Get ready, because we’re launching.

It’s been a while since the last time we wrote something here, almost 5 months. We have been quite busy working on our products :)During this timeframe, we shipped InstallAware 7, the latest and greatest version of the industry’s premier setup authoring tool; and also a new beta for our exciting WiX IDE, WiXAware 2.0. But that’s not all!I believe this lack of posts and activity on our blog has been really worth it, because not only did we improve our products and launched two new major versions, but we’re now also announcing support for the upcoming version 4.5 of the Windows Installer engine! This makes us the first installation vendor to support Windows Installer 4.5, the same way we’ve been the first to support SQL Server 2005, .NET 3, as well as .NET 2.0. Unlike some other vendors (you know who you are), we’re making these updates available free for everyone just days after Microsoft publishes them 😉 So we’ll be releasing the free update for Windows Installer 4.5 as soon as a Go-Live license from Microsoft for it becomes available.

We’ve already built the Windows Installer 4.5 runtime for InstallAware’s Application Runtimes designer, as well as a new plug-in for leveraging new Windows Installer 4.5 functionality. As soon as Microsoft lets vendors redistribute the new Windows Installer 4.5 runtime, you’ll be only a few hours from taking advantage of all its new features, and start exploiting the much anticipated Chained Transactional Installs!So, what are Chained Transactional Installs? It’s pretty self explanatory, really. You can now officially chain multiple MSI installations one after the other, as part of a single atomic operation. If there is an error in one of the chained installs, or the end-user cancels the installation someplace in between, the entire transaction can be rolled back in a single operation, returning the computer to the same state it was in before the entire transactioned installs began. Of course, if everything is kosher, just commit the changes normally, and all changes made to the system are finalized in a single pass.

MSI Transaction Example Usage

InstallAware has always provided the most advanced bootstrapper technology of the Windows Installer industry, for instance you could already chain multiple MSI installs as part of a larger setup, monitor and natively display their progress in your master setup dialogs, and so on ever since our first release almost 4 years ago. And now, with the engine level fortifications Microsoft has made to Windows Installer 4.5, InstallAware further enhances the reliability and resiliency of chained MSI installations. The good news is you do not have to make any major changes to your existing setups! Just add two lines of MSIcode leveraging the new MSI Transaction plug-in, creating transactioned installation blocks around your runtimes and/or any other MSI files that you are installing, and you’re set!There’s no need to worry about compatibility issues as packages and patches authored by previous MSI versions are fully supported by the MSI 4.5 engine. Also, packages targeting MSI 4.5 contain some new tables and actions for the new features, but when you run an MSI 4.5 package on an older engine, such as MSI 3.0, everything will still work smoothly by ignoring the new tables/actions. Of course, any new features and functionality based on MSI 4.5 won’t work, but your setups will still install properly without throwing unwanted errors. Our new MSI Transaction plug-in won’t fail either when MSI 4.5 is not available, instead it returns a descriptive error code back to your MSIcode script, letting you handle the condition as you see fit (for instance, by forcing the installation of the new Windows Installer engine, or by discarding transaction support).I was quite amazed by the speed improvements during installation. It’s much faster and much more stable, without strange failures during installs and unexplained messages even at this beta stage. Just imagine what the RTM version will be like, if the beta “flies” like this!Currently this beta version of the MSI 4.5 engine runs on most recent versions of Windows, starting with Windows XP SP2 and Windows 2003 SP1, and of course including Windows Vista. While MSI 4.0 was not supported on older platforms, Microsoft is now making this “down-level” support available for MSI 4.5, a welcome improvement. MSI 4.5 will be embedded into Windows Server 2008 (Codename Longhorn Server), and it is planned to be included in Windows Vista SP1 as well.

MSI 4.5 will be available as a stand-alone update from the Microsoft Download pages. If you want to give it a try, you’ll have to register at Microsoft’s Connect page, where the beta is available. After completing the registration process you’ll be able to download any necessary files MSI 4.5 needs to install, as well as updated documentation. Please note that we can’t redistribute runtime files during their beta stage because this is prohibited by Microsoft, but if you already have the MSI 4.5 runtimes, just drop us an email and we’ll make our new runtime installer package and the new MSI Transaction plug-in available for you, free of charge 🙂

Windows Installer 4.5 Runtime Installation MSIcode

Of course, InstallAware’s new Windows Installer 4.5 runtime takes care of installing this update for you in just a single click. It’s actually a fairly complex process on Windows Vista. Vista features a new update mechanism, called the Windows Update Stand-Alone installer, along with a new kind of system update file format. Updates are no longer served as independent EXE’s that we were used to working with on the down-level platforms. The bug with the Windows Update Stand-Alone installer is MSI 4.5 cannot be silently installed, complicating the delivery process and ruining the end-user experience. A hot fix for this bug must be installed beforehand (unfortunately, it’s not automatically pushed to client machines through Windows Update). The good news is, our new Windows Installer 4.5 one-click runtime install correctly handles this case and installs this hot fix when necessarySo you’ll have unsurpassed reliability and deliver your end-users with the best installation experience, in the good InstallAware tradition.Once again we’re bringing you the latest technologies, beating any other vendor to it!Keep watching this space as we’ll have more helpful tips, how-to guides, sample scripts and other time saving tricks posted here regularly (no matter how aggressive our product release schedule is). I’m here to make your time spent with InstallAware more fun and enjoyable!

Panagiotis Kefalidis
InstallAware CCP – DataFire Software, Greece