Half-Blood Programmer

Product Review: InstallShield 2008

One reseller of InstallShield strongly recommend me about InstallShield 2008. So why not take a look at it?
Nice features of InstallShield are,

  1. Dialog Preview. When I work in IA, I need to open a dialog to see what it looks like but that’s not yet straight forward. IS generates previews for dialogs so it takes me no time.image
  2. ISICE & ISBP. They are additional installer validation rule sets added by InstallShield. I am not sure whether IA contains additional rules except Microsoft’s standard ICE.
  3. RSS feed. Yes, I really want to know why IA does not provide a friendly RSS feed so I can get latest information through Google Reader.

However, after all I prefer InstallAware, because some great features I cannot live without,

  • Debuggable MSIcode. I can set break point and watches to locate bugs.
  • Ribbon UI. Yes, it is cool.
  • Cheap. I can save a lot of money.
  • Customization. I can write my own runtime packages easily. I can modify dialog box just like using Delphi.
  • Localization Support. You do not need to buy the dearest SKU in order to get localization support.
  • Great showcase. CodeGear switches from InstallShield to InstallAware to build installers for Delphi and C++Builder. Because Delphi is one of the most complex application on Windows platform, the new installation experience can reflect that IA is better than IS. Microsoft used IS in the past but since it defines MSI, it seems to use home cooked MSI builder for most of its products.

But of course, you need to learn about what IA is not capable of and whether you can receive good support from the vendor.

If you want open source alternatives, I strongly recommend you consider WiX or Inno Setup.

BTW, IMHO there are some not-so-useful features in InstallShield too,

  1. Require EULA Reading. I believe most users like me hate this feature so why IS adds this feature to the installers. I can see no value it adds to my installers. But I know somebody likes that.
  2. Visual Studio integration. I’d like to integrate installer creation into continuous integration process but that only requires a command line install script builder. So I really do not think Visual Studio integration is necessary. I enjoy working in InstallAware Studio outside VS because the Ribbon UI is much easier to access than menu and tool bars.

(Updated: Christopher Painter dropped a comment here earlier today. He let me know some important logic behind the scene.
I know little about TFS in fact except I use its service through CodePlex.com. Even if it is possible to do everything in VS as he pointed out, I still want to run a batch file and make everything down. Why? Launching VS on a not-powerful-enough computer wastes a lot of time while running a batch file is much faster. If you like to use a batch file, then VS integration is not that necessary.
About EULA reading, even if installers created by InstallShield require me to scroll down to the end, I do not read those terms to make me silk. In fact, end users are not lawyers so how can they understand those words?)

9 thoughts on “Product Review: InstallShield 2008

  1. Christopher Painter

    The scrolling EULA is a very useful feature to satisfy corporate legal and product management requirements. It’s not their for the users benefit. It’s there for the developers benefit should it be required.

    Also VS integration is really nice. It makes building with VSTS TFS a breeze and if you don’t like working inside the VS IDE you don’t have to. You can check out the ISM and open it up externally without hurting the .SLN and .ISPROJ files.

  2. Kristian

    We switched to IA from IS around two years ago. Our biggest issue was that the installer created from IS ballooned to well over 100Mb. This was not acceptable for a product that is distributed solely via download. It also has a detrimental effect on trial downloads and therefore also affects the number of sales.

    Today our installers are under 50mb even though there is more stuff crammed in.

    Importantly, IA just seems to be easier to use overall, which means less time to create more reliable installers.

    Cheers,

    K

  3. Kristian

    We switched to IA from IS around two years ago. Our biggest issue was that the installer created from IS ballooned to well over 100Mb. This was not acceptable for a product that is distributed solely via download. It also has a detrimental effect on trial downloads and therefore also affects the number of sales.

    Today our installers are under 50mb even though there is more stuff crammed in.

    Importantly, IA just seems to be easier to use overall, which means less time to create more reliable installers.

    Cheers,

    K

  4. Piercy

    DO NOT PURCHASE INSTALLAWARE.

    i cannot stress this enough. They are money stealing pirates.

    They wont provided installers for version you have paid for. they will then issue a required auto update which installs the newest version. this new version needs a new code which you have to buy. you cannot go back because they dont provide the installers. so basically pay again or dont use it.

    there support is rubbish they do not respond to complaints, issues or queries.

    I have never dealt with such an unprofessional company.

    Avoid at all costs.

  5. Anonymous

    I second percy on the money making charge. Their support is non-existent, their charges atrocious (stay with them for a while to understand what I mean) and to add to the pain, their branding is all over products you create. You would think you can custom brand your installer after all the cash you parted with… Think again.

  6. Anonymous

    Thank you for this blog. I used to code in Java, and am now programming in C++. You have very simple and wise words. You appear fair and objective. God bless.

    Peace

  7. Anonymous

    I use InstallAware and while it does everything that I need it do, the complaints posted by the other users are valid. You can not remove the branding, their support is the most unprofessional that I have ever seen, and it costs way too much for team development. I normally post my name to blog comments, but given how InstallAware cuts off support to anyone that complains, I need to hide my identity.

  8. Lex Li

    We must believe a fact that all products have advantages and disadvantages. So I turn to use more open source products, such as Inno Setup. Why? Simply because if there is a disadvantage I have access to its source code and I can try to change it. Well, definitely it requires you to master the code base, but as geeks we are kind of doomed right? :)