Installation Software Marches On
Wise raises the bar in Windows Installer software — again.
Anyone who doesn’t think competition promotes
software innovation hasn’t been paying attention
to the Windows setup market. It was only about
a year ago that both Wise and InstallShield released
full-featured products to help developers work
with the Microsoft Windows Installer Service.
Then, earlier this year, InstallShield released
a major upgrade to its product.
Now, Wise is here with a new version of Wise
for Windows Installer that once again adds impressive
new functionality to a well-polished product.
Wise’s core remains the Wise for Windows Installer
itself, which is really two programs in one. Most
users will never need to venture out of the Installation
Expert, which offers a step-by-step approach to
building a new Windows Installer file. The Expert
is very easy to use. If you’re starting with a
Visual Basic project or an existing setup program,
you can have a Windows Installer file in 10 minutes
For those who need more power, though, Wise also
includes the Setup Editor, which can get down
into the low-level details of an Installer file.
This includes editors for tables, actions and
dialogs. The last offers both property-based and
visual control editing. The table editor is vastly
improved in this release, offering field-level
validation and the ability to do a global search
Once you’ve created your installation, the Wise
interface offers a standard compile/test/ run
cycle that lets you make sure it’s performing
as desired. You can then distribute your installation
via removable media, FTP or a network share point.
Wise also can create the files necessary to let
Microsoft SMS handle installation duties.
Two new applications in the Wise package deserve
special attention — the Debugger for Windows Installer
and InstallTailor. Once you’ve worked with these
applications, you’ll probably find it hard to
do without them.
The Debugger is, as you might guess, an integrated
debugger for Windows Installer files. You can
step through or into any action or dialog in an
installation and interact with the installation
user interface while doing so. The Debugger interface
lets you inspect, in detail, what’s going on inside
the Windows Installer service during this process.
This application alone would have saved me much
more than the cost of the entire Wise product
the last time I worked on a large installation.
It’s amazing how much easier it is to pick up
problems by looking at the process in real-time
instead of wading through log files.
|Wise for Windows Installer Professional
3.0 includes an integrated debugger that lets
you single-step through an installation and
inspect properties as you interact with the
interface. (Click image to view larger version.)
InstallTailor is Wise’s solution to the problem
of creating Installer transform files. A transform
is a group of settings that can be applied to
an existing Installer package to customize it.
For example, a system administrator might use
a transform file to customize the location and
components that all users on the network should
use for a Microsoft Office install. InstallTailor
makes the process simple. You just run through
the installation user interface, making the choices
you want to standardize, and it generates the
transform file to do just that. Those responsible
for user support will appreciate this component
even if they don’t ever need to build an Installer
Overall, Wise for Windows Installer Professional
3.0 is an impressive and polished way to manage
setup tasks. If you’re creating software for the
modern Windows platform and want to take advantage
of the latest advances in installation technology,
it’s a solid choice.
Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.