Product Reviews

Get Software Installs Under Control

Wise Package Studio provides a setup factory for the sysadmin.

If you're running a big network, one of the last things you want is to have users installing software for themselves. Think about the number of choices that you can make when installing Microsoft Office XP - and then think about the load on the corporate help desk if every user has Office configured in their own idiosyncratic way. Avoiding that situation is the reason that repackaging software was invented. Now Wise Solutions, a pioneer in the field, has upgraded their repackaging solution to handle more tasks than ever before.

Wise Package Studio consists of a number of independent tools (20 in the Professional Edition that I evaluated) that can (and should) be organized into processes. A process, in Wise parlance, is a set of steps that needs to be carried out to accomplish a particular repackaging task. The product comes with some predefined processes, but it's easy to add your own as well (and to set company-wide defaults to make sure all your sysadmins tackle the same tasks in the same way). For example, the Quick Repackage process includes creating, customizing, and testing a new setup.

The basic notion of repackaging is simple. First, you record the baseline configuration of your test computer. Then, you install the new software from the manufacturer's setup program, making the appropriate choices as you go along. The SetupCapture task records every change that the program makes, and builds a setup file (either Windows Installer or Wise's own format) based on those changes. When end users run this new setup on their own computer, they get all of the software with none of the choices.

Wise Package Studio
The Workbench guides the administrator through the process needed to complete a repackaging job one step at a time. (Click image to view larger version.)

Wise Package Studio has quite a few impressive capabilities. These include the ability to transform any setup into a Windows Installer package, the ability to check changes made by a new piece of software to ensure that they don't conflict with other programs you've already installed, and both low-level and script-view editors for MSI files. The Workbench interface, shown in Figure 1, offers pervasive help and checklists to guide even inexperienced users through your company's standard processes.

The Professional Edition is the middle of the three offerings in the Wise Package Studio Line, aimed at a team of administrators working at the department or division level. There's also a Standard Edition for the single administrator on a small network, without the conflict-checking pieces, and an Enterprise Edition that supports fully distributed workflows and adds additional automation. In my tests the Professional Edition worked flawlessly and the interface was intuitive enough that I barely needed to crack the manuals. If you feel like software on your network is out of control, you need to check this product out for a potential solution.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.

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