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Create installations with Visual Studio Installer

Visual Studio Installer is a free tool from Microsoft for creating installations for Windows applications. Visual Studio Installer is available in two English versions: version 1.0 works on Windows 98 and version 1.1 works also on Windows ME and 2000/XP. You can download version 1.1 from here. The on-line documentation and MSDN articles show the differences between VSI and the Installation Wizard accompanying Visual Basic. This article is just an overview of the VSI features.


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Introducing Visual Studio Installer

Visual Studio Installer is a free tool from Microsoft for creating installations for Windows applications. Visual Studio Installer is available in two English versions: version 1.0 works on Windows 98 and version 1.1 works also on Windows ME and 2000/XP. You can download version 1.1 from here.

Before installing Visual Studio Installer (from here on just VSI) be sure that on your PC has been installed Visual Studio Service Pack 3 or later. You can download Visual Basic Service Pack 5 from MSDN Web site.



The on-line documentation and MSDN articles show the differences between VSI and the Installation Wizard accompanying Visual Basic. VSI offers more features that will be shown in this article. Supposing you have installed both Visual Studio Service Pack and VSI, you are ready to go forward.

Windows Installer

VSI is based on the Windows Installer technology. Windows Installer is an engine using files with .MSI extension for installing applications. Every .MSI file is a kind of database and contains setup informations and compressed files. Windows Installer is part of the operating system in Windows ME and later versions. If you have Windows 95/98 you can download the latest version of Windows Installer at MSDN Web site. Anyway, VSI Setup will also install Windows Installer on your machine if not found.

A simple package

First of all you have to create a new setup project. Visual Studio Installer can create three kind of projects:

1.    A new empty project;

2.    A so-called Merge Module;

3.    Visual Basic Installer;

 

A Merge Module (extension is .msm) is a file containing complete resources for installing shared components, for sharing setup among more users, or executing external files (i.e.: external executables, MDAC components). When building packages, VSI uses some standard merge modules, containing system components and resources. Further informations about Merge Modules and about installing MDAC, can be found in the MSDN Library.

For Visual Basic programmers the most important option is the third one. Select this and specify an existing project.

If you select the first option in the next dialog box:

the installer will run on any operating system in any language; otherwise, selecting the second option, the installer will only run on operating systems like yours. The installer can run only with English dialog boxes.

 

VSI will create a new project, read VB project dependencies adding them to the VSI project, and create a list of files to be installed. This list will appear at the right side of the screen, in a section called Files. You can get the best result from setup customizing the following properties: User Interface, File System, Registry Entries, Associations.

 



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