A word about tools/utilities that I use to do my job.
To do the job of building installations, you must be meticulous about testing – almost fanatical! One of the requirements of testing installations is a set of tools & utilities that you are comfortable and can depend on to analyze and give you dependable results.
But a bigger issue is that we are human and once we get comfortable with a set of tools, we tend to ignore newer, more robust tools that become available. Force yourself to learn a new tool. Given that, I am going to embrace a new tool – at the bottom of the list is a replacement for wordpad that I am going to download and try. See – I am trying to grow too!
Last comment. Most are not freeware – they are build by professionals who expect a small monetary contribution/fee. When you appreciate the time savings, please take the time to pay for a license. It is only fair.
Vendor: VMware, Inc.
Use: Virtual Machine concept. Started using in 2003 and found it invaluable in install testing. Have created multiple Operating Systems and snapshots with each Service pack install – so testing of Win2000 with no SP and Win2000 with SP1 installed can be done quickly and effectively.
Many Server OS will have Databases installed for customer testing (Oracle and SQLServer). After testing, can quickly restore OS image to be back to pristine state prior to install testing.
At the time, the only comparable solution was Symantec Ghost – which is a great solution, but required a separate machine to be available. When I started I had a dedicated testing machine and used Ghost – but finally was swayed by the ease of VMware.
Vendor: Scooter Software
Use: Excellent tool that allows me to compare both single files and entire directories to look for differences after installs. Great for upgrade testing. Superior than others in that it will allow simple right click to select a directory to compare against another.
Freeware & no longer supported
Use: Started using this file editor because of the ability to execute dos commands and get output into the editor. Now very comfortable and hesitate to change to better ones. (hmm…)
Search and Replace
Funduc Software, Inc.
Use: Excellent for search for strings in multiple .RUL files. Has a replace function which works quite well when evaluating/altering resource files across the entire project. Also has a batch command interface for running scripts.
Use: Once Windows File Explore allowed you to search for various files within a sub-directory, I use this tool to highlight the selected files and copy the file names into a panel – which I then can copy into a editor for creating batch files.
For example, I can create a Batch file for registering all of the dlls within an application for testing. I start by doing a search of the directory using *.dll with the Windows File Explorer, highlight all of the files and drag into FileGrab. Then copy the file path & names into a .BAT file and place “regsvr32.exe ” in front of each line.
Microsoft Virtual PC
Workstation version 2007 is now free!
Use: trying to take over the market share from VMware in the Virtualization market. Good product, I hesitate to give up VMware because of the ability it has to create a snapshot and return to that state.
Use: Microsoft tool that I use to debug issues with DLLs not registering – when there are missing dependencies.
Microsoft Windows Installer Cleanup Utility
Use: Microsoft tool that will safely eliminate all traces of a MSI registered application from the registry. Useful when all else fails during a unsuccessful removal/uninstall.
Monitoring tools (RegMon, FileMon, DiskMon)
Original utilities were created by Mark Russinovich, and recently acquired by Microsoft and will be upgraded to new versions “Process Monitor”.
Use: when you are tracking down issues with an install that is hitting the registry but somehow is being denied access, these tools can display realtime information on the keys that are being accessed – and which programs are doing it.
Invaluable during repackaging efforts that requires a bit of investigative tracking.
Open Source XML editor that has a valuable command line execution.
Use: can use in Custom Actions to obtain data from XML documents and update them in a batch method. No issue distributing with your installation.
Documentation on how to use it for complex tasks is not truly covered in the doc – information is available only thru the expertise of the users in various forums.
Robust Wordpad replacement – kind of like wordpad on “steroids”.