Just starting out in packaging / Advice needed

Hi all,

I am new to packaging applications, and I need some advice. My experience in packaging and distributioon is limited to using customization tools to create transform files (MSTs, MSPs) to customize an MSI installation (delivery is through SCCM 2007).

I have done fairly well in setting up my company's packaging infrastructure for most Microsoft and Adobe 9x applications. However, I now need to create packages for applications that use legacy (non-MSI) installers (Install Shield, etc.) Whereas with Microsoft and Adobe applications, I was able to readily track down information relevant to creating packages for those applications, and the packaging of those applications is pretty straightforward; with legacy installer-based applications it gets more complex.

First off, what would be a good tool or program that would allow me to repackage legacy installers into MSIs and configure those installations? Looking for something free or inexpensive here, as my company wants me to become an expert in packaging and delivery, but doesn't want to spend the cash for tools and training (typical IT dept.). I think I have an old Wise packaging program in my personal stash (I forget the exact name--it's not a suite, and it's version 8 or something like that)--would this program still be good to use?

Second off, where can I go to learn more about the repackaging process? I am looking for a step-by-step online tutorial or something along those lines. I can be dense at times, so reading well-written explanations, seeing screenshots, etc. certainly helps. Is there somewhere on this site that has this information?

Finally, how did you guys become packaging gurus in the first place? I am the only "packager"/"SCCM administrator" in my office, so I have no one that I can defer to, or ask advice. In a way, I am on my own (TGFG--Thank God for Google!). Also, packaging is not something they teach in universities, and as far as I know there is no packaging certifications, such as MCSE or CCNA that would result in a plethora of books being published on the matter.

Looking forward to your replies.



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Answers (13)

Posted by: Inabus 14 years ago
Second Degree Green Belt
Packaging isn't simple and training and tools will cost, simple. If your company wants you to become an expert then they are going to have to pay, nothing is for free.

1) Installshield or Wise as a packaging tool, recommend Installshield as its updated more often but each have pluses and minuses
2) ICE validation to remove all snapshot related ICE errors
3) Understanding what should and shouldnt be in a snapshotted MSI, is that registry key related to my app or because the amchine renewed its IP during my snapshot?
4) VMWare as a test and packaging bed for your snapshots
5) QA documentation
6) Packaging documentation, this includes yours and what people give you to a, test the software once packaged, and b, what options are required to be packaged i.e. is that tool bar ticked or not
7) Does the msi install, uninstall and repair correctly

Some courses from Installshield:

The first link would be better as it shows how to snapshot using installshield tools.

Thats just a few things that come to mind and is, basically, why an installshield packaging course is a must imo.

Posted by: timmsie 14 years ago
Fourth Degree Brown Belt
Sounds typical of employeers to want you to become an expert without paying for it[:@]

You need to bear in mind that you can do an awful lot of damage with a badly authored package. Most of the time you won't notice this untill you come to uninstall them.

My experience of packaging is with Wise package studio which we use here with a robust proccess behind it using the workbench. It is a very good product and fulfills our needs. It's not cheap though, but If you've invested in SCCM you must have a fairly large environment to support with a bit of cash behind you.

Obviously once you become more offay with editing tables directly then you can get Insted which is free (But it's for direct editing and not a snapshot tool).

As for training I don't think there is much decent stuff around wise offer training on thier products but it doesn't go deeply into the windows installer engine. More about what all the menu items do in the app. There are some companies that will come in and train you. When I started out we got 1e consulting in and they converted one of our big legacy apps to msi whilst training us along the way. Which was really usefull very knowledgable guys.
Posted by: anonymous_9363 14 years ago
Red Belt
You could do worse than d/l Phil Wilson's Definitive Guide to Windows Installer.

Also, John McFadyen has a bunch of blogs on Windows Live
Posted by: Marmot 14 years ago
Orange Belt
Hi All,

Thank you for the replies.

On the subject of packaging tools, I have Wise InstallMaster 8.0 and InstallShield X at my disposal.

Which would you recommend, or are the versions I have too old to be of any use?
Posted by: timmsie 14 years ago
Fourth Degree Brown Belt
Wise InstallMaster won't help you with msi's though it's just for creating wisescripts that compile into an executable.
I think wise do a Wise for windows installer (may be called Wise Installation Express) product which is just a capture tool and the msi editing tool. Which would be fine if you don't want all the extra's of Wise Package Studio.
Don't know anything about Installshield I'm afraid
Posted by: anonymous_9363 14 years ago
Red Belt
InstallShield is fine. Although I prefer Wise Package Studio, I have reservations about Symantec's long-term support, given their sporadic support of new technologies.
Posted by: turbokitty 14 years ago
6th Degree Black Belt
I point my clients to Installshield because of the good training courses, referenced above. If you can't afford the training, they have excellent courseware you can buy for $250.
Here's a sample from the repackaging courseware:

I would recommend these two PDFs. Very good step-by-step guides and it makes good reference material. Each are $250.

Repackaging and Application Migration Using AdminStudio 9
SKU: ADS-0900-TG00
Learning MSI Projects Using InstallShield 2009
Posted by: Marmot 14 years ago
Orange Belt
Thanks for the info. Course looks good. Wish I could take it.

I see a lot of references to AdminStudio. Is InstallShield X not a repackaging tool?

Also, regarding AdminStudio 9, Is there any difference in functionality between the Standard and Professional editions, or is the Professional edition the equivalent of the Standard edition plus support?

Posted by: anonymous_9363 14 years ago
Red Belt
Also, regarding AdminStudio 9, Is there any difference in functionality between the Standard and Professional editions, or is the Professional edition the equivalent of the Standard edition plus support?No such thing as 'Standard' now with IS 2010. It's called 'Express' http://www.acresso.com/products/is/installshield-features.htm
Posted by: turbokitty 14 years ago
6th Degree Black Belt
There's some confusion here.

"AdminStudio" is a suite of applications that includes the repackager and Installshield editor.
The main difference between the "Standard" and "Pro" editions is that Pro includes a conflict analyzer, which isn't really necessary if you're a small shop (considering the significant cost increase).

"Installshield" is just the editor.

Since you already own the editor, you could use a free repackager, like perhaps Bob's that's available on this site, to capture the changes and make an MSI (I'm assuming it makes an MSI, I've never used it). Then you could use the features in Installshield to make the advanced changes required.
Posted by: gelongworth 14 years ago
Senior Yellow Belt

Posted by: rayz_0020 14 years ago
Senior Purple Belt
Hey all,
Is der a freeware for just creating a base template MSI ?
I can do my customizations with ORCA...but I dont think i can create an MSI from Scratch with ORCA...

So is there any tool (for free [8D]) which can create a basic template MSI (with some mimimal custimizations like some properties) ??

My client doesnt have any Licensed Packaging tool and doesnt want to buy one...
I think I can manage with orca for vendor MSIs.. (hopefully [&:])...
but for the legacy apps I need to create just wrapper MSIs..
So lookin for a solution...

also is der a way by which i can create an MSI with SCCM or ManageSoft [:(]..
i kno these are deployment tools but just checking if there cud be an option as i have never wrked on these before...

Posted by: anonymous_9363 14 years ago
Red Belt
but I dont think i can create an MSI from Scratch with ORCAYou most certainly can but it would mean you'd need to have a good knowledge of the MSI schema. Why not take a simple one, edit it to suit and save it under another name, to use as the template?
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