REVIEW: Wise for Visual Studio.NET 2003
By Peter A. Bromberg, Ph.D.
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Peter Bromberg

In my short happy life as a software developer (no pun on Hemingway intended) one of the glaring deficiencies I have noted is that the majority of developers have little experience - and sometimes none at all - in producing installation packages that enable administrators and end users alike to professionally install the very product that they have produced!

Visual Studio 6.0 offered a reasonable installation project package, but it was really only available to Visual Basic, and it wasn't totally integrated into the IDE. That is to say, you couldn't add an Installation project to a solution and expect it to keep pace with the evolution of the project. You had to do it as an add-in , or run it separately.

Visual Studio.NET offers a more robust project type that does indeed integrate into the IDE solution. It's a big step forward, but those familiar to the Microsoft policy line will know that it only offers the most basic of features - the MS gurus traditionally preferring to farm out (and hopefully support) such efforts to third party vendors such as Installshield and Wise.

At present, both Installshield and Wise offer products that integrate into the Visual Studio.NET IDE. Personally, I can't speak for the Installshield products because I made the decision to stick with Wise a few years ago and I've been very satisfied with the performance of their line of products. And I've learned that it's more productive to become competent in one product line or vendor rather than attempt to know something about everything.

One thing I can say for certain is that the Wise people have enjoyed a close working relationship with Microsoft for a number of years, and they have tremendous product support. The new Wise product for .NET 2003 is the only product in the marketplace that provides not only full IDE integration but also support for Server, Mobile and Web Services applications using the .NET framework. So your decision to invest in a single product for your professional installation needs will pay off with the Wise offering.

Integrates with VS.NET IDE

As can be seen below, Wise creates its own project group consisting of a choice of five types of installation modules. You simply Add one of these to your in-process solution.

Automatic Solution Synchronization

The Wise installation project automatically stays synchronized with your work on your main projects in the solution. You don't need to do anything! It's that simple.

Step - by Step installation creation

As can be seen above, the project itself has sections in the left pane that enable you to step through the process of designing your MSI installer by simply filling out (or changing the defaults that are already filled in) in the various sections of your project.

Fine Tuning of individual Installation Items

Most all items that are in your Wise installer project have context panes that enable you to fine-tune such actions as versioning, showing references for components, setting permissions, adding assemblies to the GAC, and even NGEN options. There is extensive support for building automatic IIS configuration including virtual directories, permissions and much more. You can create the user account that the server software is to run under. You can even configure "no touch" deployment options to store and run managed-code apps from IIS. You also have support for configuring SQL Server databases during installation. Finally, the Wise product supports mobile applications and those designed for the .NET Compact Framework.

But that's not all. You also have access to the MSI Script and Setup Editor Panes, which provide fine-grained custom scripting of your product installation:

In sum, the latest offering from Wise Solutions for Visual Studio.NET is packed with even more features and provides seamless integration of even the most complex installations into your existing VS.NET solution. Highly recommended!

Peter Bromberg is a C# MVP, MCP, and .NET consultant who has worked in the banking and financial industry for 20 years. He has architected and developed web - based corporate distributed application solutions since 1995, and focuses exclusively on the .NET Platform.