Microsoft Re-Installs Visual Studio Installer

The installer was removed after Visual Studio 2010, and led to an outcry among developers.

Microsoft has brought back a much-missed bit of functionality from Visual Studio 2010 and put it back in Visual Studio 2013: Visual Studio Installer projects.

Tony Goodhew, a program manager on the Visual Studio Platform Team, blogged about the update, calling it "one of the topmost voted on suggestions on User Voice for Visual Studio." User Voice is a feedback Web site for developers, where they vote on the top requests made for Visual Studio improvements. Visual Studio Installer got 6,174 votes. The majority of requests get fewer than 100 votes, and it's rare for a suggestion to garner more than 1,000.

The new version is called Visual Studio Installer Projects Extension, and is available in preview mode, downloadable from the Visual Studio Gallery. It provides the same functionality as the Installer in Visual Studio 2010, according to Microsoft.

Visual Studio still provides a third-party installation manager, Flexera's InstallShield Limited Edition (ISLE). Goodhew noted that ISLE adds additional capabilities not found in Microsoft's Installer, including "TFS and MSBuild integration, support for creating new web sites and ISO 19770-2 Tagging support."

An open source set of tools for Windows installations is also available: WiX, which recently moved its source code to GitHub. The latest version, released last November, is 3.8.

There was a lot of discontent among developers with Microsoft's original decision to remove the Visual Studio Installer template. The announcement of the course reversal drew mostly praise from the comments following the blog. A developer named Daniel Smith, for instance, said "That warm fuzzy feeling inside when you know you've done right by your customers is priceless.  It's a bit like the dude who demoed the return of the start menu at the BUILD conference - you could almost feel his internal tears of joy when the audience stood up and applauded, confirming that it was the right thing to do."

Not everyone was as cheerful. "Scott" said: "Well, the good news is that you listened. The not so good news is that it took two years. And you closed the ironically named "UserVoice" vote on the topic. And you persist in trying to present the Installshield Hobbled Edition as something that we should be grateful for. So we're glad at this step, but the whole episode has been handled poorly."

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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