Review: InstallAnywhere.NET

InstallAnywhere.NET 3.0
Zero G
San Francisco, California
(415) 512-7771

Late last year Zero G purchased ActiveInstall, a promising new setup authoring application. Now the product has finally resurfaced as InstallAnywhere.NET. I grabbed a trial copy and gave it a short workout to see how it stacks up. For some time Zero G has sold InstallAnywhere, a proprietary multi-platform setup authoring tool. The new product fits in as a Windows-only, MSI-based alternative.

InstallAnywhere.NET proves to be a very effective tool for editing MSI files. You don't end up grubbing around in the actual MSI file at all (indeed, for the most part you can't even get into the tables, though an advanced mode does let you edit custom tables). Instead, a series of tabbed dialogs (or sometimes tabs within tabs) let you access all the features of the Windows Installer through a custom user interface. For example, if you want to edit launch conditions, there's a launch conditions editor to work in. Want to require .NET 1.1 and IIS 5.0 or better installed before your application? Two mouse clicks and you're there. All the parts of the Installer file appear to be thoroughly covered.

All of this is hosted within a modern IDE that's easy to navigate, replete with the usual dockable windows and customizable toolbars and so on. There are also some additional tools to make life even easier. For example, there's a full IDE for editing dialogs, an analyzer for installer log files, and a handy tool to help you build command lines for msiexec.

Beyond that, there are some extra goodies lurking on the Web site, including merge modules and templates to extend what the product can install easily. You'll also be able to download a version of VBA that can be used to program InstallAnywhere.NET itself, though that isn't yet available.

ActiveInstall was a promising entrant to the setup tools category before the merger. Now it's looking even spiffier with its new name and extended capabilities. With the ability to handle such chores as COM+ and IIS setup, as well as an excellent GUI for dealing with more routine Windows Installer setups, it's one that you should evaluate when you're in the market for a setup tool. They've got a 14-day trial that you can check out.



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