Quickly create setup programs

Creating a setup program is a tedious part of the software-development cycle. If your shop is large enough, you might be able to appoint someone to create a professional installation program. But, if you don't have such resources, InstallShield Professional 2000 can save you time and money.

After a 2-minute installation process, you begin creating your setup program by selecting either a wizard or a default setup environment. The wizards include the Project Wizard, which you'll use for most programs that deploy an .exe file, and the Visual Basic Project Wizard, which you'll use specifically for creating Visual Basic (VB) setups. I recommend using one of these wizards before you try the Default Setup Project option (which you'll use after you become a seasoned setup professional).

After you create an initial setup shell, InstallShield takes you to the Installation Development Environment (IDE), which Screen 1 shows. The IDE offers the familiar feel of other professional development products, such as Microsoft Visual C++ (VC++) and VB, thereby simplifying the development process and component management. InstallShield divides the IDE into three panes: Project Workspace, which displays the Scripts, Components, Setup Types, Setup Files, File Groups, Resources, and Media file components; Editing and Viewing, in which you edit and view objects that you select in the Project Workspace pane; and the Build and Compile Results view, in which InstallShield displays build and compile errors. While executing a build, I found that I could simply double-click an error message in the Build and Compile Results view and instantly go to the error's source. This feature displayed clear error messages and saved a lot of time.

I found several of InstallShield's features particularly impressive. The Professional Dependency Manager lets you check dependencies for any executable application you designate. The Media Wizard lets you select from 10 media deployment types, then use one menu command to simultaneously compile all selected types. The Function Tree, on the Project Workspace's Scripts tab, lets you quickly access your .rul files (i.e., source code script files) so that you can easily find a defined function and avoid unnecessary scrolling. The handy and fully customizable Component Install/Uninstall function lets you repair a current installation or add and remove installed components. Finally, the third-party script editor, which features recordable keystroke macros, lets you easily launch any external editing applications.

InstallShield's menus are Windows Logo program certified. Many object options are only a right-click away. The InstallShield for Windows Installer (ISWI) helps you create setups that support the Microsoft Windows Installer serviceā€”a requirement for your product to obtain the Windows 2000 (Win2K) logo. InstallShield includes more than 25 built-in setup dialog boxes that allow scripting-based customization, and the ISWI lets you use a visual dialog editor to design dialog boxes.

The context-sensitive Help is clear, simple, and consistent. To find a command's syntax, simply highlight the command. Disappointingly, some of the Help file's functions refer you to other functions for parameter clarity. I don't like bouncing around for answers.

If you want to develop a professional-looking product that is easy to install, uninstall, and update, InstallShield will show its value quickly. You can download an evaluation version of InstallShield from the company's Web site.

InstallShield Professional 2000
Contact: InstallShield Software * 847-240-9111 or 800-374-4353
Web: http://www.installshield.com
Price: $995
Decision Summary:
Pros: Gives application installations a professional appearance; allows simultaneous compilation
of multiple media types; makes Registry entries a snap; offers flexible upgrade options for pricing
Cons: Some Help file functions refer to other functions to clarify parameters