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The Definitive Guide to Windows Installer [Paperback]

Phil Wilson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 29 2004 1590592972 978-1590592977 1st ed. 2004. Corr. 2nd printing

This book definitely merits a spot on every packagers bookshelf!

— Darwin Sanoy, DesktopEngineerTraining.com

When a company builds and ships software, the installation process is often the first opportunity for a customer to view the the product and the companyand the installation experience can make or break a lasting impression. So this book is ideal for companies and developers who want to impress their clientele.

This book covers every aspect of using the Windows Installerthe underlying installer technology in Windows. A valuable tool for you software developers, this book helps ensure thorough and reliable installation for your customers. Most other books for software developers end too abruptly and omit critical information, like how to create the necessary installation software. But The Definitive Guide to Windows Installer picks up where the other books trail off.


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The Definitive Guide to Windows Installer + Wix 3.6: A Developer's Guide to Windows Installer XML
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Product Details


Product Description

About the Author

Phil Wilson graduated from the University of Aston, Birmingham, England, with a bachelor's degree in chemistry, but he preferred computers to test tubes and eventually worked for 15 years on developing operating systems for Burroughs and Unisys mainframes. Phil started programming for Windows in the early 1990s and has developed in MFC, ATL COM, Visual Basic, and C#. He has been involved in installation design and technology for about 8 years, and he became a Microsoft MVP for Windows Installer in 2003. To get away from computers, he plays and records guitar, and enjoys camping in the California desert.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Very elegant new approach June 18 2004
Format:Paperback
Many developers who write applications for a Microsoft operating system know all too well of installation hazards. The possibility of introducing DLLs that are incompatible with existing DLLs, for example. Plus lots more things that could fail. Wilson starts off his book with a listing of what could traditionally go wrong in an installation.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this was a wretched state of affairs. You typically had programming expertise in your particular field. But there should have been no a priori reason why this expertise should have to stretch to the installation process. Right?
Wilson gives an alternative. He details how you can use Windows Installer to install and uninstall your application. The process is still nontrivial, mind you. Which is why we have a book of this length. But it shows how, if you fit your application within WI's strictures, then the entire install is now much easier and safer.
Perhaps the single best advantage is that WI makes your install a transaction. Either it all works, or the install will fail and your system will be unaffected. Atomic. We have rollback ability.
Those of you familiar with SQL and transaction processing will recognise this. Wilson shows that WI is in fact based on SQL tables and relational processing. Some people at Microsoft made a nice design! By undergirding the installation with SQL tables. It lets WI have an inner coherent structure, into which third party applications can fit, in a disciplined way. Plus, it allows the panoply of SQL queries. At the right level, it is an elegant approach.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good But Not Definitive July 27 2005
By William E. Blum - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I say it's not definitive because I think that means there's nothing more to be said on the subject. The MS Windows Installer technology is huge, and it would take a book five times the length of this one to be definitive. This book describes the client/server architecture of the installer and explains about the important tables in the database. It demonstrates how to make an installation package with Visual Studio, but assumes you will be using a commercial package in real life. To get the most out of the book, you'll need to install Orca, which is available in the Microsoft Installer SDK. Orca lets you view and edit the tables in an installation package.

After a bit of orientation, each chapter tackles a common installation topic: patches, ASP.NET, .NET assemblies, windows services, and the installer APIs. Wilson is good about explaining why something should be done a certain way and giving you the background to understand it.

My only disappointment is that, due to the shortness of the book, there is no room to go into more detail about some of the standard actions. I'd like to have seen an example of the minimal set of actions needed to install a file; kind of the hello world of installer. The beginning example he provides is built with Visual Studio, and I'm sure it puts in a lot more actions than are really needed, so it's hard to mentally associate what the package is doing with the action records that are doing it. To really understand how the installer works, you should be able to build a package from scratch with Orca.

There are few or no typos, which is amazing for a computer book nowadays, and I didn't find any errors of fact.
25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very elegant new approach June 18 2004
By W Boudville - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Many developers who write applications for a Microsoft operating system know all too well of installation hazards. The possibility of introducing DLLs that are incompatible with existing DLLs, for example. Plus lots more things that could fail. Wilson starts off his book with a listing of what could traditionally go wrong in an installation.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this was a wretched state of affairs. You typically had programming expertise in your particular field. But there should have been no a priori reason why this expertise should have to stretch to the installation process. Right?
Wilson gives an alternative. He details how you can use Windows Installer to install and uninstall your application. The process is still nontrivial, mind you. Which is why we have a book of this length. But it shows how, if you fit your application within WI's strictures, then the entire install is now much easier and safer.
Perhaps the single best advantage is that WI makes your install a transaction. Either it all works, or the install will fail and your system will be unaffected. Atomic. We have rollback ability.
Those of you familiar with SQL and transaction processing will recognise this. Wilson shows that WI is in fact based on SQL tables and relational processing. Some people at Microsoft made a nice design! By undergirding the installation with SQL tables. It lets WI have an inner coherent structure, into which third party applications can fit, in a disciplined way. Plus, it allows the panoply of SQL queries. At the right level, it is an elegant approach.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent place to start to learn about Windows Installer June 11 2009
By Rod Doe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I purchased this book in a panic after I inherited a pile of WiX installer responsibilities as a result of a layoff. We live in interesting times.

This book covers creation of Windows Installers using Visual Studio. (This book does not cover WiX.) A key point is that an MSI file is a database, comprised of many tables. This books shows hows to exploit this architecture.

The process of creating installers with Visual Studio is a little unusual, but makes sense when you try it. Visual Studio can produce an impressive, somewhat customized installer quite easily. I literally started with nothing, and in 12 minutes, I had built an installer for a large project. However, the resultant installer may not be exactly what you had in mind. To customize the installer, use Orca to edit the resultant MSI installer manually. Write scripted SQL queries to edit the resultant process automatically, possibly as a post-build event. This book takes you through that process.

This book advanced my skills from knowing nothing about installers to being the local expert. (I am now converting WiX installers to Visual Studio installers.) It was a great starting point, but I found that I needed to search MSDN to find some details. The book is VB-centric with regards to scripting, which for me is a negative, but may be positive for you. I would like to see coverage of MSI manipulation in tools more typical of a build environment, namely Perl or PowerShell.

In summary, read this book to get the big picture and lots of details, and then plan to get other details from MSDN.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very useful book June 11 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book covers in a simply and useful way several aspects of Windows Installer. I suggest this book as a "bible" for those programmers who needs to customize their installation procedure. Obviously this book does not resolve all the problems related to Windows Installer, but offers a valid guide to start to resolve them.
2.0 out of 5 stars This book has it all...except how to write an installer! May 5 2013
By Mike Audet - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are lots of good details in here, but not enough to do more than customize an existing installer. I feel that a book called "Windows Installer" should include how to write an installer.
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