Friday, November 23, 2007

InstallShield

I'm starting to regret that I recommended to my manager that we use InstallShield to build our installers. InstallShield does have a few nice features, such as allowing side-by-side installations of the same product, but from a developers point of view, it is so awkward to work with that I get frustrated each time I try to do something. The list of annoyances is getting rather long:
  • The COM automation interface is not complete: there is no way to create a new InstallShield project, certain attributes on components are not accessible, and you can add "previous media" in order to create an update installer. This forced me to manually patch the XML project file.
  • Silent operation is clunky at best, and just non-functional at worst. You need to twiddle around with response files, non-existing error reporting, weird command line flags, and there is no guarantee that it works. Why not have one single flag which runs the installation using all default values? And why do I need to supply a response file for uninstalling? Just remove the damn product!
  • InstallScript: this is a Pascal-ish language which just makes my brain hurt. There is no design behind it, data-structures have been added in an ad-hoc manner, and it's just painful to use. At least to people like me who are used to more modern programming languages such as Ruby and Python. (Actually, I'd choose just about any language before InstallScript: Perl, Java, Delphi, C, C++, Lisp, Smalltalk, you name it. Well, maybe not Cobol.)
  • There are several types of installers you can create: InstallScript-based, MSI-based, and a mixture of them. (And a bunch of others as well.) I would like to have different user manuals depending on which installer type you're using. The current manual is one monolith which is unclear all over the place about which options, functions, methods, etc. that applicable to each project type.
Oh, well. Now I'll stop whining and get back to work.

1 comment:

snake001 said...

wow that's nice article - You said a lot of what I think of IS without swearing:)