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Windows--is an installer *really* needed?

I have an app that was developed first on the Mac and I am going to release it for Windows also. The app is a standalone executable with all libraries wrapped inside. It can be run from anywhere on the machine a user cares to place it, and it can be uninstalled simply by deleting it.

Is there any reason for me to use some kind of installer? I'd rather not. While I'm testing on Windows, I can create the executables directly on my machine, and it's much simpler.

I guess I'm not clear on the whole concept of Windows installers, as to why they exist (excluding the cases in which you *need* to install libraries, etc. in many different locations).
Thursday, January 26, 2006
If you're executable can be dropped anywhere and be installed, then you may not need one.

Installers on Windows usually copy multiple files into a single folder and then create an icon in the start menu / on the desktop. If you don't want the user to have an icon in their start menu / desktop automatically, I don't really see much of a need for you to create an installer for your program.
Josh McFarlane Send private email
Thursday, January 26, 2006
I guess you don't strictly need an installer, but it does take care of:
-file associations
-desktop and start menu items
Also your app might look a bit amateurish without one.

I would suggest using Innosetup. Its free and basic installers are very easy to create. You can probably have your first one working in less than an hour.
Andy Brice Send private email
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Yes you should. If you want users to understand your app, you'll need to have an installer at least put the exe in a directory in Program Files and place an item in the start up menu...  Otherwise people won't know where to put your executable. If they leave it somewhere on their desktop and have multiple accounts on their PC, chances are the other accounts will have trouble accessing the app. They won't be sure deleting the EXE really deletes the app, since in other cases it doesn't.

It's not technically needed, you even have popular apps like the Putty SSH client that are distributed without an installer, but those are for computer experts anyway.

Is your app for computer experts? Then it's OK. Otherwise, not.
A. Nonymous
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Managing temporary files created by unzipping the distribution package, registering the uninstall program (within "add/remove programs"), displaying last minute errata, launching the help file, registering with the company, downloading updates and assigning file associations are seven more tasks that installers do.

But I agree, if you're keeping to the Mac spirit where the user can just trash the folder, about the only thing you may want to do is create shortcuts.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
In your case, you don't need an installer. The various installer programs like InstallShit pretty much thrash your registry and leave turds all over the place.

You could even use a simple batch file to copy the files into a folder specified at the command line, or even a simple unpacking tool that will uncompress your files into the folder the user enters.

That would not only be easier, but also require less work on your part debugging and dealing with the enevitable problems that will come up when it's deployed in the real world.
QADude Send private email
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Also installers point a link to their corresponding  uninstaller, because you need to support when people want to do control panel/add-remove programs to uninstall it.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
+1 for Inno

You should make some choices for the user, and thus simplfly things for everyone. Where you place the file…do you want a shortcut on the desktop….do you want a entry in the start->programs menu.

After all, are you going to force the user to “find” the .exe program each time to run it?

Make the whole process a few mouse clicks as a innno install. Some of your uses don’t even know, or even care if this is a single .exe file..or a whole mess. They want to click and run…and don’t even care where it installed to. So, give them this ease of use.

Further…it is a REALLY big issue if you can control where users install this thing since then future updates etc. are going to be far easier if you have a directory where this goes.

It is not clear if you are going to issue updates, but you should make considerations for this..and thus an inno install goes a long way here for consistent locations/installs.

It often comes down to social engineering  here. You don’t need a installer, but if you don’t use one, then they will likely just put it on the desktop, and then users might throw it out by accident, or have  hard time finding the program if they re-size the desktop, or something else….

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
Albert D. Kallal Send private email
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Yes! Stick to the convention. I expect an installer on my windows box. I love pressing next, next, next, untill the wizard dissapears. I hate it when I have to think about installing a piece of software.

I'm most likely occupied with something completely different, where your app might be a solution. If you present anything that doesn't conform to the conventions of software installation, I'll get distracted from my task at hand and deep down I'll get annoyed with your software.

Remember to put a HUGE download button on your product page, so I don't have to think about that either.

Yes I'm a stupid user simply because I choose to think about something else than the software I'm working with when I'm working.
Peter Monsson Send private email
Friday, January 27, 2006
Even Putty comes with an installer these days (or someone hacked Simon's webpage and half the world is 0wned....)

No, installers aren't needed, but people expect them so you should use one or your software would look suspect. I recommend NSIS - it addes 34K to your 7zipped distribution (compresses much, much better than zip) so it's also going to be shorter.

If your program does does manage associations, the _right_ way to do that is from within the program, and not from the installer -- on the first run, you should offer the setting, and a menu option should allow that in the future.

I have a conspiracy theory about Windows installers, the Windows registry and their true purpose, but I'll spare you ....
Ori Berger Send private email
Friday, January 27, 2006
Download button just too big ?

Peter wrote

Remember to put a HUGE download button on your product page, so I don't have to think about that either.

It is probably just me, but yesterday I looked at the web page for the Google toolbar three times before I notice the enormous 'Install Now' button.  Perhaps it should have said 'download here' instead.

I really must be losing brain cells, because the day before yesterday, I wasted 10 minutes downloading the US localized version of Firefox, because the site didn't give me a choice - it just assumed.  I got the GB one I wanted later after much searching.
David Corking Send private email
Friday, January 27, 2006

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