I am new to this MSI Installer package thing and I have been given the responsibility of creating MSI packages for our company. Looking to do some for Adobe, Winzip, WSFtp, etc. Does anyone have any recommendations on where to go to understand how this is done and what software you need to purchase to do this. My company runs Desktop Authority. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Brent
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The first thing to do would be to get some setup authoring tools. There are 2 main players: Altiris (neé Wise) with their Wise product line and Macrovision (or whoever owns them this week) with their Installshield product line. Each has its own merits, pitfalls and adherents. Both have trial versions which you can download and try.

Next up would be some virtualisation software. Again, 2 main players: Microsoft with Virtual PC and VMWare with, er, VMWare. I have used both and could't really plump for one or the other, in terms of packaging advantages. VMware has more bells and whistles but, for packain, they're largely irrelevant. The advantage of these products is that you can have multiple 'builds' held on your host and can revert to a known state at the click of a button (more or less) instead of the ol method of rebuilding the w/s from, say, a Ghost image. This alone will save you *HOURS* of wasted time. Both also allow you to 'snapshot' a VM so you can install, say, a dependency for an app which you're packaging and snapshot the VM before snapshotting the actual application set-up. That avoids the need to re-install the dependency each time before the app.

Next, just to clarify thimgs: you say you're tasked with creating MSIs for your company. You then go on to list some apps which are already supplied in MSI fomat. The Adobe apps are a special case, as Adobe has bizarrely adopted their own front-end to their MSIs which, generally speaking, preclude using the MSIs in native form. As for the rest, as ever, there are exceptions but, generally speaking, you would NEVER repackage an app which is supplied in MSI format.

Lastly (from me, anyway) seek out the excellent White Paper on 'Windows Installer Best Practices'. There should be a link on appDeploy somewhere but a Google will turn it up.

I think that's everything for now. Welcome to the wondeful world of appliation packaging :)
Answered 09/28/2007 by: VBScab
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First of all, thanks for your post!! Very informative. I may of misunderstood part of the MSI process. If I intend on deploying applications that ALREADY have an MSI created for them from the actual software developer using Desktop Authority then I do not need to use the authoring tool? And if due to inexperience with virtualization I could just use ghost for the time being until I get a better grasp on this whole process?

What is the purpose of authoring tools? I may be wrong about this, but if an application already has an MSI then I dont need an authoring tool. Right or wrong?


Have you ever created an MSI for WinZip?


Thanks,
B
Answered 09/28/2007 by: herndonb
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Well, you'd want to use a tool of some sort because an MSI may contain directives to install stuff you don't want or to plcaesyou don't want, or you may need to specify things like license keys. For that kind of thing, you would either use the command line arguments to the MSI 'engine', MSIExec.EXE or, more commonly in corporate environments, a so-called Transform file. Creating transforms is *much* easier to do in an authoring tool, although some here like to get "down to the metal" and use a free MS tool called Orca. Orca is great for quick-and-dirty fixes/changes and I use it a lot but trying to use as a beginner will likely make your brain ooze from your ears (no offence).

Next, *NEVER* trust a vendor's MSI. You would be a fool to take one and set it off distributing to your user's workstations without checking it out. So many of these clown vendors hide their installation's activity in what are called Cusom Actions and, unless you know *EXACTLY* what they get up to, you'll come to regret it one day.

Ghost is fine. I'd urge you to get hold of some sort of VM hostware, though. Virtual PC is free and seeting it up is a no-brainer for even half technically-minded people: even our developers can do it!

And no, I've not re-packaged WinZip but, IIRC, WinZip is already an MSI-based install. Although it looks like it's EXE driven, I'm prety sure you'll find an MSI somewhere in your %TEMP% structure. There are many such apps: the first thing one does when beginning a new project is run the EXE, pause at the first screen (normally a 'Welcome', of course) then set off in search of an MSI! :)
Answered 09/28/2007 by: VBScab
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