I write here about my personal experience with InstallShield LE which is now integrated in Visual Studio 2010. I was very happy reading about the integration in VS so it was one of the first things I tried out when I received my copy of VS2010. Until today I made several tries to use IS LE but failed. There was an updated release some time ago which updated IS LE 2010 to IS LE 2011. I don’t know if it changed anything but the name, but the new update made things worse. Here are my personal top 5 reasons why InstallShield Limited Edition sucks.
- InstallShield Limited Edition causes Visual Studio 2010 to crash. I tried C# projects, I tried C++ projects, I tried empty projects, I tried new projects…. I tried everything you could imagine. For some reason VS2010 keeps crashing when working with an IS LE project added. Some times it crashes randomly some times it crashes on startup when trying to load a project. I disabled all my add-ins (I only use the AnkhSVN add-inn) I also tried a fresh installation on a fresh installed machine. No luck. I contacted the support and after 2 weeks and about 3 daily emails I was so disappointed that I stopped doing all the things the support told me to do. Don’t get me wrong. The support was great. The guy tried and did his best to help me but the problem was not solved. If you take a look into their support forums you will notice that I’m not the only one who faces the crash problem. Others have the same problem and still (about half a year after the release of Visual Studio and IS LE) no solution for this.
- The IS LE is how the name sais limited. In fact it’s so limited that it doesn’t even contain any features. What it does is simply creating an installation file. They could also rename it to IS CSEFE which stands for IS create self extracting file edition. They left all the features of the pro version in there but simply disabled them. Only the most basic features like choosing an installation directory are available. Oh man WinZip has more options than this.
- The redistributables feature is a joke. Although there are many redist packages you can choose, you cannot add your own or additional. Simply stupid if you try to create a DirectX project you are fucked up. The help file sais that the Limited Edition contains the most important redist packages (DirectX seems not to be so important to Flexera Software).
- Their support forums for LE is full of bugs reports. Usually a forum contains topics and posts about feature requests, usage questions, newbie questions, some bug reporting, some announcements etc. The LE forum contains about 70% bug reports. That’s way to much and also shows that I’m not the only one who feels pissed about Microsoft’s decision to integrate this piece of software into such a great development environment.
- The last reason why this product sucks is because there are so many alternatives which are not only way better but have one thing in common. They work!!! Try out Inno Setup which is one of the best installation scripts ever. Try out NSIS which is also a great installer. You know what the best is? They are free. LE is also free since it shipped with VS2010 you will argue know. Yes but both, Inno Setup and NSIS contain features which are only available in the InstallShield Professional or Premium Editions.
Of course some of you may be very impressed by the LE, some others use the pro version and might be very happy with this solution. I’m not! I thought if an installer solution is integrated within VS 2010 it should be at least be worth its money and maybe meet my needs be simply creating one damn installation package. As I said above I tried clean installations on clean machines with and without add-ins, tweaked options, tried several projects (tried C# and C++) on different machines but I got irregular crashes which make this product simply useless. And a quick look into the official forums shows that I’m not the only one. I would like Microsoft to replace IS LE with a more serious installer but this is something which won’t happen. Thanks to IS LE I now use Inno Setup and I’m very very happy with this installer. It’s capable of features only the IS Pro Edition is capable of. And it’s free. There are so many alternatives which are also free. So why to try to work with a product which tries with every step to sell you his big brother.