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Level 4

Problems with using IS

If I may as a customer be critical without sounding too much like a butthole, I would like to address some areas bothering me. First It seems as though Flexera seems to prefer the approach to work around issues left out of basic features than it does to make IS more usable to customers. From script, I should be able to ask the script compiler (inline) anything about the machine or the running environment, compile state, whether I am debug or not. I should be able to ask what OS I am running, the machine name, etc, without having to go through the Windows API (IS should wrap that).

As it is, the features in IS are highly esoteric and understood only by people who do installs full time as if that were most of, if not all of their job. To me the idea of IS is to make it easy to do complex things. The help consists of about 10-20% of the keywords, and each of these definitions are so terse, one line, or ambiguous that I spend so much time trying to figure out how to get it to do things that should be obvious or intuitive.

I know IS is a legacy product. Even after all these years, I don't expect it to be idiot proof easy. But I do think it has to be discoverable, without having to post "how to requests" out on a forum and waiting for at best, hours, if not days to get by show stopper problems.

Most of the user can say this without reservation, but IS is the most expensive developer package I own and is so expensive that it costs more than the other packages combined including MSDN-Enterprise. With this, customers expect something and Flexera should expect that. Even if you are not going to add a set of easy to implement primitives to simplify scripts, at least put a decent effort into the documentation so people don't spend so much valuable time trying to figure out how to get it to do the most primative things like conditional script where you are skipping over code when debugging.

If I guess right, Flexera bought up IS and is milking it for all it can get out of it without reinvesting in improving it. I don't mean to just tee off on you folks, but the documentation file is atrocious and virtually unusable. To me it almost seems like Flexera does not care the quality and usability of the product as long as they can stay locked in to the user;s implementation and force him to pay 4-8k per year just to maintain it. I don't begrudge people from making money if they bring value, but the difficulty of using this package if you are not full time dedicated to IS packages is unconscionable. Flexera should have inner ethics driving its moral obligation to properly document a product that is one of the most expensive ones on the market. The more I use it the more I am tied in. If it was saving me time it would at least have a justification for its high price. Trapped by legacy use is not a fair justification of why customers buy IS. As it is very few people in my org can justify buying IS. So, I must build and maintain installs for them.

The problem is summed up in this. I sit down to write an install, it should take only a few hours to write it. It is not that complicated. But, I spend days and sometimes even weeks trying to get IS to do what should be so simple to tell it to do. Since it is not documented properly then I end up spending days searching forums for answers. This is not fair to the users. They pay well for this app. But you expect them to search forums, that is a bad solution. When I need to get around something, I typically need to do it now. I don't have time to post requests.

Look down the list of forum questions that come in every hour. Notice they are asking such basic questions. When your users are doing that, you have not done a good job in documenting how the product works or even teach the concepts of the areas in the app to solve their problems.

If you are going to charge a lot for a product, then give the consumer something for his money. Don't just exploit the cost of switching for that is a terrible approach. It is not that hard to document features. If IS was easy to use, perhaps the high price from your marketing module wouldn't be so irritating to users.

I am sure some of you care. But, it is absent in appearance in the answers and out dated examples you give to work around a problem that should have a straightforward mainstream solution added to it by now. It is as though if there is a convoluted hack, there is no need to add an elegant solution to make IS seem like a product where its developers are concerned about the usability for the customer.

Like I said, I am not trying to be an a-hole here, but this is overwhelming. I spend too much time trying to get IS to work on what should be simple script. I don't expect you to supply a modern C# scripting environment but documentation is the minimum standard of any product, whether expensive or cheap. This consumes our time in terms of dollars and schedules, and the difficulty of trying to estimate effort, and this cost is more so that the costs of maintain the subscription for the product. I am stuck with IS.

Microsoft has not provided a good interface into MSI stuff yet. But, Accresso people, please take note or pass on to your product managers/marketers, "this is not a way to leave your customers as a constant trapped and neglected product loyalty", especially when you product has as much margin in its cost as IS does. Surely you know that if Microsoft decides to provide relief to users for installs, and creates a .NET extension of install services that can be called from VB, C# or C++, this would be a threat that could kill a product dead in place.

