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What's wrong with InstallShield ?

(This is not a rhetorical question.)
I have read in a thread here that InstallShield 'sucked beyond belief'.
I've used InstallShield Professional 5, and I can tell what was wrong with it :
- crashes from time to time
- builds are not so fast
- below-average code editor
- no way to sort the files by date, name, size, whatever
- no way to know if a file is already inserted
- no '******' password field
- generally takes 100 % CPU during an install on NT or W2K
- cannot add more than 5 files at a time to the install (Not kidding - maybe there was a service pack for this one).

On the positive side, I've managed to build installs, without being limited by the script language.

Do the issues I mentioned still exist ? Who has stories to tell about the present versions (DevStudio 9, if I'm correct) ?

Friday, December 5, 2003

I gave up after version 7.  Maybe this stuff has been fixed.

Problems I had:

- Crashes frequently.
- The IDE insists on connecting to the Internet every so often to check for updates.  When you're on a system not connected to the outside world (like I am), the whole app will freeze for a while while it tries to resolve the DNS. This is extremely painful.  Also, it does this even when I uncheck the "automatically check for updates" option.
- For the longest time, they refused to make their updates/service packs downloadable as a stand-alone file.  I could only get updates from within the application.  If you have a system not connected to the internet, you're screwed.
- For how much money the application costs, they don't give you any phone support.  You can only go through their web site, where you send an e-mail and get ignored.
- They could at least send a fucking manual with it.  They send you this nice pretty software box, and it's filled with foam!!!!!!  All that's in the box is a CD in a sleeve.
- It insists on using absolute pathnames for files to include in the install package.  If I open up the project on a different computer (where things are in a different directory), then the application borks.
- The wizard won't let you recursivley add a direcotory and it's contents.
- No support for drag-n-drop in the interface.
- No ability to rename a component.  If I create a Start Menu folder, and then make entries inside that folder, I can't change the name of the folder.  I have to delete the folder, and then manually recreate everything that was in it.  And I can't recursively delete the folder and it's contents.  I have to manually delete everything inside the folder.
- If you mess up the project file in an outside editor, the application doesn't tell you.  It just crashes.

That's just what I can remember.  I have touched it in a few months.

Myron A. Semack
Friday, December 5, 2003

I hate the absolute filename misfeature too. What's wrong with relative path names? All of the developers at my company have the same source tree but it might be on a different drive, or have a different root. On the build server, everything is rooted at C:\Build I think, but not so on any other machine. So what we do is only author installs on the build machine, using a single license of the software. If they supported relative paths we might have even bought one for each machine.

I've heard here the InnoSetup is nice and I think I'll look into that for the next one I need to do. I've also used PiMP, freeware from NullSoft, for some simple things.

Friday, December 5, 2003

We're using 7 currently, and it suffers from all the bugs and misfeatures listed above.  We're going to start switching to version 9 soon, so we'll see how that is.
My big complaint is that it interacts poorly with Visual Source Safe.  You have to check out all of the project files, and it often makes unnecessary changes (moving sections of ini-like files).  That and the scripting language *literally* combines the worst features of C and VB.

Friday, December 5, 2003

Add to all that, some general misdesigns.

The installscript language they use is a mess - worse than VB 6 on a bad day. The examples in the documentation are often wrong. And, there's no real structure to the script they build - it's just code with a bunch of gotos for each section in it.

Chris Tavares
Saturday, December 6, 2003

Six weeks ago we sent out our beta product to 3,000 beta sites (medium and large companies/organizations). The installation was built with InstallShield DevStudio 9 (InstallScript project). InstallShield is an awful product. The IDE GPFed several times a day on XP and 2000 (after that a reboot was required). Believe it or not, the installations failure rate was 9%!!!! This was a tech support 'nightmare'. My impression about Installshield's capabilities is very low.

Neither InnoSetup nor NSIS were an option because we had to release small binary patches during the beta cycle. One of our customers suggested a product called Setup Builder. It turned out that the current release was not powerful enough for us to distribute our software. Nevertheless, we contacted Linder Software and they gave us access to their new (soon coming) Setup Builder version 5.

What shall I say? Their SetupScript scripting language contains all the features we need. Documentation was not available, but my colleague was able to build a new installer within three hours. The resulting setup.exe was one-third of the size of the InstallShield crap and the installations failure rate was close to 0%.

