Review: InstallShield 10.5

InstallShield 10.5 Professional
Schaumburg, Illinois
(847) 466-4000

After the many years I've been working with InstallShield products, it was a bit odd to see Macrovision logo on the jewel case for version 10.5. Inside, though, it's still the same product as when it came from a smaller company - though, of course, with some changes as befits the minor version increase.

One nice touch in this version is a repository for components - dialogs, merge modules, SQL scripts, and so on. The Professional Edition, which I tested, allows you to keep a local repository on your own computer for these components, so that they can be used in multiple projects. The Premier edition adds a network repository for multi-user sharing. Publishing a component to the repository just requires working through a wizard; inserting a component from the repository goes through the regular add component dialogs, so the process is almost completely seamless.

Other new features include support for deploying MySQL databases (similar to the support for SQL Server in previous versions), a visual tool for specifying changes to XML files on the target machine, and support for the latest Microsoft installer technology (MSI 3.0). There's also support for selecting or creating Windows users at install time, which is useful in many cases.

Some of the other new features only show up in the high-end Premier Edition, which I didn't test. These include a Trialware feature, based on Macrovision's other offerings. With just a couple of mouse clicks you can build a Trialware installer for your product, so that it can be installed with the right to use for a limited time period, after which it expires. This uses some of Macrovision's existing technology, which they say is proof against the most common attempts to circumvent such technology (such as rolling the clock back or doing the install in a virtual machine).

Another significant advance in the Premier Edition is the introduction of assemblies to the product. These are not .NET assemblies, but an InstallShield technology designed to make it possible to dynamically reuse components across multiple installers. These modular components are versioned, and can be shared between multiple installed products without anything breaking on uninstall. Organizations shipping suites will appreciate the flexibility that assemblies give to build multiple different product editions with little overhead. This looks especially useful when you're working on a cross-platform installation.

Overall, this version isn't revolutionary (at least at the Professional level), but it continues to be a solid choice for building installation packages that constantly tries to raise the bar. You can grab a trial download from the product's Web site.

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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