Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A replacement for Installshield?

I'm a developer/tester now with more of a slant towards test tools, technologies and technquies. However, I still care about how the tools we select for development impact our every day lives, mostly from a sustainability point of view.

Installshield is a necessary evil for getting software onto Windows machines. Over the years, I have my share of exposure to IS, including developer, professional and new versions of it. Each time, there was a new paradigm for developing in IS, from changes to how features, folders, file groups (whatever they are called now) to how things compile from a command line.

Yet another tool I came across called WIX which stands for "Windows Installers from XML". After downloading and taking a look, seems like a good alternative to IS and many of the proprietary systems for installing software. Ultimately, I want an MSI package that I can pull into a VS project and I don't want to learn a whole new language to do it. This is all in XML and the system is open source, so I can use it in every day life to make changes as I see fit.

This also means I can distribute my source for installing my software without having the burden of telling someone "Oh, you don't have that license for IS, sorry" or "I have no clue where my CD is anymore, so you'll need to hunt around for it". I'm getting frustrated with proprietary formats. It would be nice to see software developers who make software for developers create language agnostic systems for their applications. Some people already do this, like Selenium. These organizations can own the engine to compile, but don't create a new paradigm for your product.

This little utility look like it could be sustainable longterm since XML isn't going anywhere anytime soon and the source to compile the source is freely available. I'm a fan.