Is there anyone out there who actually likes InstallShield?

Richard Lehman
Saturday, December 6, 2003

You can do relative paths with InstallShield (at least with InstallShield Professional 7), you just have to do it in a strange way. For example, if I want to include everything in a "files" directory a couple directories below where my InstallShield project is, I would create a File Group and set the Link Type to Dynamic Links and put this in the Folder:


Then the installer can be built on any machine, no matter where the files are located.

Jason Allen
Saturday, December 6, 2003

I've had very good luck with NSIS, but I'm only building simple installations.  I've never tried using it for larger projects.  It is much more like programing though, which means that while it's great for simple things, complex things can be a real head scratcher.  It's definite good side is the extensibility.  I found it easy to extend with C language DLLs.

If you're seriously stuck for an installer and want some help, contact me off the board and I'll see what I can do for you.

Clay Dowling
Sunday, December 7, 2003

InstallShield 5 was the first product I used as a junior programmer in a commercial setting.

At the time I was far too inexperienced to consider its virtues or lack thereof. I don't even remember any of the details. What I do remember is that I was able to code up a useful installer for a complex product. InstallShield may or may not have been the best choice, but I could do the job with it. And you could extend it with C++ as well.

All this changed with InstallShield 6 for Java. Hardly any documentation, and again, I don't remember the details, except that "opaque" was not the word for it. I would look at the newsgroups and find them full of people screaming "why the hell isn't there any explanation for [fill in the blank]!?!"

After going on a very expensive course I was able to have a kind of tentative confidence. But even then, when I e-mailed for support, their suggested solution was that I get one of their consultants to do it. I explained, with what I still view as admirable restraint, that encouraging my company to fire me and bring in one of their staff to do my job instead, was not a course of action that appealed to me.

From what you guys say, InstallShield's later versions sound like more fun than a barrel of monkeys. I think I shall avoid this product in the future.

Fernanda Stickpot
Monday, December 8, 2003

Well, thanks for the insight. Dark picture. For better of for worse, we're going to buy it. I'll keep you informed.

Monday, December 8, 2003

To: Richard Lehman

The last company I worked for gave up on using InstallShield and switched to Setupbuilder.

Do you have access to the Setupbuilder .MSI version? As I understand it, their beta program is full.



Harvey B.
Tuesday, December 9, 2003

I have created a service tool that is only 300 KB (170 KB zip uncompressed). The size of the setup.exe created with DevStudio 9 (SetupScript) is 1.60 MB!!!! That is an unbelievable installer overhead of more than 1.43 MB.  Argh!

Our company does not allow to use "freeware" or "open source" :-( so I bought another setup tool to provide small installer overhead.

Roberto Gomez
Tuesday, December 9, 2003

I meant "170 KB zip compressed".

Roberto Gomez
Tuesday, December 9, 2003


Drop them a note at and tell them I sent you.

Richard Lehman
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Back in the old days, VB6 professional had a nice little
feature. It could roll out an installable exe with just
one little util.

You just pointed it towards the solution, and it would
find the dependecies and smack them all together in a file.
Easy. Everybody could do it.

Not so with installshield.

The wizzard does not help a bit. I never got a solution
working on a different machine. It needs all kinds of
special treatments just to function. Like the msia and the
other msi file...  or some so called net architecture you need to detect/install.

I just want my solution to be packed and
made ready for distribution. Installshield is no help at all.
What use is an install program that actually takes up more
time to get working then the coding of the program I need to distribute!

It is like jumping into a brick wall. Eventually, when pounding long enough, it will give way..

I even considered installing on all my client machines, so no installshield is needed :> lol

Installshield is a very bitter pill we need to swallow if
we ever want our code to be distributed.

R Smulders
Saturday, April 3, 2004

What's wrong with installshield ? no, that's not the question
you wanna ask: it's "what's right with installshield?"; answer: nothing. nada. zip. zilch...

The damn thing just doesn't work. it's the most immature
piece of software crap I've ever seen (and most probably
I will ever see).

The IDE is cracp. the engine is crap. the call-home feature
is shit. the wizards are fucked up. the editors are nothing
but an insult to the user. all in all, it's the filthiest piece of
rotten rat shit software you'll ever use.

oh, and the online documentation: probably the "punjabs"
who write it need to ameliorate their english a bit.

fuck installshield.

that's all.

peter s.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004

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