Creating free installers for Windows applications

On a recent trip around the web I discovered two open source tools that allow you to create installer packages for Windows applications. The Nullsoft Scriptable Install System (NSIS) has been around for quite a while, I even used it once upon a time to package up a few scripts of mine. A chief complaint at that time was that it didn’t look or operate in the same way the Microsoft Installer (MSI) programs did which has the potential to confuse some users or make them feel that your software was of a lesser quality. In fact recent versions of Mozilla Firefox, Gaim, OpenOffice and many other popular applications use NSIS for the installer. An interesting thing about NSIS is that you can cross compile the Windows installer on POSIX OSs such as Linux.

An alternative to NSIS is Inno Setup which has been around since 1997 when the author grew frustrated with InstallShield Express (ahh the days of InstallShield). Since that time a community of support for this installer has developed leading to tools such as ISTool, a graphical intergface for creating the installer script. One of the interesting things about Inno Setup is the extensive support claimed for installing 64-bit applications, something bound to catch developer’s eyes as more consumers move towards 64-bit computing.

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