Advances in Software Installation
InstallShield updates its core products.
The folks at InstallShield have done it again. They’ve issued updates
to both of the company’s core products, InstallShield Professional and
InstallShield for Windows Installer. And as with past releases, both of
these versions are well worth upgrading to.
Choosing between the two versions can be a bit difficult. InstallShield
Professional is a mature standalone setup application that includes most
features any developer could possibly want in such a product. But you
can’t make Windows 2000 logo-compatible setups with InstallShield Professional,
because it’s based on InstallShield’s own proprietary setup engine rather
than the Microsoft Windows Installer Service. For logo compliance, you
need to use InstallShield for Windows Installer. This product shares many
features with its older sibling, and seasoned InstallShield users will
be right at home with it. But it is a newer product lacking some of the
extra touches that are present in InstallShield Professional.
InstallShield Professional offers a multiple-window project view reminiscent
of the Visual Studio shell. You can build a basic setup application using
a Wizard, and then edit any of its parts:
- Script files
- Setup types
- Setup files
- File groups
One nice touch in InstallShield is the use of “InstallShield objects”:
predetermined sets of resources that encapsulate common chunks of Windows
functionality. These make adding support for technologies such as DirectX,
MDAC, MFC, and DCOM as simple as selecting a single component from a list.
Perhaps the most impressive innovation in InstallShield Professional
6.2 is the one-click Internet setup made possible by the InstallShield
Player. It’s easy to build a setup that’s launched from a Web page using
this interface. Even better, the page can dynamically determine which
files need to be downloaded and so minimize the time it takes to install
the application. One place to see this technology in action is with WeatherBug,
which you can download from www.weatherbug.com/is_shield/install/default.asp.
This version also integrates the creation of self-executing installs
directly into the main InstallShield shell, supports automatic FTP of
new builds to a distribution server, lets you share shortcuts and registry
entries between multiple products, and includes other updates and bug
In addition, InstallShield for Windows Installer offers a tabbed interface
to track everything that’s going on in your setup. This interface does
an excellent job of integrating help directly into the product. You can
learn about the Windows Installer, globalization, Zero Administration
for Windows (ZAW) and other important technologies without leaving the
main product interface. InstallShield for Windows Installer also monitors
your project for compliance with the Windows 2000 list of best practices,
making it much simpler to create logo-compliant setup applications.
InstallShield for Windows Installer 1.5 introduces good support for Windows
Installer patch files, which allow you to make updates to your application
as easily as you installed it in the first place. These patches can be
delivered over the Internet if you like. The automation interface for
the program has been updated to make it easier to integrate into an unattended
build process, support for COM components has been substantially improved,
and you can now call any function in a standard DLL as part of a custom
With the release of these new versions, InstallShield maintains its place
as one of the leaders in the installer marketplace. Although Microsoft
products such as Visual Basic and Microsoft Office Developer include their
own installer programs, those bundled programs are simply not powerful
enough to meet the needs of the average independent software vendor (ISV).
Moving to a third-party product is a practical necessity for anyone who
wants to ship bulletproof installations on a tight schedule. InstallShield
remains one of the best choices in this market. (For a roundup of products
that work with the new Windows Installer technology, see “Software
in Nice, Tidy Packages” in the January 2000 issue.)
In addition to purchasing these two products separately, you can buy
them bundled as InstallShield Professional 2000 Second Edition. The bundled
product costs $995; for an additional $595 you can buy a one-year subscription
to all updates. Considering the frequency of new releases from InstallShield,
that’s a good investment. You can also download evaluation copies from
the InstallShield Web site.
About the Author
Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.