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Alternative to Installshield Developer, please!

Installshield has been driving me nuts for the past week as I try to update our application. Dismal, dismal documentation; a $300 online course to cover what their documentation does not, and just terrible books.

Can another developer recommend a good install builder for Windows that:
-handles patches, minor and major updates well.
-has a ton of sample installs that show how to use the product.
-doesn't mistake a ton of web pages for intelligent documentation clearly written.

Thanks in advance,
Bob Walsh Send private email
Monday, February 07, 2005
It's probably easier to write your own installer.

Mark Bessey Send private email
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
NSIS or InnoSetup could be what you're after. They're free, and they work well. Whether you'll find the documentation and examples satisfying is up to you. Google is your friend.
Ori Berger Send private email
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
When our company initially started, we actually tried to use InstallShield. Our application has an extremely small foot-print, yet somehow the installation package we built was 3.5MB. In addition, I could not find how to do some trivial things, such as having the option to launch our application when the installation is complete. We now use InnoSetup, which I highly, highly recommend. It is a nice, simple application. For your purposes it may not suffice, as you may need some more advanced functions, but there are still a heap of companies selling better products that you can evaluate directly from the web. Check out for a good list.

A small plug... since you are using an installation, and you are looking to have some management for updating your app in the future, why not take a look at our application at This app allows you to add updating to your app, and (hopefully) is easy to use and manage.
Simon@AutoUpdate+ Send private email
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Oops, above URL is , there was an extra character (dot) in the URL I provided.
Simon@AutoUpdate+ Send private email
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Thanks Simon, for the info and BTW, the period/URL think is something I did here a few days ago too.

We need to be able to edit these posts!
Bob Walsh Send private email
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Wise installer, anyone ?
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
I second NSIS installer. It is free and very well documented. What I like most with it is that you can add any feature you need by writing a plugin. It took me 30 minutes to understand and write my forst plugin for NSIS to manage Windows Services.
It also compresses files using 7Zip format so if bandwidth or installer size is an issue, you're sure to get the smallest package with NSIS.
Developer next door
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Yeah, the documentation is rather lame for InstallShield, and my experience shows that the classes are rehashes of the unhelpfile. At one interview, I made the mistake of pointing this one out (oops, interview over).

Regretably, InstallShield is still about the best, it just takes a LOT of practice doing things to discover all the quirks. And most of the desired features (or bug removals) were always promised for future versions.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
So far:

Wise - been there, done that and more pain than installshield.

NSIS or InnoSetup - death by technical detail

AutoUpdate+ - right price, good model, but the icons make the product look unprofessional. see:

IndigoRose - - Not sure yet, but:
1. need two products to do installs and patches, 3 if you want auto updates.
2. Trueupdate page talks about 2.0, but that is not for sale yet.
3. Visual Patch has gone a year without updates.

Has anyone experience with a app called QSetup? ( )
-good price, auto update, some intelligent features,

Also, I can see what I really want in life is:
1. An Installer maker that won't drive me crazy.
2. A Patch maker so I can address specific small issues as they arise between minor updates.

Any suggestions on Patch Programs?
Bob Walsh Send private email
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
I'm not usually one to plug anything, but we've been using Astrum InstallWizard, and I like it a lot.  Its very easy to use, has some pretty advanced features like variable substitution, a custom dialog editor, automatic bundling of Java, .NET, or VB runtimes, and customizable themes.  No weird scripting languages needed.

It also supports update installations (that lay down over an existing one).  I believe they also make an AutoUpdater product.

The price is right, too, $79 for the professional version, unlimited use.

I've used InstallShield, InstallAnywhere (for Java programs), various forms of Microsoft installers, and NSIS.  For ease of use, power, and flexibility, this is the best combination I've seen yet.
Dave C Send private email
Tuesday, February 08, 2005

It looks good, very good. Thanks for the tip. Know of any good patch creator programs for fixes between versions?
Bob Walsh Send private email
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
NSIS, InnoSetup and Astrum Install Wizard all seem to be Windows only.  Any recommendations for a Linux friendly installer as well? 

