InstallShield a Work in Progress

InstallShield Java Edition 3.5

InstallShield Software Corporation $995 / $295 upgrade


In a Nutshell

Rating:3 1/2 Penguins


* Professional, graphical installation interface

* Easy to use and configure

* One package can install software on multiple platforms


* Problems during Linux installation process

* Does not support Linux distributions other than Red Hat

Review / InstallShield
Got You Covered: Self-installing packages made easier.

System Requirements


* 128 MB to build and develop setups

Hard Drive Space

* 50 MB disk space


* Java Virtual Machine 1.1.8 or 1.2.2

Technical Support

* 30 calendar days free with purchase; extended support available

For anyone who’s had their head in the sand for the last ten years or so, InstallShield is the application of choice for most Windows software vendors to create the “setup.exe” program, which in turn is used to install other applications. Linux and Unix users have toiled with shell scripts, shar archives, RPM, dpkg, pkg on Suns, PTFs on IBM AIX boxes, depots on HP systems and even learned how to use “patch,” while Mac and Windows users just clicked on icons and software magically installed. However, thanks to the wizardry of Java, InstallShield is now available for some Linux and Unix platforms, as well as for its origin, Windows.

So, Just How Bulletproof is It?

I don’t remember which great computer philosophers first said “Installer, install thyself,” but this old chestnut is still the classic make or break statement when reviewing products designed to help package and install other products. I had many problems getting it installed, all of which I eventually worked around. Inclusion, for example, of the promised and requisite Linux Java Virtual Machine would have been helpful. Maybe next time? Luckily, there are plenty on the Web. If my goal was simply to grade InstallShield Java Edition on how smoothly it installed, it would likely need some remedial courses

Eventually, I had InstallShield Java Edition up and running. It didn’t take much longer to create a test installation setup, starting a new project and setting general properties such as the project, product and company names. InstallShield’s Setup Design view fleshed-out a model of how the application should be installed, based on desired user-visible features and their affiliated components. Next came adding files and directories associated with each component and defining how to handle any problems encountered when installing them.

The next step in building an executable setup archive was to verify (and customize as necessary) the installation and uninstallation sequences. We then configured the build, specifying the target platform(s) and language(s), and building the setup archive. Whew! That’s a lot of preliminary stuff!

Finally, pulse racing, I tested it in a scratch directory, and it really “just worked”!

I’ve used InstallShield on Windows to package up some applications, and it did a great job of hiding the complexity of doing magic, such as editing the registry. Linux is different. While InstallShield Java Edition supports installing RPM archives, it doesn’t have its own hooks into the RPM database. It has no support for other software installation systems, like dpkg, which isn’t really surprising since it only runs on Red Hat 6.2 systems at the moment.

The promise of a standard graphical installer, one which many consumers are already comfortable with, is a necessary promise if Linux software is ever to break into the consumer/ client market. If InstallShield adds support for additional Linux distributions, and more heavy-duty support for existing Linux software management systems, they have a good chance of becoming the “one true installer” for Linux.

But don’t delete rpm or dpkg just yet…

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