Late in our massive recent project, I finally got around to updating some software installers to use the Windows Installer service and needed some updated tools.
For the two or three readers who might be interested in this obscure topic, I evaluated all the products I could find (including the widely recommended Wix - are these people kidding?) and settled on Advanced Installer.
Compared to the only other two that made the short list (InstallShield and InstallAware), Advanced Installer is easier to figure out, has more features, a much nicer user interface, better stability, better doc and tutorials, and great support. Windows Installer has a pretty steep learning curve, but this product will get you up to speed in a hurry.
It's also a great value in terms of price, and the license terms are way more reasonable than the others. For example, InstallShield wanted $8600 (!) for a concurrent license that would let me use it on my desktop, my notebook and/or test systems. That's more than we spend on all our other developer tools combined, including server software. Advanced Installer is licensed per-developer and lets a single developer (that would be me) install and use it on multiple machines. And to me, it's a better product.
There are free, Professional, Enterprise and Architect editions. The Pro edition is pretty powerful, but the Enterprise edition (a big step up in price) has stuff you will probably need for a major app, plus the ability to automatically create MSP patch files and a nice dialogue editor. (Here's the feature comparison.)
I am also looking into code signing, and have decided it's a major shakedown racket. Here's a funny take on the topic...
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