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November 27, 2007

15-Minute Reviews - Smart Install Maker v5.00

Hello all and welcome to another 15-Minute Review! Today's application is on Smart Install Maker version 5.00 by InstallBuilders An application to build installers quickly and easily.

Quick Pros

Interface is easy to use and understand
No knowledge (or learning) of a scripting language required
Lots of features Covers most of what many will need
Resulting file is well-compressed and works well

Quick Cons

Can't drag and drop an entire folder to add contents
Lacks option for checkbox 'Install Desktop Shortcut'
Uninstall registry or files section does not have option to copy

Expansion

Overall the interface is extremely easy to use and easy to get around in. All the settings for the installer (Save for adding the uninstall shortcut and registering a file expansion) is in a list of pages down the left of the screen. There is a total of 16 pages, covering quite a bit of ground. One of the greatest parts of this installer maker is the fact that you're not learning yet another language to make an installer for your product/files without sacrificing too much power.

There is a lot of features to this application. From management of files, registry entries, shortcuts, INI files, ActiveX, fonts and other veriables; To control of the look of the installer including custom sidebar, header graphics and gradients and more; To controlling the conditions (Requirements) of installation (Such as what OS, what version of .NET Framework installed and if an application is open) as well as uninstall functionality as well. It does cover much of what someone may need, while still offering the ability to trigger a command or batch file for performing more complex tasks that may be missing due to a lack of scripting.

A few issues I did have while I was building an installer. First off, while there is drag and drop functionality in the Files section of the application, it is limited to dropping file(s) only; You can not drag and drop the contents of an entire folder to have it add it in a logical form. You either have to add the files in groups, making sure you have the right folder structure, or use the 'Add Folder' icon to add a folder at a time; This could become very tedious if you have a lot of support files (Such as art files, music, etc) in containing folders. As well, while there is the capability of having the installer install a Desktop Shortcut, if you add one to the Shortcuts area, there is no apparent option to be able to turn on a dialog box asking if Desktop Shortcuts will be installed; This would leave the decision of a Desktop Shortcuts in the hands of the installer maker, not the end-user. One other quirk I did have is that when you are building the uninstaller, there is no way to add the files or registry entries you added to the installer, means you have to go through and rebuild these; This may be helpful for ensuring you want to prevent the wiping of user data during uninstall, but can end up with a lot of work redoing the uninstaller when all the information could be copied and then altered from the installer area.

During my testing, I found the application did create a decently-compressed file and did run well. The interface looks sharp of the resulting file and overall I would be satisfied using this as an installer for a professional product.

Final Verdict

While the application could use a bit more maturing to try to encompass more advanced users needs as well as simplify even more, the application as-is is actually a good program. For free, if you are in need of an installer of any type and want to avoid scripting, this may be the application for you. As for paying $79.99 for this application, it depends on how often you may be making an installer; For someone who may be working on a professional and updated application, this may be a decent choice for you as since it will likely cut down on time to build the installer. While I used to use NSIS (Open-Source - Scripting) I likely would actually change to this application if I were developing a paid-for application for its look and ease of use, especially when coming down to updates.

Posted by BladedThoth on Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Source: http://www.bladedthoth.com/reviews/15mrs/smart-install-maker-v5-00/