A review of DevPartner Studio 7.1 and InstallShield DevStudio 9

Finding that bad code:
A review of DevPartner Studio 7.1

Cost: $1,495
Compuware Corp.
Detroit, Mich.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

This version of DevPartner Studio remains an excellent tool for helping debug and tune code in VB6, Visual C++ or Visual Studio .NET. I do most of my work in .NET, so I loaded up one of my products (about 10,000 lines of code) to give it a spin. I found a wealth of useful information.

The Code Review facility is a rules-driven engine aimed at helping to locate dangerous parts of your code and suggest fixes before it breaks down. It will also help enforce naming conventions and calculate complexity for your methods. You can also edit and customize the rules used for analysis, filter the results, suppress rules and so on.

The error-detection piece lets you run your app while DevPartner Studio keeps an eye on the internals. This can help detect deadlocks and unsafe threading code, as well as problems with dispose and finalize patterns.

The code coverage analysis capabilities help ensure that you’re testing all your code. Like most of the product’s features, it is unobtrusive. Run your app normally, and you’ll get a code analysis report that shows which methods were called and what percent of lines of code were executed. Double-click a method and you get a view of the code showing what was (and wasn’t) exercised by the tests. With a distributed app, you can perform a joint and simultaneous code coverage analysis of the client and server pieces.

Runtime memory and performance analysis also let you track what’s going on in a running app. The memory analysis shows which methods used the most memory and where temporary objects are allocated. You can also force a garbage collection while the app is running. Performance analysis will get you execution times, call graphs and more.

Overall, this is an impressive package. The integration with VS .NET is superb, and the information returned is useful in many scenarios. Priced at $1,495, not every .NET developer is going to be able to afford it. But if your budget allows, you can get a two-week evaluation copy to judge its impact on your development for yourself.

More than a merger: A review of InstallShield DevStudio 9

Cost: $1,199
InstallShield Software Corp.
Schaumburg, Ill.
Rating: 4 out of 5

For a long while, InstallShield has maintained two parallel project tracks. InstallShield Professional used a proprietary scripting engine for installing software, while InstallShield Developer used the Microsoft Installer (MSI) engine. No longer. InstallShield DevStudio 9 is a major release that is a successor to both products. You can create scripted or MSI installers in the same interface, and build either one in the standalone InstallShield IDE or inside a Visual Studio .NET solution.

Either way, DevStudio can build just about any installation you like. There are also wizards to create new setups from VB6, VB .NET, or C# projects. Those familiar with the previous InstallShield products will like the results, including the friendly, organized views and the detailed drilldown into the MSI database.

This is more than just a merger, though. The biggest change is the Project Assistant, which provides a graphical path through the settings in a setup project. And it’s fully reentrant, so you can switch back and forth between views. I don’t usually like heavily graphical interfaces, but this one worked well for me.

You can now store your projects in XML format. This is great for source code control, and makes the information in InstallShield projects available to any tool that consumes XML. (Unfortunately, the MSI-flavored command line build tool can’t handle XML, which makes doing an integrated build process difficult.)

The core facilities are similar to previous versions, though there is now support for COM+ apps. There are also some nice side-effects from the merger, most notably that script-based installs can use merge modules that were developed for the Windows Installer.

The MSI Differencing tool lets you compare MSI files. Along with InstallShield’s ability to directly edit such files, you can accept or reject the changes. There are also cab file and log file viewers, both specific to InstallShield setups.

The setup authoring space remains fiercely competitive. With this release, InstallShield has made its own product story more coherent, added some nice new features, and continued its tradition of excellent authoring tools.


For more reviews and opinions from Mike Gunderloy, click here.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.


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