Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

What is your favorite setup program tool?


I am looking at various tools for application setup program creation.  Visual Installer (see)

seems like a good one.
Has any one used it? How does it compare to other tools in this category?


Thursday, October 24, 2002

I haven’t used that particular tool, but my past experience with any free installer that Microsoft includes with their products is that they are quite limited. If you need only rudimentary installation support, it could be fine. But if you need to do more, such as run custom installation scripts or display a custom dialog, then you should look into a 3rd party tool.

Personally I use the Wise installation system ( ). The product isn’t too expensive and it is extremely easy to use. My current project requires some rather complex steps and Wise handles them all famously and it took hardly any effort to build.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

For my stuff, I use the freeware Inno Setup . It's fantastic.

For our product at my office, though, we rolled our own. The installation process or our app and its requirements are part of our "core business", so it was worth the programmer hours it took the guy.

Troy King
Friday, October 25, 2002

I recommend Inno Setup too, particularly if you're a Delphi programmer as you can get the source.

John Topley
Friday, October 25, 2002

We use SetupBuilder 4.02 from Lindersoft ( all the time, and it works just fine. It's rock-solid, provides a very low footprint and is not too expensive.  Excellent support, too.

With almost 7,000 installs distributed using SetupBuilder 3.x and 4.x we have not experienced a single problem anywhere.

The LinderSoft guys are also working on a scripting language to go with the brand new SB 5.0.  As I understand it, the upgrade to 5.0 will be free of charge.

My .02

Laurel Severns
Friday, October 25, 2002

We used InstallShield Express, but it was terrible. After trying many setup programs, our team switched to Linder Setupbuilder and have never looked back. Some weeks ago we saw a pre-beta version of their new scripting technology - this tool rocks.  Setupbuilder allowed us to shrink our installer by almost 2.0 mb!



Jim Canton
Friday, October 25, 2002

One thing you should remember about InnoSetup is that it is free software. The author doesn't owe you anything. Not updates, not a timetable for updates, not even support.

We used InnoSetup 2 and 3 - I know it's freeware but with no real evolution... There are some great plans for the future, but I am afraid that we have to wait several years for their implementation.

I looked at alternatives but Wise or Installshield are too expensive...

B. Margueritte

Bernard Margueritte
Friday, October 25, 2002

There is a newsgroup for Inno Setup which was pretty active last time I checked. Jordan Russell monitors it and posts there too.

If you're not able to pay for commercial products then I'm afraid you'll just have to make do with excellent software like Inno Setup that some people go to a great deal of trouble to provide.

John Topley
Friday, October 25, 2002

I use Nullsoft's NSIS (yes, by the guys who made Winamp). Here is a non-exhaustive list of the reasons that made me love it:
* Incredibly small;
* Free, open-source and actively updated;
* Produces very small self-contained executables. In fact, it supports Bzip2 compression;
* Has a powerful scripting language;
* Can be run from the command line which is useful for my automatic builds;
* Supports extension DLLs
* ....
For a complete list of features, read  .

NSIS fan
Friday, October 25, 2002

Have used Installer VISE for years:

It's very simple to use. Not *very* powerful, but does most of the job.

Napoleon Hill :)
Friday, October 25, 2002

I've been using PowerSetup from Swirldev for my install packages and have found it to be a nice package to use. Because I had a need for binary update patching I switched to Lindner Setup Builder.

Soren Berger
Friday, October 25, 2002

We used to use InstallShield, which was full of bugs and was quite big.

TIP: Don't use an InstallShield tool. Never!

I would support some of the smaller guys (Inno or setupbuilder).


Friday, October 25, 2002

What if Jordan Russell gets hit by a bus?  *He* is InnoSetup. Or what if he finds a job where he has to work 14 hours every day?


Bernard Margueritte
Friday, October 25, 2002

I don't understand what it is that you want. If support is so important to you then pay for a commercial setup package but don't complain when someone releases something excellent for free!

John Topley
Friday, October 25, 2002

I develop Java applications and use InstallAnywhere from

The same program will create installers with and without bundled VM's for many different platforms.

I don't think you would want to use this for non-Java applications, but it's a nice program.

Dr. Awesome
Friday, October 25, 2002

You are right. Just bought a commercial package (and already received it).

B. Margueritte

Bernard Margueritte
Friday, October 25, 2002

The problem is that the questions asked by the so called
"newbies" in the InnoSetup newsgroup seem to annoy.

You will often find the following reply: RTFM

Or in other words: Read the *fine* manual <g>

The IS "community" is increasingly unfriendly to newbies. I used Inno v2.x but will not use the new 3.0 any longer.

I switched to a commercial tool provider.

