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Are you an IT admin in need of a simple way to package, convert, and deploy applications? Are you a developer looking for a streamlined and intuitive packaging tool that integrates with Visual Studio and your continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) pipeline? In this review of Advanced Installer, we look at this multipurpose packaging tool for both developers and IT pros.
With the world of modern applications and DevOps across hybrid infrastructures, IT admins often need tools to author, package, and update software using Windows installer technology. Advanced Installer not only provides tools for developers, but it also gives IT pros easy tools for virtualization, deployment, and conversion of installer packages. One of Advanced Installer's strongest features is the ease with which it can create installation packages.
Additionally, the tool makes it easy enough for IT admins, proficient developers, and even untrained users to manage their own installation packages. A GUI interface allows easy creation and management of executable (EXE), Application Virtualization (App-V), Microsoft installer (MSI), MSI extended (MSIX), and other kinds of installation packages.
Features and functionality
Advanced Installer has many really nice features. It includes a modern packaging experience that allows working with many popular development tools as well as extensions that allow CI/CD pipeline integration. Features include:
- MSIX support
- Visual Studio support
- CI/CD support
- Team test collaboration functionality
As listed, Advanced Installer supports and features the ability to package applications using the MSIX format. MSIX is a modern application-packaging format. This is an open-source deployment technology. It decouples OS updates, app updates, and customizations to help streamline deployment.
It installs only what you need to install, which optimizes the disk space and network bandwidth used. The MSIX container isolates applications, which helps enable secure and reliable application performance. MSIX features clean uninstalls, allowing a much tidier process for removing applications.
Since it decouples various components with the MSIX package, it greatly reduces the need to repackage applications. Advanced Installer lets you work with this latest and most fully featured application-packaging technology. It provides the most up-to-date features and capabilities with modern Windows solutions.
Visual Studio support
Visual Studio is an extremely popular integrated development environment (IDE). When using Visual Studio, you have the option to install the Advanced Installer extension from the Visual Studio Marketplace. This lets you use Advanced Installer projects right from within Visual Studio and integrate these with MSBuild.
Most organizations that have adopted agile development practices are employing CI/CD methodology. This allows development to happen more quickly and in a very agile way across platforms. Advanced Installer supports CI/CD methodologies and tools with various command-line options that enable full CI support.
It also integrates with popular CI/CD tools like Team Foundation Server, Jenkins, Team City, and Bamboo. You can also automate it with PowerShell.
Team test collaboration functionality
Advanced Installer includes built-in collaboration features. This includes the ability to build merge modules to share work and a built-in project notes pane that allows adding comments in a familiar and predictable manner.
Installing and packaging an application
Installing Advanced Installer couldn't be easier. It is a simple file download and "next, next, finish" process to install the utility. Below is just a quick screenshot after quickly moving through the Advanced Installer 17.0 setup.
One thing I like about the Advanced Installer UI is the grouping of typical tools and utilities for both developers and IT pros. If you click either menu, you will see common packages you may be interested in creating in either role. The tool groups the packages based on categories on the left, and you see various templates for the respective packages in the right column.
Projects for both developers and IT pros
For IT pros, the tool has three categories:
- Transform (MST)
A common task for an IT pro may be to package up an EXE file as an MSI for easier automated deployment. Below, I am taking the Notepad++ EXE file and showing how easy it is to turn this into an MSI package.
Here we set the project and package paths for the build.
You can specify various command-line options for Full UI, Basic UI, and Silent (no UI) as well as for repair and uninstall.
Next, you select the actual file you want to convert to an MSI file. Here I have selected the Notepad++ EXE from disk.
You can configure additional package options for various installation behaviors.
After you configure the package options, the New MSI from existing EXE packages wizard completes successfully.
When you click Finish, the project will build. This will take a few moments to complete, depending on the package size. Below, the build of the Notepad++ MSI package completes successfully.
It creates the resulting MSI file in the output folder you specified in the wizard.
To test the MSI file, you can launch the installation and ensure it has packaged correctly. As you can see, the Advanced Installer package is about to install the Notepad++ package.
It is important to note that Advanced Installer license is royalty-free. This means it grants you publishing rights in perpetuity without the need for further compensation. Thus, you can create installers and distribute them with no additional payments. For instance, if you are an MSP (Managed Service Provider), you need only one license no matter how many installer packages you build or how many customers or end users you have. Mind also the floating license option available for Enterprise and Architect editions that allows a fixed number of users to be operating the product simultaneously.
Choose from four different Advanced Installer versions:
- Express (which is Free + one MSIX project)
- Professional: $499 per user
- Enterprise: $1,799 per user
- Architect: $3,599 per user
- Enterprise Floating: $5.399 per concurrent user
- Architect Floating: $10.799 per concurrent user
Each license level contains all the lower-level features and builds upon those. Advanced Installer does include volume discounts for organizations interested in purchasing multiple copies. All editions include customer support and product updates for the first 12 months.
Wrapping up and impressions
The only negative I can see with the utility is the cost per user for the Architect License. Organizations will need this license for many of the IT pro tools. However, as mentioned, if you are purchasing multiple licenses, they will apply a volume discount.
The Advanced Installer utility greatly simplifies the process of packaging, updating, and deploying applications. The great thing about Advanced Installer is that you don't have to be a full-blown developer or a decade experience IT pro to use it. It has a lot of powerful features and packaging capabilities IT admins can use. IT pros may need a quick and easy way to package applications, create virtualization packages like App-V, or convert from one type of application to another.
Advanced Installer is a feature-rich solution for both developers and IT pros. Developers can integrate the tool with Visual Studio, and make it part of the CI/CD pipeline with Team Foundation Server, Jenkins, Bamboo, and other tools via easy-to-install plugins.
Be sure to check out the full-featured 30-day free trial version of Advanced Installer here.