... that seemingly sweet little "special edition" bundle that you can download as an owner of Delphi 2007 has a couple of, what I would consider to be, "issues". I'm not in any manner saying that it doesn't deliver on "as advertised" features. What I am saying though, is that there are a couple of significant [to me] issues that will prevent me from using the product in its current manifestation ... which is too bad because it could have been a huge bonus - especially considering what I'm paying for it.
First off, please don't take my word on any of this. Everything I have to say is from the perspective of a Hobbyist [go figure] who is taking a crack at creating an install with the OOTB InstallAware Express product. In fact one of the deciding issues I discuss is a "I hate it when installers don't offer me that option!" feature that may or may not even be a concern to you. Try it yourself ... sit [and snore] through the 243MB download then run the install and give it a whirl.
While you're slogging your way through this article you have to keep in mind, that this is a $200 [US] product that we as CodeGear customers get for FREE! Given that, it could be considered that I don't really have the right to bitch and moan about the tool -but- I'm going to anyway. IMHO, it wouldn't have taken much for the vendor to have made this specific product the killer tool it could be - even at the "Express [CodeGear Edition]" level. I say this primarily because outside of the bitches I make below, it does seem to be a really good product. I had mistakenly figured that "CodeGear Edition" meant that a couple of extras would be available to "we, who are enlightened" - over and above the Express edition made available to those who foolishly don't develop with CodeGear products. Well, that's not the case, a least not that I've seen.
Initially, it's a pretty cool looking product. I had decided that creating an install for a program upgrade I had just completed would be a good way to get to know the ins and outs of this specific version. The process itself, was pretty interesting, but not exactly the "no brainer" I was hoping for. Even with having "some" experience using a competitors product [which, at one point I had mistakenly thought InstallAware was just a prettier/updated version of], I really had to work at figuring out what was supposed to happen next in several instances. There were a few occasions where [shudder] I had to actually open the help file -but- it usually ended up being a "different terminology use" issue.
The Express edition, [although it may just be because it's the special Code Gear version], is unfortunately AddWare in drag ... sorry, but IMHO I think this is a true statement. Clicking on features that are not available will pop up a little dialogue [with "Yes" as the default button], asking if you want to go to the web site and upgrade to the more expensive version. The frustrating part is, you can't really tell when the little buggers will jump up and bite you on the arse. This is the only way you can find out that any feature is available or not. This in itself was pushing me towards the un-install short-cut at several points within the first several minutes of browsing around in the IDE. I don't have a problem with the vendor trying to get their hand in my pocket -but- this, AFAIK is without doubt, the most annoying method they could have possibly used. To me, the way this has been done is nothing less than the software product equivalent of a BSOD. My first reaction ... "nuke this product!". Get it off my machine! If the vendor deserves any "fairness" in this ... there aren't that many of them - although one is plenty enough to really really annoy you.
I would have greatly appreciated had they had just disabled the IDE components that aren't available in this edition and provided ToolTips [even with a link in them] indicating that getting the use of this/that particular feature would mean upgrading to a more expensive version. I would know, pretty much - at a glance, what was or was not a feature that I could use and what version I would have to UG to in order to get it. As it stands, I found it to be a little of a left-click mine field ... short of memorizing all the tabs and buttons that will just go "boom" when clicked that is. There must be marketing morons out there [that never use the product] that dream this goofy and oh so annoying stuff up. Do they really believe that pissing people off is an intelligent and viable way to get their credit card number?
So, what the heck was a newbie doing browsing around in the IDE trying to create an install for a trivial UG project? Why the heck wasn't I using the Project Wizard which is clearly described in the help file as "... generally recommended for building relatively simple installations. It offers a limited set of options that are ideal for simpler setups but will be restricting for more complex projects."? Why the heck was I using the Default Project which "... is recommended as the starting point for most non-trivial setup projects."?
Well ... it's like this, the Project Wizard [which I'm betting is pretty much a newbie tool] isn't available in the newbie [Express] edition - at least not where I could find it. The only thing in my Wizards tab of the New Project dialogue is "Default Project". That and the caveat on the Welcome to InstallAware page of the help file, [right there at the bottom of the page looking very much like a foot-note] "Not all features described in this Help system are available in all editions of the product." Like most "help" files there's never any real indication of which ones don't actually apply to you - you have to figure that out for yourself. A final bit on the missing Project Wizard, [kind of a bummer really - I'm still scratching the ol' noggin over that one] like everything, there is in fact a silver lining if you look from the appropriate perspective ... at least not having a Project Wizard there, because it is an advanced product feature, avoided the "Buy XYZ Version and you can have this feature!" dialogue box :)
OK, come-on, it's not really such a big deal ... suck it up, stop your sniveling and let's move on.
Although there were a number of other trivial things that picked away at me during this whole process the final straw for me, I located down in the "Dialogues" section. Clicking my way down through the default set of dialogues just to have a look at them, I noticed that the one for Start Menu was the evil "I [the install builder] will decide where your start menu icons will go ... and you [the user] will either live with it or figure out how to force the issue manually". As a user, there is no way to accurately describe how I feel about this attitude without using really, really foul language - which I won't do, because my kids may eventually read this site. When did this attitude go out of fashion ... around Win95 wasn't it? At first I though it was just the default theme so I flipped through every theme available ... no change. No, "the user is the final authority and can decide where the start menu icons will go" does not seem to be supported by this product ... bummer. It must be something I missed because this is just such a basic feature that it must be there ... somewhere. Well, if it's not ... then I'm done. Giving the vendor their due ... I would guess that within the [high end] product target audience this attitude is prevalent and perhaps justified -but- if the Express edition is marketed at the smaller program [tools/games] market then this feature will have to be added before I even consider looking at it again.
Although I wanted to see if the auto-update-available-notify features worked with this edition, I didn't get there. There wasn't any point. The product has "issues" that I just can't/won't work with.
At the end of it all I did manage to create an install. There were several issues I didn't like about the process or the results that I won't even bother to get into. No, I wasn't particularly impressed with this version/edition but, as I've mentioned, it was graciously made available or free by the vendor so there's no real loss [other than a bit of time] for me. Here's hoping it will meet your needs.
There are far too many share/freeware installers [the link will take you to installers at Torry's Delphi - the primo Delphi tools site] around to get too "frosted" about the "issues" with this one. One distinct advantage of using Delphi for Object Pascal, specifically for the types of projects I work on, is that creating an install can be as easy as writing a ReadMe in NotePad and firing up WinZip. Which is exactly where I'm headed next.
Thanks for stopping by ...