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Installer that doesn't suck?

So I'm trying to package a VB6 app with MDAC 2.6 and a bunch of 3rd-party ActiveX controls with something a little bit more sophisticated than the Package and Deployment Wizard.  I've played with evaluation versions of InstallShield Express, WISE Installation System, ActiveInstall, NullSoft's free tool, Lindersoft's SetupBuilder, and Inno Setup, and have been dramatically unimpressed with any of them.

Of the products with GUIs for building packages, only WISE produced one that seemed to work.  (However, I couldn't test it on a clean PC to see that it actually got everything where it needed to go, which seems to me to be an essential part of evaluation... but I digress.)  But for some reason, it doesn't have a prebuilt dialog for displaying a click-through EULA, and in the half-hour or so that I played with WISE, I found its dialog editor to be rather annoying.

Time spent creating an install is time I can't spend getting my app out of beta, so I *don't* want to spend any more time than I absolutely have to to get a minimally acceptable setup.  I *do* want a tool that will correctly identify dependencies, figure out which packages it needs, and then build a single-file executable setup that forces the user to agree to a license agreement.  Should I invest the time in figuring out WISE, or is there another (I can't emphasize "quick and easy to use" enough) package I overlooked in my search?

Alternately, does anybody want to make a few hundred bucks helping me build an install using one of the free tools?  (=

Sam Livingston-Gray
Monday, November 10, 2003

This topic comes up regularly :-)

BTW, what didn't you like about NullSoft's free tool, and Inno Setup?

Frederic Faure
Monday, November 10, 2003

While you're at it, find one with a 'just bloody install the damn thing' option.

Yes, create the bloody directory.  What, you think I want it installed in C:\?

Run setup.exe.  It says 'I am Word Thumper Deluxe 2004.  In case you are wondering, I'm a text editor optimised for programmers.  Install Yes/No'.  Few setup programs actually saw what they're about to install.  On a similar note, Help/About rarely says what the program is about either.

Hit Yes, program installs and launches.  Yes, run the bloody thing.  Why the hell do you think I installed it?  Otherwise I find you've gotten cute by hiding it deep in the Start menu, usally under an unrecognisable company name.

For those that need it, have setup.exe recognise switches such as - /install /nolaunch /customise

Any takers?

AJS
Monday, November 10, 2003

I will second 'Install and Run that bloody thing option' Idea!

JD
http://jdk.phpkid.org

JD
Monday, November 10, 2003

I've found that InnoSetup + ISTool (for building the script visually) is excellent, and have yet to have problems getting it to do what I need it to.

From what you describe, your requirements are not that difficult, and shouldn't require anything unusual from InnoSetup.

Tim Sullivan
Monday, November 10, 2003

"Time spent creating an install is time I can't spend getting my app out of beta, so I *don't* want to spend any more time than I absolutely have to to get a minimally acceptable setup"

Sadly, telepathic precognition technology is still somewhat behind the times.

*I* would like a programming tool that I can point at a database and it'll correctly identify all the user input forms and reports that I need, and just build them. AFAIK, no tool does this satisfactorily.

My point is that building a setup is a task like any other in programming - you have to learn the tool to use it to its best ability. It sounds like you're at that "quasi master" stage of programmer evolution where you're an expert in one tool and have forgotten what it's like to be a newbie, so having to learn the tool to build a setup is frustrating.

Try finding some howto's or tutorials, biting back your arrogance, and learning a tool well enough to use it (I suggest Wise or Inno, based on years of reading recommendations).

And by the way, folkies - if you're offering your software for download, don't name the download package "setup.exe" okay? You're not the only shareware developer on the planet.

Philo

Philo
Monday, November 10, 2003

Frederic:  NSIS may be fine, but when delivering a professional application, I'm a bit reluctant to distribute anything with "SuperPIMP technology" floating around there for hapless users to stumble across.  I had been hoping not to have to dink around with a GUI-less installer, so didn't do much more with it or Inno Setup than launch, blink a few times, and quit.  (=

Tim:  Thanks, I didn't notice ISTool and will check it out.  No, I wouldn't expect any of this to be terribly difficult, and yet somehow that wacky MDAC throws a wrench in.

