the IDE.  
  11. There is no easy way to determine the standard MSI Properties that you can use throughout the project such as standard Environment variables etc.  You always have to consult the Windows Installer Reference guide to determine this information.
  12. Making simple customizations to Dialogs or File and Folder handling often requires modifying records through the Direct Editor.  
I am sure there are many more that I do not quite recall but I will continue updating this article as I come across them!!

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