InstallShield AdminStudio Professional 6.0 by Bob Kelly
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The focus of this review will be on those new features introduced in this latest version 6.0. For a closer look at AdminStudio and its features that existed prior to this new release see the AdminStudio 5.5 review. This is a major upgrade to AdminStudio and with that comes an impressive list of new features. Of these new features, I’ll be discussing those I feel are most important:

  • InstallScript MSI Support - AdminStudio 6.0 can now convert an InstallScript MSI setup to a Basic MSI setup with InstallScript support so it can be managed more effectively in an enterprise environment.

  • Process Assistant - provides a high-level interface providing a guided approach to testing and conflict-resolving packages.

  • Predeployment Testing - allows you to determine if an MSI package will succeed or fail when it is installed in production, in order to help reduce the likelihood of deployment failures.

  • SMS Web Console – Blurring the line between package creation and deployment administration even further, AdminStudio now offers its own Web interface version of the SMS Administrator Console.

Finally, I will close with some final thoughts including some information about other new features of AdminStudio in less detail. 


InstallScript MSI Support
 
Just the word “InstallScript” can send Windows Administrators into a frenzy. Vendors employing InstallScript MSI installation projects (a hybrid of the two installation technologies) typically deliver setup.exe wrappers to bootstrap the installation of InstallScript which must be used to call the Windows Installer setup. While command line support for these wrapped installations is robust, those that wish to assign the included MSI setup using Active Directory are prevented from doing so. Creating a transform, detecting conflicts, and patching and upgrading are all much more difficult issues to deal with when working with an InstallScript MSI installation. While there are some work-arounds to the issues, InstallShield now comes to the rescue with a solution of its own.AppDeploy.com
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Process Assistant
 
The new Process Assistant is a great interface for getting the most out of what AdminStudio has to offer. From what I have seen in the field (and I am a bit guilty of this myself) is that people get comfortable with the tools they know and spend much or all of their time in that one tool- a good example being the InstallShield Repackager. Since the release of v5.5, the Repackager is robust enough to create, edit and compile MSI packages, so it is easy to find yourself not looking at the other tools until you run into a situation that forces you away.

The new Process Assistant guides you through the tasks to get from creation to distribution in a very logical and common sense interface. The first window asks you to select a file. When you do, the Process Assistant determines what the next step should be - if you have an MSI, you’ll want to customize it with a transform – if you have a legacy setup, you’ll want to repackage it and generate an MSI of your own. It then takes you through conflict resolution, testing and finally to the distribution phase (another enhanced feature in this release we will touch on later).

Even if you already know the steps to take and the tools to use, the Process Assistant may still be the way to go. The reason is that it collects most of the necessary information from you before launching the required tool, so you have a consistent interface for the entire procedure. Finally, because the Process Assistant knows what setup you are working with, there is no need to specify this in the various tools as you move through the process!
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Predeployment Testing
 
Predeployment testing is now available in AdminStudio, which provides an effective means of testing the deployment of a package prior to releasing it with whatever distribution mechanism you have in place. You provide it a source MSI (the one you want to test) and a target MSI file names (the new test version of the package you want to create). The test version of the package performs the following silent tests against target systems and then reports the results to a web service installed on an IIS web server.

  • System Search – checks to ensure any configured search conditions are met

  • Launch Conditions – checks to ensure any configured launch conditions are met

  • Directory Creation Permissions – ensures necessary permission exists to create directories

  • File Read Permissions – ensures necessary permission exists to read files

  • File Write Permissions – ensures necessary permission exists to write to files

  • Disk Space – ensures necessary disk space is available

  • Registry Permissions – ensures necessary permission exists to modify the registry

  • .NET Framework – ensures the .NET Framework is installed if necessary

  • File Association – ensures any specified file associations can be enforced

  • File Conflicts – ensures no conflicts exist with current files on the target system

  • Registry Conflicts – ensures no conflicts exist with current registry entries on the target systemAppDeploy.com
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Final Thoughts

If you have not had your hands on AdminStudio in a while, I recommend you take a look at my last review of version 5.5 as well. I’ve covered a few key upgrades here, but AdminStudio already had quite a bit to offer.

In addition to these items I thought were key, there are considerable other enhancements as well. To name a few: a new Package Auto Import feature allows you to simply place a package in a specified folder where it will be automatically detected and imported into the Application Catalog. You can now scan for file dependencies in the Application Catalog and can include these dependencies in your conflict analysis. If you are an Oracle shop, AdminStudio now supports Oracle to store its Application Catalog database. Some of the ConflictSolver ACE rules have been enhanced and the output from these checks are consolidated and summarized in its reports.

InstallShield have managed to outdo themselves once again; AdminStudio does not only seem to do everything, but it seems to do everything quite well. New features like its InstallScript MSI installation conversion tool and Process Assistant make this worth a very close look. If you are evaluating a new solution, or rethinking your current tools, do yourself a favor and get your hands on the latest demo.