WiX: A Developers Guide to Windows Installer XML


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Enter pincode. Usually delivered in days? Ramirez Nick. Repro Books on Demand 3. A practical guide, this book provides step-by-step instructions for building your installer, showcasing real-world examples throughout. Its purpose is to get the professional developer building installers in no time without getting bogged down in theory. Numerous references to additional resources are provided so that curious readers can supplement the knowledge they gain here with additional details. If you are a developer and want to create installers for software targeting the Windows platform, then this book is for you.

You'll be using a lot of XML so that you get accustomed to the basics of writing well-formed documents, using XML namespaces and the dos and don'ts of structuring elements and attributes. You should know your way around Visual Studio, at least enough to compile projects, add project references, and tweak project properties. We will also explore how to use preprocessor statements and how to create a custom preprocessor extension.

Chapter 10, Accessing the Windows Registry , illustrates how our installer may read and write to the Windows Registry. We'll add and remove keys, copy values, and set permissions.


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Chapter 11, Controlling Windows Services , provides some solid examples for installing and interacting with Windows services. You'll see how to set the service's user account, add service dependencies, and set failure recovery. You'll then get involved in making a single multi-language installer.

Chapter 13, Upgrading and Patching , covers the all-so-important topic of upgrading and patching. You'll get the low down on major upgrades, minor upgrades, and small updates. We'll write a library, using C , that takes our installer to places it's never been. Chapter 15, Bootstrapping Prerequisites with Burn , discusses the new bootstrapping functionality called Burn. We'll create a single executable that installs all necessary prerequisites for our software. We'll discover the places where we can hook into the bootstrapper engine and how best to pass information from the user to our installation packages.

In order to both write and run the code demonstrated in this book, you will need the following:. Those new to WiX and Windows Installer should feel right at home as we start with the basics and gradually work up to more complex subjects. Others with more experience will benefit as we catalog the new features in WiX 3.

If you're coming from an earlier version of WiX, you'll be happy to know that for the most part, things that used to work will still work. However, several tasks, such as implementing a major upgrade, have been simplified. We'll highlight the big changes, but keep an eye on familiar elements as some subtle changes have been made.

In this book, you will find a number of styles of text that distinguish between different kinds of information. Here are some examples of these styles, and an explanation of their meaning. Code words in text are shown as follows: If you would like conditions to be re-evaluated during a re-install, you should set the Transitive attribute on the parent component to yes. When we wish to draw your attention to a particular part of a code block, the relevant lines or items are set in bold:. New terms and important words are shown in bold. Words that you see on the screen, in menus or dialog boxes for example, appear in the text like this: using the Add Reference option in Solution Explorer.

Feedback from our readers is always welcome. Let us know what you think about this book—what you liked or may have disliked. Reader feedback is important for us to develop titles that you really get the most out of.

Creating Professional Installations with WiX - Tips

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WiX 3.6: A Developer's Guide to Windows Installer XML

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The underlying technology is called Windows Installer, which is the established standard for installing to any Windows operating system. Until recently, WiX was a Microsoft offering, but is now supported by the non-profit Outercurve Foundation. It is used by countless companies around the world. Microsoft uses it to deploy its own software including Microsoft Office and Visual Studio. In fact, Microsoft uses WiX for these products. Windows Installer has many features, but how do you leverage them? How do you even know what they are? This book will help you by making you more familiar with the wide range of capabilities that are available.

The good news is that WiX makes many of the arcane and difficult-to-understand aspects of the Windows Installer technology simple to use. This book will teach you the WiX syntax so that you can create a professional-grade installer that's right for you. In this section, we'll dive right in and talk about what WiX is, where to get it, and why you'd want to use it when building an installation package for your software.

We'll follow up with a quick description of the WiX tools and the new project types made available in Visual Studio. The package is actually a relational database that describes how the various components of an application should be unpacked and copied to the end user's computer. You could try to author the database yourself—a path that requires a thorough knowledge of the Windows Installer API. You could buy a commercial product such as InstallShield to do it for you.

These software products will take care of the details, but you'll forever be dependent on them. There will always be parts of the process that are hidden from you. WiX offers a route that exists somewhere in the middle. Abstracting away the low-level function calls while still allowing you to write much of the code by hand, WiX is a framework for building an installer in ways that mere mortals can grasp. Best of all, it's free.

As an open source product, it has quickly garnered a wide user base and a dedicated community of developers. Much of this has to do not only with its price tag but also with its simplicity. It can be authored in a simple text editor such as Notepad and compiled with the tools provided by WiX. As it's a flavor of XML, it can be read by humans, edited without expensive software, and lends itself to being stored in source control where it can be easily merged and compared.

