MSI Building options: InstallShield LE, MakeMSI, WiX

We had been packaging one of our Windows WPF clients since 2010 using InstallShield LE. It was available as a free option for Visual Studio 2010 to create an MSI.

This had been problematic since we had continuous integration with MSBuild and  CruiseControl.NET. There was not a nice way to produce that MSI as part of the integration. LE really does mean Limited Edition in this case.

In 2012 we implemented MakeMSI. The MakeMSI scripts have been used to build the MSI files on each Cruise Control build. We made a bat file that runs all the environment versions of the MSI files. The environments each have their own configuration (mm) file. The mm file includes the specific header of Mem.mmh. We customized three header files that determine the MSI properties: Mem.mmh which #include(s) Dept.mmh, which #include(s) Company.mmh. The ver files set the version.

Today I set up the same MSI builder using WiX. The Windows Installer XML (WiX, pronounced “wicks”), is a free software toolset that builds Windows Installer (MSI) packages from an XML document. It supports a command-line environment that developers may integrate into their build processes to build MSI and MSM setup packages. WiX was the first software released by Microsoft under an open-source license called Common Public License.

Evidently, since Visual Studio 2012, the traditional setup project type has been removed. WiX becomes a recommended option to create Windows Installer package.

I used dark.exe to reverse engineer my existing MSI created with MSI. With some tooling around, I created a better config file for candle.exe, the wxs file.

It took about two hours from start to finish. I found this book helpful in a couple of spots as a reference.

WiX 3.6: A Developer’s Guide to Windows Installer XML by Nick Ramirez

InsallShield LE:


WiX WiX Project Home WiX tutoria WiX CodePlex files


B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator at Anoka County Airport

These are planes from the Collings Foundation

Posted from WordPress for Windows Phone

Fellow notebook aficionado at //Build/

One morning at Breakfast, I joined Christian Mähler, visiting from Germany.  Christian is a prolific blogger on the subject of Notebooks. His blog is entitled He gave me a mention, since I directed him to the MaiDo stationary store.

I made a point of visiting MaiDo in JapanTown and also at the Westfield mall while I was in San Francisco. I believe I spent $100 on notebooks and pencils in the store. They have a large selection of open stock Japanese Pencils from Mitsu-bishi and Tombow. I purchased a number of notebooks to try.

During the //Build/ conference, I struggled with the Fabriano notebook. It has a nice dot page, but the binding is a rubber cement tear out. I had hoped to use it as a notebook, not merely as a tablet for note pages. I want a lay-flat binding. I am not a fan of spiral notebooks, but it seems that they are the best for laying flat and writing on laps.

MaiDo JapanTown

MaiDo Japanese Stationary Store in JapanTown San Francisco

Acer Iconia Windows RT device from //BuildWindows/ 2013

I have been trying out the complimentary Acer Iconia from the Microsoft Professional Developer Conference. The shortcomings for this device really apply to Surface RT / Windows RT devices in general. Looking at it as a Windows 8 device, it is missing the ability to run Win32 apps. No Java support yet for Windows RT. No ability to use my WDC cloud drive from MyBookLive. I can copy files to it and use the PDF reader and picture viewer. I also can set up a FTP mapped drive. There is an FTP client for Windows Modern (Metro / RT).

It is difficult not to think of the RT devices as crippled computers. I do not feel that way about iPads and Android tablets. Presumably this is because they are “larger smartphones”. The Windows RT devices appear to be more powerful than their Windows Phone 8 equivalents. Unfortunately, it appears that at minimum a recompile is necessary for Modern apps for the Windows Store to work between Windows Phone 8 devices and Windows RT devices. The change also has to take into account Portrait vs Landscape and smaller resolutions. (How to Leverage your Code across WP8 and Windows 8 from //Build/ 2012)

Another struggle I have experience with the Build 2011 tablet prototype, and also with the Acer Iconia, is getting the Bluetooth keyboard to work. They are both battery powered by AAA batteries. These tend to wear out quickly on Bluetooth keyboards. Also there seems to be a song and dance to connect each time I want to use it. It should just work, right? I am sure some users have no problem.   I expect to get reports like “I just joined once and it works every time on my machine!”.

Ultimately, Microsoft might emerge the winner if what they believe about the platform design is true. Right now, the RT still looks like a lesser computer, even if it can do more.

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