Mario Sanzes
Friday, October 25, 2002

We are looking for a tool as well. We have some specific tasks we need to accomplish:

1.  Install the .NET Runtime, including latest service packs, if not already on the machine. This may also involve installing IE 6.0 if IE 5.5 or later is not on the machine, and MDAC 2.7.

2.  Install MSDE 2000 with a named instance unless SQL Server 2000 is already installed on the machine.

3.  Configure users, databases, tables, stored procedures, etc. inside either the MSDE 2000 instance or SQL Server instance.

4.  XCopy our .NET files and create shortcuts.

I have had a hard time finding one tool that elegantly supports all of this.  I'm getting ready to slap a DemoShield front-end on all of this and just have the user run separate setup programs.  Needless to say, however, I'd prefer being able to roll it all into a nice wizard so we can figure out what needs to be done.

I know Joel was running into some issues such as these, which is why he rolled his own, but I really don't want to spend 4 weeks doing that!

Any indication as to which of the above-mentioned tools could handle this would be a GREAT help.

Friday, October 25, 2002

I work with InstallShield for the past six months and I hate my life. Stay away from it at all costs (e.g. strangling the IT manager who approves software purchases, taking up used car sales, etc.)

Ivan-Assen Ivanov
Friday, October 25, 2002

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned my favorite setup: on Mac OSX, dragging the folder to your hard drive. =)

Dan Maas
Friday, October 25, 2002

I use Setup Builder from Linder Software and it is great - much better than the "big guys" easier to use, small footprint and much much more.

Tony York
Friday, October 25, 2002

Bernard - not that Inno Setup isn't great already, but if Jordan gets hit by a bus the source code is already available so there is no problem. Even if nobody steps up to officially continue the base distribution, Martijn Laan ( ) will probably continue with his useful, powerful extensions, if you really need to see continued development to feel secure using it.

Ryan Eibling
Friday, October 25, 2002


I'm pretty sure all the needed compontents you mention have an option for an unatended setup, so you can call their installers from your main setup (i.e., Installer VISE).

The XCopy thing is a no-brainer.

I don't know about setting up users and SQL databases, but if you can create a small library to do it, you can call it from your installer.

You can also perform that config the first time the user runs your program, or even as an option (after the setup finishes).

Ivan V.
Friday, October 25, 2002

After using InstallShield for a couple of years we eventually gave up and switched to Setupbuilder. Our latest installation file was 8+ MB with Installshield and went to 4.3 MB only by switching to SB 4.0. Because SB supports binary update patching we can now distribute very small repairs and updates (<400 KB).

By the way, we don't use MSI because Windows Installer is stealing control from our setup. Just don't go down the MSI route... its a nightmare.

Innosetup is good and free. The problem with free software (as I see it) is that people do it in their free time... It is more like a hobby and the writer gets no money from it.

"You paid me nothing, I owe you nothing"

Andy Hayes
Saturday, October 26, 2002

Ryan: Are the ISX and ISTools source codes available?

Arghhh. IS, ISX, ISTools, ISPP, InnoUninst, etc.

If there is a problem with an Inno installation package you have to find out which tool causes it.

"No, there isn't a bug in InnoSetup. Please contact the author of ISX"

Bernard Margueritte
Saturday, October 26, 2002

Bernard: yes, the ISX source code is available. The ISTool source code isn't but it's a separate editor for Inno Setup files and you don't need to use it.

The rest of your message just seems FUD. How many times did you encounter a bug? How many times did you actually post a question on the Inno Setup newsgroups?

Martijn Laan
Saturday, October 26, 2002

Martijen: My point was that Inno is free software and that the authors do not owe the users anything. I never said something like "InstallShield [or Wise, VISE, NSIS, PowerSetup, SetupBuilder, InstallAnywere] is better than Inno" or "Inno is bad software so don't use it".

FUD only comes in the form of half-truths, lies, or facts taken out of context.


Bernard Margueritte

Bernard Margueritte
Sunday, October 27, 2002

We use javascript inside HTAs

It's a web page (with an HTA file extension) that runs code in a  trusted context - i.e. you can instiate the FileSystemObject and do all sorts of useful/dodgy things. Of course this relies on having IE5 on the destination already - which for us is OK as Windows 2000 is required anyway. We put all the setup tests (e.g. "is SP2 or later" - which involves a simple registry lookup for the CSDVersion somewhere in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE) and the required commands to run if the test doesn't pass (e.g. "w2ksp2.exe -f -u -n") into an XML file and the "setup engine" (a 20-line piece of javascript) runs this.

Duncan Smart
Sunday, October 27, 2002

Another vote for NullSoft Installer. It rocks! The feature set is pretty dang comprehensive. If you look for the laama, you'll set lots of installers built with it.

Jeff Winkler
Friday, November 01, 2002

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home