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Venerable InstallShield now reaches Web services, databases

InstallShield is a fixture on many a Windows desktop. Ed Tittel reviews v12, which now covers Web services and database servers in the installation process and supports Windows Vista.

Anybody who's messed with Windows applications, either from the development or the user side, has surely seen the inimitable InstallShield pane and logo on their desktop from time to time, if not on a more regular basis. It's interesting to observe that InstallShield's been around since Windows made its debut yet still manages to keep up with the perpetual change that so often emanates from the colossus of Redmond.

Take FLEXnet InstallShield for example. This Macrovision product is easy enough for first-time developers to learn and use quickly, but it supports enough of the Windows development scaffolding and framework -- including the .NET 2.0 Compact Framework -- to handle the most complex and demanding multi-part software installations.

Now in Version 12, and with nearly 20 years of history to its credit, InstallShield reaches out from the desktop to also encompass database servers, Web services and even mobile devices as part and parcel of the installation process. Likewise, InstallShield is already able to accommodate Windows Vista and related technologies, including IE 7.0, Windows Installer 4.0, support for minimizing reboots using the Restart Manager Infrastructure and installation compatibility checks to make sure your code and Vista can get along amicably.

FLEXnet InstallShield 12.0 comes in three flavors:

  • InstallShield Express establishes the entry-level for this package. It supports Windows Vista, the multilingual user interface (for Windows Installer 4.0), Visual Studio 2005, mobile devices and .NET Framework 2.0. There's also a built-in project assistant to guide developers through the installation process. Pricing starts at $500.
  • InstallShield Professional adds support for Microsoft Driver Install Frameworks for Applications 2.01 (DIFx) for Basic MSI and InstallScript MSI. It also incorporates a complete overhaul to the InstallScript Engine, which provides powerful install automation facilities. Pricing starts at about $1,800.
  • InstallShield Premier, with a five-pack license or better, gets developers access to a Collaboration Module that permits application and installation developers to interact easily and formally while development is underway. Pricing starts at about $3,500.

As is typical with development tools, maintenance contracts are essential but also add to reported costs. Collaboration five- and 10-packs are available as well and offer some discounts when compared to individual license costs.

Two things are certain. First, when it comes to starting an application (and ending the development process) a successful installation comes paramount. Second, nobody's been doing Windows installation longer or better than Macrovision InstallShield, not even Microsoft itself.

Ed Tittel is a writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics, along with IT Certification and information security. E-mail with comments, questions, or suggested topics or tools to review. Cool tools rule!

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