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Friday, April 18, 2014

Visual Studio Installer Resurrection

Like a late really, really bad April Fool's joke, Microsoft announced the day before Good Friday that Visual Studio Deployment Project have been raised from the dead. See:

Visual Studio Installer Projects Extension

I guess the thousands of ignorant developers at User Voice (Bring back the basic setup and deployment project type Visual Studio Installer) and the departure of all the Windows Installer experts from  Microsoft was finally too much to keep a bad thing dead.


If you read this and decide to use this tool anyways, keep in mind:

1) .VDPROJ doesn't support MSBuild so don't expect a decent TFS Build story without some custom plumbing to call DevEnv to build the project.   Also don't expect this extension to be the Visual Studio Online build servers.

2) Read my old article Redemption of Visual Studio Deployment Projects for tips on how to get the most out of the tool without letting it suck the life out of your soul.  (A little bit of VDPROJ and a whole lot of WiX / IsWiX!)

Think I'm being dramatic? Read Change Change Change.  I literally spent a year banging my head against the wall trying to make this technology create installers that rival anything and everything that MSFT DevDiv puts out.  I know this tool better then they do and I can say with complete confidence that it sucks.

But Chris.... you didn't even try it!

Actually, yes, I did try it.  Installed the extension, created an empty installer and attempted to build it.  Every time I do  Windows Installer kicks off a Visual Studio 2013 repair and the application log indicates:

Detection of product '{9C593464-7F2F-37B3-89F8-7E894E3B09EA}', feature 'Visual_Studio_Professional_x86_enu' failed during request for component '{CBB86C09-565A-43CF-9120-9D45AE3374CA}'

But Chris.... why do you care what other developers use?

Because I care passionately about the state of the setup industry and at my day job we often receive poor quality installers from third parties that we are then expected to somehow deploy without any issues.

Still don't believe me?  Go read the comments in this old blog post: WiX in Visual Studio Nearly 8 years have gone by and none of the problems in the tool mentioned in the 100+ comments have been fixed.

Just consider that the $.02 of an 18 year industry veteran who is the Windows .NET  ALM & Deployment Architect for a Fortune 35 retailer with $70B a year in revenue.  We probably have a store very near you and we work hard to make sure that software is delivered to the business flawlessly and on schedule every time.