The examples in this first chapter will show how to create a simple installer with WiX using Visual Studio. However, later chapters will show how you can build your project from the command line using the compiler and linker from the WiX toolset. The WiX source code is available for download, so you can be assured that nothing about the process will be hidden if you truly need to know more about it. It's fairly simple to copy files to an end user's computer.

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If that's all your product needs, then the Windows Installer technology might be overkill. However, there are many benefits to creating an installable package for your customers, some of which might be overlooked. The following is a list of features that you get when you author a Windows Installer package with WiX:. All of your executable files can be packaged into one convenient bundle, simplifying deployment. Windows takes care of uninstalling all of the components that make up your product when the user chooses to do so. If files for your software are accidently removed, they can be replaced by right-clicking on the MSI file and selecting Repair.

WiX 3.6: A Developer's Guide to Windows Installer XML

You can create different versions of your installer and detect which version has been installed. If something goes wrong while installing your software, the end user's computer can be rolled back to a previous state. Many people today simply expect that your installer will have these features.

Not having them could be seen as a real deficit. For example, what is a user supposed to do when they want to uninstall your product but can't find it in the Programs and Features list and there isn't an uninstall shortcut?

WiX: A Developer's Guide to Windows Installer XML

They're likely to remove files in a haphazard manner and wonder why you didn't make things easy for them. Maybe you've already figured that Windows Installer is the way to go, but why WiX? One of my favorite reasons is that it gives you greater control over how things work. You get a much finer level of control over the development process. Commercial software that does this for you also produces an MSI file but hides the details about how it was done. It's analogous to crafting a website. Even though WiX gives you more control, it doesn't make things overly complex. You'll find that making a simple installer is very straightforward.

For more complicated projects, the parts can be split up into multiple XML source files to make it easier to work with.


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Going further, if your product is made up of multiple applications that will be installed together as a suite, you can compile the different chunks into libraries that can be merged together into a single MSI file. This allows each team to isolate and manage its part of the installation package. WiX is a stable technology, having been first released to the public in , so you don't have to worry about it disappearing. It's also had a steady progression of version releases. These are just some of the reasons why you might choose to use WiX.

WiX: A Developer's Guide to Windows Installer XML

The current release is Version 3. Once you've downloaded the WiX installer package, double-click on it to launch it. It relies on having an Internet connection to download the. NET 4. If you want to install on a computer that isn't connected to the Internet, first download the installer on a computer that is and then open a command prompt and run the WiX executable with the following command wix The layout option takes the name of a target directory where the WiX files will be downloaded to.

You can then take these files which include a new installer to the computer that doesn't have an Internet connection and use them there. This installs all of the necessary files needed to build WiX projects.

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Version 3. In order to use some of the functionality in WiX, you may need to download a more recent version of Windows Installer. You can check your current version by viewing the help file for msiexec. If you'd like to install a newer version of Windows Installer, you can get it from the Microsoft Download Center website. Go to:. Search for Windows Installer.

Each new version is backwards compatible and includes the features from earlier editions. Together these features, which are installed for you along with the other WiX tools, are called Votive. You must have Visual Studio or newer. Votive won't work on the Express versions. Refer to the WiX site for more information:. After you've installed WiX, you should see a new category of project types in Visual Studio labeled under the title Windows Installer XML, as shown in the following screenshot:. Using these templates is certainly easier than creating the files on your own with a text editor.

This will create a new. Once we've added the necessary markup, you'll be able to build the solution by selecting Build Solution from the Build menu or by right-clicking on the project in the Solution Explorer and selecting Build. Visual Studio will take care of calling candle. If you right-click on your WiX project in Solution Explorer and select Properties, you'll see several screens where you can tweak the build process.

One thing you'll want to do is set the amount of information that you'd like to see when compiling and linking the project, and how non-critical messages are treated. Refer to the following screenshot:.

Here we're selecting the level of messages that we'd like to see. To see all warnings and messages, set Warning Level to Pedantic. You can also check the Verbose output checkbox to get even more information. Checking Treat warnings as errors will cause warning messages that normally would not stop the build to be treated as fatal errors. You can also choose to suppress certain warnings.

WiX: A Developers Guide to Windows Installer XML WiX: A Developers Guide to Windows Installer XML
WiX: A Developers Guide to Windows Installer XML WiX: A Developers Guide to Windows Installer XML
WiX: A Developers Guide to Windows Installer XML WiX: A Developers Guide to Windows Installer XML
WiX: A Developers Guide to Windows Installer XML WiX: A Developers Guide to Windows Installer XML
WiX: A Developers Guide to Windows Installer XML WiX: A Developers Guide to Windows Installer XML
WiX: A Developers Guide to Windows Installer XML WiX: A Developers Guide to Windows Installer XML
WiX: A Developers Guide to Windows Installer XML WiX: A Developers Guide to Windows Installer XML

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