AJS:  I thought "just bloody install the damn thing" was what I asked for.  Was I not clear enough?  ;>  I want my DWIM!

Philo:  haven't been called "quasi master" before, but yes, I've gotten quite used to skating through life on my superior brainpower.  I was also spoiled by Access VBA's online documentation, which led me to expect that Help would actually be helpful.

I'm just frustrated because this project has already taken twice as long as I expected it to.  (At least I only have myself to blame for the scope creep, and I am pretty damn pleased with the app itself.)  I'll try to bake up some humble pie and see where it gets me.

Sam Livingston-Gray
Monday, November 10, 2003

Sam;

It sounded like you were looking for something to make the developers (ie you) life easier, that is, making the creation of  setup.exe as painless as possible.

I was referring to the Users point of view.  You do get tired of clicking yes, yes, yes, yes, etc.  How many screens does your setup.exe have?  My comments are that one is quite enough, thank you.

Keep developers and users happy.  How novel.  Are there any packages that achieve both?

(Oh, and Philo is right.  Quit using setup.exe)

AJS
Monday, November 10, 2003

I noticed no one recommended InstallShield -- granted, I've never been the one responsible for doing installers but the people who do have to use it usually don't complain too much :) Is this Inno tool superior?

jedidjab79
Monday, November 10, 2003

http://www.jrsoftware.org/isinfo.htm

qwerty
Monday, November 10, 2003

InstallShield is old, crappy and crashes.

MX
Monday, November 10, 2003

Also, with Inno Setup you can produce setups that are 2-3 MB less in size than the equivalent setup generated with Inno Setup.

This matters a lot when users download your software.

MX
Monday, November 10, 2003

[psst - MX, recursion...]

Philo

Philo
Monday, November 10, 2003

Setup2Go is very easy to use and complete, you can test freeware or shareware ($29).

They can also outsource your projects! as trend (;-)

http://www.dev4pc.com/

Guillermo
Monday, November 10, 2003

Installing MDAC with InnoSetup:

http://www.jrsoftware.org/iskb.php?a=dcommdac

Tim Sullivan
Monday, November 10, 2003

Sam: You _can_ remove the default strings that say "Nullsoft Installation System", and I don't recall SuperPIMP being a visible string anywhere. See, e.g., TortoiseCVS's installation. It's NSIS based; What don't you like about it?

Ori Berger
Monday, November 10, 2003

Besides, what's wrong with being a pimp? Every business needs a manager :-)

Frederic Faure
Monday, November 10, 2003

Never having gotten around to installing TortoiseCVS, I can neither confirm nor deny the suckitude of its NSIS-based install.  As for SuperPIMP, most users won't ever find that, but given that my market is social service agencies, it wouldn't quite be appropriate.  ;>

So far ISTool seems rather useful, and the price can't be beat.

Setup2Go strikes me as having rather an odd price point, and their services page touts their experience in outsourced installations using InstallShield, which says to me that they don't eat their own dog food.

Thanks, all, for the recommendations, and to Philo for the smack in the head!

Sam Livingston-Gray
Monday, November 10, 2003

Hi Sam,

Here are a couple more products you may want to take a look at.

http://www.thinstall.com/
http://www.activeinstall.com

Thinstall looks pretty interesting.  I've been evaluating it for use with our new product.  Hope this helps.

--Garett

Garett Chang
Monday, November 10, 2003

ActiveInstall's interface was abysmal.  Pretty, but abysmal.  I couldn't even find the list of files being installed after it scanned my VB project.

Thinstall is a neat idea, and I like its neat avoidance of DLL Hell, but it's a little spendy for a college student with only one current gig.  Plus, it looks like its license enforcement either calls the mothership or requires a hardware key which you can only get after undergoing a background check?  Is it me, or does it seem like a bad idea to [so blatantly] treat your customers like criminals?  (=

Sam Livingston-Gray
Tuesday, November 11, 2003

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