Sunday, November 01, 2009

WiX vs InstallShield

Until recently we used InstallShield for all our software packaging needs. It was never a love relationship as the product is complicated to use and we don't need the vast majority of its features anyways despite the fact we are deploying large enterprise systems consisting of multiple installers. Not long ago we ran into problems with InstallShield and tried to get to support. Understandably support is not available for free, so I sent an email to their sales department ("sales@...") "threatening" to even spend money on purchasing a support contract. I never received a reply. Since the issues we observed with the product didn't disappear and the information available on the internet, e.g. forums, didn't help either we look for alternatives. The packaging had been a long standing concern. So we looked again at WiX (Windows Installer Toolkit). It took one of my engineers not more than one month to rewrite all installers using WiX, and our next monthly release in November will be shipped entirely on WiX. Is WiX perfect? No, not at all. But we now have a tool that is much simpler to use and it fits very nicely with our other Visual Studio based tools. In addition: WiX is open-source and we don't have a licensing issue which is kind of nice as now not only all team members can use it at the same time but we can also always run our automated processes without even thinking about licensing issues. So overall I'm glad we took a fresh look at WiX and that we phased out InstallShield. Given the available service levels, the associated cost, and in particular the fact I never heard back from their sales department although I was willing to spend money, WiX is the better choice for us overall. And maybe it's also the better choice for your project?


Rob Mensching said...

Manfred, it'd be interesting if you could provide details about what would make the WiX toolset more perfect. Always looking for the things that need improvements.

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