Written by T. Michael Testi
Just because creating software can be hard, that doesn't mean that delivering that software has to be harder. But that is just what it is when you don't have the right tools to do the job. MSI Factory 2 is the latest version of IndigoRose's Microsoft Windows Installer product that is aimed at creating 100% pure .MSI format installers.
MSI Factory 2 works hard at making the creation of professional installers faster and much more hassle free. It is meant to be easy to use without the complexities of the MSI database tables, sequences, and components. By using its drag and drop abilities, the customization of some dialog boxes via the visual editor and one-click build, it creates a single installer that works on any version of Windows from 95 to Vista.
MSI Factory is not to be confused with IndigoRose's Setup Factory which I will look at in a separate review. Whereas MSI Factory uses Microsoft's Windows installer service which must be installed on the end user's system, installers of this type must abide by the rules of the Windows Installer technology. Setup Factory, on the other hand, creates its own custom installations and has independent flexibilities.
So how does MSI Factory work? You start off with making either an installer project that creates a full installation package, or a Merge Module Project that is used to create a merge module database. A merge module is a Windows installer database file that is used to describe installation logic that will be merged with a larger Windows installation package. Merge modules are used to deliver shared code, files, resources, registry entries, and setup logic to applications as a single compound file.
Once you select the install, you browse to the files that you want to include and add them. From there you can select options in the following categories: "Files" where you can add, remove and set properties of the files, "Projects" where you can adjust the settings, components, features, folders, and media settings with regard to the project, the "Requirements" of the install such as launch conditions, searches, and merge modules, the "User Interface" that includes the dialog boxes, languages, and styles of the dialogs presented to the user, and the "System Editors" which handle the registry changes, INI files, shortcuts, file operations, environment variables, services, ODBC, XML, and custom actions. Finally you also have control over extensions such as IIS. Once you have everything set up correctly, it is just a matter of building the project.
So, what's new with MSI Factory 2?
• Next Generation Installer – now fully leverages WiX complier technology giving you easy access to the same technology that Microsoft uses for creating installers for Microsoft Office and SQL Server. In fact MSI Factory is the first visual setup builder to fully use Microsoft's WiX compiler technology.
• Intelligent Development – now takes the MSI Factory IDE's focus to the files that you want to distribute as opposed to abstract concepts like components, features, sequences, and GUIDs. This makes it possible in the case of simple installs to just drop files, press build, and deliver.
• WiX – compatible source projects with integrated support for WiX fragments and extensions.
• Dialog Editor – provides visual editing for quickly customizing the interface. It includes 22 different control types such as check boxes, radio buttons, and bit maps that will allow you to create fully customized dialogs.
• System Editors – give you an extensive list of actions including registry editing, shortcut icons, INI files, the ability to set file permissions, and more.
• Enterprise Ready – by giving you the features for team and enterprise development. These include automated builds, processor directives, pre/post build steps, and integrated support for WiX fragments and extensions.
As of the time of this review, they have not updated the videos for version two, but the videos for version one are still on their site. I did have some sound quality problems with the videos when using my Firefox browser, but under Internet Explorer they worked just fine. The help is primarily a compiled Microsoft help file that also links you back to the videos and to a FAQ page on the IndigoRose website. They also have a pretty dynamic forum where you can get answers to questions.
MIS Factory 2 is available from IndigoRose for $495 USD or you can download a 30 day trial version. If you are looking for the ability to create Microsoft Window Installer files quickly and easily and especially if you want to use the new WiX technology, then you need MIS Factory 2.
- Windows 2000, XP, Vista
- Resolution: 1040x768
- 500 MB RAM
- 40+ MB free hard drive space
- .NET Framework 1.1
- Windows Installer 2.0
- Windows 95 and up
- Project based Windows Installer version installed