I noticed Astrum has a Windows/Linux product.  Wonder what they do for the installer under Linux?  Perhaps a Linux implementation of Astrum is in the future?

Tom D Send private email
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
When I worked at a <4 letter printer manufacturer, we used InstallShield Anywhere. There would be about 20 different installs per CD/patch of the storage area network stuffs.

I used XSLT to do selective builds (features only to be for AIX or win64 or redhat or whatever; selective features was a feature promised for a future edition). Otherwise, the build created these 400meg install packages that had *everything* even though you couldn't or wouldn't want Tru64 distro with your windowsNT install.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Bob Walsh >> NSIS or InnoSetup - death by technical detail

I agree that NSIS takes a bit getting used to, so a good way to get started is to use the HM NIS Edit editor ( which uses a wizard to generate an NSIS script, ready to be compiled and tested.

The NSIS forum ( is also very active, and you're likely to find help there, in addition to the Archives section of the site ( where plenty of articles and samples are available.

I'm sure InnoSetup is on par, but I haven't tried it because at the time I was looking for an installer, I don't think it supported scripting.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
I feel a rant coming on.

I had to use InstallShield X on a recent project. I hadn't touched Installshield products since around 1997. My, how it's grown.

It's as complex as a lot of programmer IDEs, and I second the comments that trying to do really mundane, common things is really frustrating. Plus, details that are important and critical to the deliverable application get "hidden" because IS's project lists and views try to show you so much *crap*. While you're fussing about trying to get a vanilla Win32 application install built, and that's all your client will EVER have (EVER), you have to wade through screens wanting parameters for your Itanium, Linux, WinCE, and SparcStation deployments...

So here's my question: why is it that - for pete's sake, a frigging installation-builder- has to become a cult/industry/boondoggle?

Just signing onto Installshield's Q&A email list seems too cumbersome. Ask ONE question and then you get marketed-to for weeks afterward with incessant "was your question #794646987987987 answered to your satisfaction, please fill out the attached survey, our representatives are standing by 24x7. Please, PLEASE devote your life and your soul to Installshield."


I'll deploy in a f*ckin' ZIP file rather than Installshield next time...! Just so I don't have to have any contact with that soul sucking company.
Bored Bystander Send private email
Tuesday, February 08, 2005

I feel your pain, I do. Atrium and QSetup are ahead so far on responsiveness points. Will let all know here.
Bob Walsh Send private email
Tuesday, February 08, 2005

I also share your pain. InstallShit is simply a piece of crap. At one company I wrote the installer from scratch (C++/MFC) and it worked like a charm.

Trying to do anything simple in IS is almost impossible, and even simple things like registering DLL files is a pain the ass. I had to write a major hack in their script to get it to work properly.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Have you tried Installshield Express.  It's pretty easy to use.
Tracy Send private email
Friday, February 11, 2005
May I ask what "NSIS" is?

I saw Inno mentioned a number of times -- but Inno doesn't create MSI's from MSM's. We are upgrading our app from Crystal 8.5 to Crystal 10, and no longer can you simply dump the requisit dll's into the install dir. If you want support from Crystal(and I do understand that is pretty funny right there), you HAVE to use their MSM packages.

I think though, that once a tool that can create the MSI is used, you should be able to throw that into an Inno-like install and have the MSI run itself at some point. No?
Saturday, February 12, 2005

Open and browse the first link there... Isn't this Google thing very smart??
Developer next door
Saturday, February 12, 2005
I use Setup Factory 7.0.  It has a great feature set and is easy to use:
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
I used Installshield Express 3.5something at my last job to distribute an MFC app w/ATL support bundled with a few VB apps.  Nothing fancy.

The only problem I had with it involved it not liking the fact that I put my build files on a network drive, but a few go-rounds with Installshield support resulted in a workaround and a fix.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005

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