Brett Sheppard and Ross Mack - GUI Computing
There is one sure way to get a GUI programmer foaming at the mouth with excitement. No, it's not a Star Trek convention. It is WISE.
Recently Great Lakes Business Solutions released version 5 of this very successful installation system. First, for those of you who have never dealt with WISE before, a quick overview.
WISE, which can run under Windows 3.1x, Windows 95 and Windows NT platforms, creates Windows self installing executables which only require Windows itself to run. The same executable created under 16 or 32 bit windows will run on Windows 3.1x, Windows 95 and Windows NT. This script driven program determines which files to install and where those selected files are to be copied to, as well as other powerful functions related to software installation. For more information regarding previous versions of WISE you may want to check out the article Creating and Editing Windows Self-Installing Executables.
This article will concentrate on the new and improved features of WISE 5. One of the more impressive concepts introduced into this package is that the script file is now in ASCII format, so you can have situations where you can cut and paste scripts to the clipboard, or move script items from one WISE script to another. I checked this out by placing a couple of script items into WISE and pasting them into Notepad. The layout used is simple and easy to understand, however the ReadMe file that accompanies WISE 5 admits that some of the flags used in some of the scripts may be hard to make clear. But none-the-less, it is still quite good. You can work around the more hard to understand flags and settings by simply producing a script that does what you want, and then copying those items into the script you want to build. This also means that your scripts can be massaged and pre-processed by another application. Command line compilation of your scripts, including customisation of script compiler variables and directives, means that you can effectively build a bare bones script that is fully customised by a driver application, and the resultant install set can be produced very neatly.
Let me expand a little on the use of Compiler Variables. This is very similar to a standard If block but it will only use compiler variables. So, if you were to create a single script that generates different install sets, for different versions of a program, you could use Compiler Variables to evaluate at script compile time what type of installation you would be creating, and then just select the necessary files for that platform/version/install type. This could save quite a bit of your client's memory, download time, and disk swapping time by not including unnecessary files during installations. It also means you can effectively manage several similar install sets, from one set of source, by using compiler directives to customise each compile.
Wise 5 also includes an excellent high-level interface called the Installation Expert which can be used to quickly create and update installations. The script it generates is a full featured 'Installation Wizard' style install with all the bells and whistles. One of the things I like about this is that when you start the actual install you are right into it, none of this preinstallation of an installation wizard which then does the actual setup. Yuck. The Installation Expert edits the installation scripts via a series of user friendly property pages as you can see below.
This feature really does make creating script files easy by grouping the installation attributes together and also providing buttons which, among other things, allows you to run applications to help you with determining what OCX/DLL/VBX files it requires for distribution. A very handy feature when dealing with unclear documentation that doesn't clearly define what you need to distribute (an all too often occurrence). In addition, WISE comes with full knowledge of how to install common sets of components and files. For example, it knows how to install 16 and 32 bit BDE, Visual Basic 4 runtime files, a range of ODBC drivers and the all important share.exe. All are built into the Installation Wizard, just turn the required options on. WISE 5 also allows switching from the Installation Expert to the Script Editor quickly and efficiently. People just beginning with WISE will find the Installation Expert enormously beneficial due to its simplicity. Plus, with the comprehensive on line help, mastering this package takes no time at all.
WISE 5 has also seen the inception of the user's ability to customise several of its features. For example, the progress bar for installations, used to display installation progress, can be customised by specifying a DLL call that will be used by WISE instead of its normal Progress Bar. Another note on the progress bar is that the progress can be determined by three different criteria. One, you can base it on the entire installation. Two, you can base it on the number of script items being executed. Three, you can base the progress bar on the files selected for installation. It's not the most stunning thing about WISE but it is still a handy feature and adds a professional look to your interface for those times when one is setting is far more appropriate than the others.
A brief tour of other features new to WISE 5 include:
Overall, WISE just keeps getting better and better and it is easy to tell why it is one of the more popular products on the market. If you would like to check out a demonstration of WISE 5 why not go to Great Lakes web page and download a copy. Then you can see for yourself why GUI programmers get all emotional when you mention the word WISE.