I was asked this question the other day:
“Isn’t InstallShield basically just a wrapper around the Windows Installer?”
Yes, that is true. However, it’s an extremely sophisticated wrapper. Here are some of the things that InstallShield does that makes it easier for you to create installations:
- The properties you set in the InstallShield IDE are used to populate the tables in the MSI database. In some cases, values in views and property sheets are used to fill multiple tables in the database.
- InstallShield provides many tables that add specific functionality to your installation that are not provided by the Windows Installer. A couple of examples are IIS websites and SQL scripts.
- Many ways are provided to determine what is installed on the target system and how it is configured.
- Many views are provided which make it much easier to add files, shortcuts, text files, INI files, XML files and registry entries to your installation.
- 43 wizards are provided to make it much easier to create Components, Releases, Custom Actions, and perform many other common tasks.
- A Redistributables view is provided which makes it very easy to add Prerequisites, Merge Modules, and Objects to your installation.
- Many ways are provided to extend the capabilities of the Windows Installer and installations in general. These include Managed Code Custom Actions, Win32 DLLs, COM objects, .NET Class Libraries, VB Script, among others.
- The InstallScript MSI project is a bit of magic created by the InstallShield folks to allow people who prefer scripting to still have a Windows Installer-based installation.
- Although it doesn’t make use of the Windows Installer, the pure InstallScript project is provided for people that find it easier to create a script-based installation.
All of the functionality provided by InstallShield has not been listed here, but you get the idea. Besides making it much easier, it also saves you hours upon hours of work and frustration over straight Windows Installation development.