For those old enough to remember pre-Windows times, the whole idea of writing an application to install an application seems bizarrely recursive. Nevertheless, Windows apps such as the 1-GB Microsoft Office suite need installers.
Windows-application installation has been a problem for years, and Microsoft's new installer is supposed to address and overcome existing installation problems. The new installer supports an installation database (in part to fix problems the Registry failed to solve), rollback support, application maintenance, advertisement (which makes features look installed but only actually installs them if the user asks for them), better administrative control over installation, and--best of all--a cure for DLL hell.
Naturally, VB/VBA Developer's Guide to the Windows Installer starts by installing the new installation SDK. Then it gets more complex. The new installer is supposed to cope with Windows 95, 98, NT 4, 2000, and the dozen or so major versions of these--which vary considerably under the surface. These adjustments are all controlled from the installer database, which is incompatible with all other Microsoft databases.
Using the new installer isn't trivial. Indeed, you'll reach page 200 before you'll feel you've learned enough to consider creating an installation routine--and then it's only by modifying an existing one. What comes across most in this book is the Byzantine complexity of Microsoft's new installer. If you're a Windows developer, however, you probably have little choice but to gain at least a basic understanding of the system--and this book does the job. --Steve Patient, Amazon.co.uk