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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How to build WiX

Neil Sleightholm has an excellent write up on how to create a WiX build machine.

I've tried to build WiX and all I could think of at the time is YUCK.

Now before someone gets all rude and calls me a troll, relax guys, I'm dogging the build process not any one megalomaniac in particularly.

Seriously, I do build automation day in and day out and there's an anti-pattern that I try to resist with a fury. The Magic Machine AntiPattern... it looks something like this:

Now I know I've read Rob write tomes of opinion about eliminating dependencies and complexity from setup, why not build automation? That's what I do.

At my day job I write build automation frameworks that are responsible for building hundreds of products. I try to get as much re usability as possible out of them and keep the build machine as simple as possible. Ideally**, I use nothing but Windows Server 2003, .NET Framework 3.5SP1, TFS TeamBuild, WiX, InstallShield 2009 Stand Alone Build, MSBuild Community Tasks, AssemblyInfo task and my build automation scripts which get published to the build machines automatically whenever a check in occurs (CI). I am able to sysprep/deploy that image out to any number of virtual machines for scalability and rebuild that image programatically which is also stored in source control and in build automation.

In other words, a very simple, scalable, repeatable environment. Builds should be easy... I should be able to pull a tree of source, throw it to an outside party ( via code escrow for example ) and they shouldn't have to bang their head against the wall to figure out how to build it.

Well eitherway, my hats off to Neil for doing this ( I haven't tested it yet ) and I'm sure some of my readers will be very interested in his HOW-TO article.

**Unfortunately, Microsoft requires that certain project types have Visual Studio installed and other components such as VSTS Test Tools. Yuck... I wish everything was msbuild based.


  1. Building WiX is certainly painful. I try to keep the software I write simple enough to build that all someone has to do is a checkout followed with "tools\nant\nant"

  2. Thanks for pointing to that article, that could help sometime in the future.
    With regard to your automation framework...what for do you make use of WiX (instead of using IS)?

  3. Answer here: