Microsoft & .NETVisual BasicBook Review: VB/VBA Developer's Guide to the Windows Installer

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A year ago, only the bods at Microsoft knew what the Windows Installer was all about. A year from now and millions of computers throughout the world will be utilising the technology.

The Windows Installer is a method of ensuring your applications are more robust.

Imagine your programs being able to repair themselves if they get damaged. Imagine a critical file being deleted from the system and your application automatically reinstalling it. Imagine happier customers and fewer technical support staff.

Sounds like a nice little world, that.

And it’s this vision that’s behind the Windows Installer technology. It was used to create the Office 2000 setup and it’s now a requirement if you want to brand the Windows 2000 logo.

But how do you use it? On my desk, I have a book called ‘VB/VBA Developer’s Guide to the Windows Installer’, from Sybex.

And it promises to unveil the truth. Maybe.

VB Guide to the Windows Installer

As seems a mandatory precursor to any book promoting new technology, this publication starts by slandering modern day practices, highlighting where it all goes wrong.

It describes setup procedures in their current form – DLL Hell, administration problems, how uninstalls can break other applications and why failed installations make such a mess. We’ve all been there and back with the lawsuits to prove it.

So what can we do about it all? Move on to the Windows Installer, proclaims the book. And herein begins the content.

It starts very simply, explaining the core concepts behind this new technology, moving onto obtaining the installer, setting up an installer database, understanding packages, using third party tools such as InstallShield and Wise for Windows Installer, plus meeting the Windows 2000 logo requirements.

Useful yes but bedtime reading? No.

A few hours into the book and although I had delved into the various aspects of Installer technologies, I was still left feeling as though I hadn’t really been given any practical information.

Sure, you’ll find code snippets to hand. But not enough ‘useful’ information for a developer such as myself.

And at #30/$40 for a 370-page book, I’d expect a little more.

In a foreword, Visual Studio Installer Program Manager, Michael Day said this was "An excellent, detailed discussion of the Installer technology for the developer".

He wasn’t wrong. But unfortunately it provides a little too much discussion and not enough of the other stuff.

Don’t buy it.

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