Monday, October 26, 2015

Windows Installer Tools

If you are looking for a tool to perform your Windows installation, these are the common tools used in the Windows industry:

  1. InstallShield  - http://www.flexerasoftware.com/producer/products/software-installation/installshield-software-installer/  
  2.  Advanced Installer - http://www.advancedinstaller.com/
  3. InstallAware - http://www.installaware.com/
  4. Nullsoft Scriptable Install System - http://sourceforge.net/projects/nsis/
  5. Inno Setup - http://www.jrsoftware.org/isinfo.php
  6. WiX Toolset - http://wixtoolset.org/

  • InstallShield is by far the industry standard and probably the most widely used installation tool today.  InstallShield ships a free version with the Visual Studio IDE called "InstallShield LE".  It has most features that you can use for building a sophisticated installation package and overall the IDE is very easy to use.  Unfortunately, though, InstallShield is not very receptive to user feedback and suggestions and many very useful feature suggestions may not see the light-of-day for several years (if ever).  In addition, InstallShield is one of the most expensive Windows Installer tools out there.
  • Advanced Installer is a great alternative to InstallShield and is rapidly becoming a strong competitor to InstallShield in its toolset offering.  Unlike InstallShield, it rapidly incorporates user feedback into its release cycle, but lacks much of the automation capabilities of its InstallShield counterpart.  Advanced Installer also offers a free version available for separate download which offers very basic Windows Installer functionality.
  • InstallAware was originally created by someone who left InstallShield to develop a better installation packaging IDE.  InstallAware's approach is very different overall than InstallShield and Advanced Installer by providing a much more script-oriented approach to installation as well as the ability to switch back and forth between the 2 methods of editing the installation package.  This approach more closely aligns with how the old Wise Installation System used to work.
  • Nullsoft Scriptable Install System - I personally do not have much experience with Nullsoft other than knowing that it is freeware.
  • Inno Setup - Inno Setup is another Windows Installer tool which is provided as freeware.
  • WiX Toolset - WiX was developed by Microsoft and made freely available to the community.  WiX is based on a completely XML-Driven script to generate the installation package.  Sadly, the WiX Toolset team does not provide a GUI for creating WiX projects, thereby leaving it up to 3rd party vendors and the open-source community.  WiXEdit is an open-source project which has created a GUI IDE for creating and editing WiX projects: http://wixedit.sourceforge.net/.  In addition, there is a commercial offering called MSI Factory that provides a much better GUI experience for creating and editing WiX projects: http://www.indigorose.com/products/msi-factory/   Despite having these tools available, they still considerably lag behind competitors such as InstallShield and Advanced Installer for overall features and functionality.

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