Review: InstallShield X

InstallShield X
starting at $1199
Schaumburg, Illinois
(847) 466-4000

InstallShield has once again revised and renamed their flagship product. Last time around, it was DevStudio 9, which merged the Professional (proprietary script) and Developer (MSI-based) products into the single development tool. With InstallShield X they've gone a step further, by merging in the MultiPlatform and Update Service bits as well. The end result is a setup building tool that covers just about everything you could want to do. I got my hands on a copy and put it through its paces recently.

There's now one IDE for handling everything: Windows, Linux, Unix, PalmOS, PocketPC and Windows Mobile solutions can all be constructed with the same set of tools. They've worked to bring the MultiPlatform version to parity with the Windows stuff, so there's an easy transition path for Windows developers who want to move on to cross-platform work. If you launch the Universal Installer, for example, it looks very nearly the same as the interface for the Windows installer - except for the page with checkboxes where you can choose to support Unix, Solaris, Mac OSX, and so on.

The new product also includes a starter version of InstallShield's Update Service, which lets you deliver upgraded versions to users when they sign on to the Internet. The Starter Edition will notify users of updates and provide a link back to your Web site for them to download the updates. If you like, you can upgrade to the Professional Edition, which enables integrated download and installation of updates. The Starter Edition is also limited to 50,000 users of your application.

Other new features here include a wizard for installing Windows device drivers, one-click support for the Java Runtime Engine redistributable, the ability to save projects for previous versions of InstallShield to open, a visual dialog editor for the *nix setups, support for configuring SQL Servers and their databases, and better support for installation prerequisites.

If you've worked with InstallShield products in the past, you won't find any huge surprises here; the basic interface is still the same. You've got the Installation Designer treeview for manipulating parts of the setup, the Project Assistant for organizing everything in a step by step manner, and a direct editor for mucking about in the MSI database (assuming you're working with an MSI-based setup). Help is integrated throughout the product, so although there is a nearly overwhelming feature set, you should be able to find your way around with little trouble. If you're working on a product with complex or cross-platform installation requirements, InstallShield is certainly one of the contenders to consider.

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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