MSI (Microsoft Installer) is, meanwhile, the de-facto standard for installing Windows programs. It is advisable to only use this format in order to keep the Windows Installer database of installed products consistent. If your software deployment solution doesn't allow you to create MSI files, you have to use a third party tool. Usually, these tools are called MSI packagers. Sometimes you'll also find "MSI repackagers" since they are used to re-create the original installation package. This post lists several MSI packagers.
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Windows Installer is an application installation and configuration tool which was first introduced with Windows 2000. You can find msiexec.exe under C:\windows\system32. The latest version for Windows XP is Windows Installer 3.1 v2. Windows Vista will be delivered with Windows Installer 4.0. Windows Installer uses MSI packages, which are databases containing all information that is necessary to install an application.
Nowadays, many software vendors deliver their applications as MSI packages. Usually, you can recognize them by the MSI extension. Sometimes, the setup program is an EXE file which contains the compressed MSI file. Most software deployment solutions support MSI meanwhile.
Some still have their own packing format as an additional option, though. Even Microsoft's Systems Management Server 2003 was originally delivered with its own packaging format. There is a free MSI packager for SMS 2003 now, which is a limited edition of FLExnet Adminstudio.
The list here contains all MSI packagers, I found, so far. Please let me know if you know of another tool. I'll add it then.
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- EMCO: MSI Package Builder
- Macrovision: FLEXnet Adminstudio (formerly Installshield)
- Altiris: Wise Package Studio
- Attachmate: WinINSTALL MSI Packager Professional (formerly Ondemand WinINSTALL)
- Caphyon: Advanced Installer (freeware and professional version)
- Capasystems: CapaInstaller ezMSI
- New Boundary: Prism Pack
- MAKEMSI (freeware)
- MSIBuilder (freware)
- AInstaller (freware)
- ScriptLogic: Desktop Authority MSI Studio
Update: I just found this site which lists many more MSI packagers with a short description for each.