Review: InstallShield Express

InstallShield Express 5
InstallShield Software Corp.
Schaumburg, Illinois
(847) 466-4000

A couple of issues ago, I looked at InstallShield's new DevStudio 9, the does-everything setup tool. But what if your needs are somewhat more modest? InstallShield's answer to that question is InstallShield Express 5, a simpler (and less expensive) version of the application.

Superficially, Express looks much like its big brother. There's the same excellent Product Assistant to guide you through the steps of building a setup program. This makes creating a setup as simple as filling out a bunch of forms. If you prefer, you can use the Installation Designer which offers a more traditional interface in the form of a bunch of property grids.

You can start with a blank project, or with a Wizard that will build a project from a VB6, VB .NET, Visual C++, or C# project. There's also a Smart Device wizard that lets you target Windows CE or SmartPhone devices. Installing technologies such as MDAC, MSDE, or the Scripting runtime is as simple as checking a box. These tasks are handled by merge modules, and InstallShield offers updated merge modules for downloading.

Of course, Express can't do everything that DevStudio can. Here are a few of the missing features that might cause you to upgrade to the premium package:

  • Dialog editing
  • Conditional inclusion of features
  • User interface debugging
  • Merge module creation
  • InstallScript custom actions
  • MSI validation

Still, I'd guess that at least 60% of the applications out there would do just fine with a setup built with Express rather than DevStudio. InstallShield did a good job of focusing this release on the essentials, while leaving truly high-end features for the high-end package. And upgrading is simple, so you can try Express and then move up to DevStudio if you need to without losing any work.

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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