April 04, 2007

WiX - Windows Installer XML

Latest Release ('Rosario' November CTP msdn) now has Visual Studio Integration.
WiX Tutorial (tramontana).
WiX documentation (sourceforge).
WiX and Visual Studio (msdn forum).
WiX integration in Visual Studio using Votive (Votive blog).
WiX integration (msdn).
WiX Forum.
Building setup packages for Visual Studio project templates and starter kits (Aaron Stebner's WebBlog)
WiX Tallow tool

WiX is a methodology to write installers.
WiX has a compiler/linker (candle/light) which may give the installer writer some validation before deployment.
The contents of the end installer (.msi) are edited using an XML file.
I haven't found WiX to be advantageous over the ordinary Visual Studio Setup Project.
Visual Studios SDK has a project template (from Votive) for creating WiX installers. This project template gives you the skeletol wix file to start and the build commands are built into the project, all you've to do is create new GUIDs ,these guids are only for the installer, they've nothing to do with your applications GUIDs, the WiX compiler, candle.exe, will complain if you fail to change one anyway.
The addition of items to install is done be editing the WiX xml file! if you choose to use it with Visual Studio , the Votive version (present Wix 2) then you'll get Intellisence, that with the Candle compiler are very useful but editing xml files is very tedious.
You'll also note that this version does not support integrated Visual Sourcesafe in Visual Studio, I found this a disadvantage. However WiX 3 (presently in developer status) does have this but lacks other vital components at present, such as it does not support the gui components you require for user input in the installer. In WiX 2 these are provided by the SDK in the wixui.dll.

All in all I don't think WiX is up to scratch just yet but WiX 3 does look promising.

There's a tool now called Tallow which included in the WiX SDK, apparently it's a command line tool that allows you to create a WiX installer be passing in you file locations and registry settings on the command line.

WiX pre-processor table (these items can be added to your WiX file, they are replaced at compile time).

Preprocessor VariableExample Variable UseExample Variable Value
var.<Project>.ConfigurationName$(var.MyApp.ConfigurationName)Debug.NET
var.<Project>.ProjectDir$(var.MyApp.ProjectDir)C:\code\msdn\MyApp
var.<Project>.ProjectDosFileName$(var.MyApp.ProjectDosFileName)MYAPP.CSP
var.<Project>.ProjectExt$(var.MyApp.ProjectExt).csproj
var.<Project>.ProjectFileName$(var.MyApp.ProjectFileName)MyApp.csproj
var.<Project>.ProjectName$(var.MyApp.ProjectName)MyApp
var.<Project>.ProjectPath$(var.MyApp.ProjectPath)C:\code\msdn\MyApp\MyApp.csproj
var.<Project>.TargetDir$(var.MyApp.TargetDir)C:\code\msdn\MyApp\obj\Debug
var.<Project>.TargetDosFileName$(var.MyApp.TargetDosFileName)MYAPP.EXE
var.<Project>.TargetExt$(var.MyApp.TargetExt).exe
var.<Project>.TargetFileName$(var.MyApp.TargetFileName)MyApp.exe
var.<Project>.TargetName$(var.MyApp.TargetName)MyApp
var.<Project>.TargetPath$(var.MyApp.TargetPath)C:\code\msdn\MyApp\obj\Debug\MyApp.exe
var.SolutionDir$(var.SolutionDir)C:\code\msdn\MySetup
var.SolutionDosFileName$(var.SolutionDosFileName)MYSETUP.SLN
var.SolutionExt$(var.SolutionExt).sln
var.SolutionFileName$(var.SolutionFileName)MySetup.sln
var.SolutionName$(var.SolutionName)MySetup
var.SolutionPath$(var.SolutionPath)C:\code\msdn\MySetup\MySetup.sln

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