Programming Tools: InstallShield X
Overall, I had some product concerns, not user concerns. Support is an issue: you get support only if you pay. Before obtaining assistance from InstallShield, I needed to have a support contract. My other option was to pay per bug report. For the price InstallShield charges for its product, I expected a minimum of 90 days of installation support. Furthermore, InstallShield prices may be a real issue for smaller users. Afterwards, though, I was told that free 30 day pre-sale support and 15 day post-sale support is offered.
The initial version of InstallShield I tested had a few problems. The built-in update facility did not work. From the contents of the home Web site, I do know that two updates are available. I was able to download the updates (both .jar files), but I had no idea how to apply them and there was no information about this step on the Web site. Also, I experienced a problem trying to incorporate the automatic update facility in the installation package for a non-Java application.
Perhaps as a consequence of being closed-source, no bug list is publically available. Thus, I could not find if these problems had already been reported.
Another issue is the patch process. It could be more automated. For example, there is no integrate diff facility.
A final minor nit: the tutorial help screens do not contain a simple way to go to the next or previous help topic. You must use the hierarchical table of contents.
If InstallShield X does nothing else, it gives you an opportunity to design your installation package. If, after all your hard work, your application does not install correctly, it is a terrible waste. InstallShield X can help prevent this, while giving your application a polished look. This does not mean the generated package is free from problems, but the creation of the installation package is less of a hassle.
For this review, I used the high-end version of the product, called InstallShield X Universal Premier. See the InstallShield Web site for a comparison showing the features of the various versions.
Almost the last word: in the Linux world, most of us are used to tweaking config files and compiling from source. This is not done in any other consumer OS. To be able to expand our user base, we need tools such as InstallShield X to make the experience of installing and upgrading as painless as possible.
Lastly, and ignoring some of the problems, it was pleasure working with this product.
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