Doesn't anyone of you working for Flexera see this and are compelled like I am to make sure my customers are not my customers simply because the are trapped without options? I mean as a person I am no better than any of you, so don't we both share the same concern and respect for our respective customers? I view them as they are the reason I have a job. I would hate to work for a company that had a monopoly mentality with such low entries barriers and high margins.

Please, at least show some indication that you are sensitive to user frustrations of you product. There is no worse feeling than being forced to buy something with a manufacturer is so cavalier and uninterested in your satisfaction with that product.

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(4) Replies
Level 7

#1 It's Flexera Software.

#2 Have you ever tried calling tech support using your maintenance agreement? They are fast, courteous, and knowledgeable. As a new user (just started a few months back) I have learned so much by calling and asking questions that new users have. I also check the forum RSS feed often to read about issues other people are having - and I may have in the future and will already have the answers for! Not everything is intuitive - but it's not like this language is taught in school (where you would have an advantage by learning OOP languages/etc before entering the working world, for example). Since their technical support is top-notch and have helped with every question I have so far, I can confidently say that this product is well worth the price. For time sensitive "show stopper problems", by all means give them a call!
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Level 8

I have been using InstallShield for over 2 years now, and I find most of the basic installation features are easily found, at least when using the Basic MSI project type. The installscript language is like any other computer language you have to take the time to learn it, no programming language is completely intuitive.

I have had them be very responsive to any issues I have had, and on a few occasions they even had a patch fix for the issue sent to me within a week of the time I found the issue. There have been issues they just flagged as a known issue and slated for fix in a future release due to the complexity of the changes.

I would suggest if you are struggling that much with making the installers you consider looking into one of Flexera's training courses.

Also, keep in mind that for MSI installations they are developing against the microsoft installer engine and in some ways are constrained by the limitations of that system, not to mention that the MSI engine is constantly evolving and IS has to make adaptations to keep up.
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Level 4

I think you pay an inordinate amount of money with the obligation to exchange time. You are, in effect, saying that I need to become a professional IS developer and give up my other responsibilities and still pay huge sums of money even though it takes my time rather than saves my time. This is non-sequitur. Look at what you pay for MSDN, what all it can help you do, how fancy and modern it is, and how much less it costs than a tool that is pretty much the same as when it first released as far as the scripting and dialogs go.

Visual Studio has an installer that is every bit as capable as is IS. It too is clunky, and even less clunky than IS. So what do I pay $8000 per year for? To make it only marginally easier to create apps? How would you keep this business module? What if a modern developer with modern developer skills and modern developer expectation of modern apps decided to product an OOP product that does everything IS does that doesn't force you to take training courses as OOP apps are highly intuitive? What if this company were decided to give basic documenation on how their product works where you didn't need to take a class to learn how to get a clunky interface to work for you. Some of you have very very low expectations as developers. You are only concerned with keeping your job safe even if you are pissing away the resources of the company you work for. Lots of you are newbies or not interested in normal challenges of capable developers to where you don't want to learn how to do lots of things, but just to carve out a niche were you are pseudo-experts in some antiquated technology, just because you can. Pros are not like that. They don't want to be bogged down in a tool that is supposed to save you time and money on something as conceptually simple as installs. Setups are historically where we put our underachievers just to at least get productivity out of them. In my case, I am stuck doing this part as well because we cannot afford more than one package. I don't have time to become a setup expert. Why should I have to if I pay so much for a product that is supposed to make things simple and easy?

I have been developing for almost 30 years. Installs are the simplest area I have ever worked in. I know exactly what I want to do. I don't need to learn install concepts as Microsoft documents them very well. Why should a product that has been around for at least 10-12 years still be so primative that it doesn't even have basic documentation to help you get things done quick and dirty? You are obviously not a project lead or concerned with time and budget of products you buy and schedules you have to make for things that should not consume such resources.

What I get here is that many of you are American developers with the same fat and lazy "we will not rush or take on new technology if we don't have to" attitudes. The world is now full of the developers what can do anything we can do and much cheaper. To defend a dinosaur would tell me you are more than likely a dinosaur in your own business as it costs your end user for you to waste time.

We invest money to save time by purchasing tools. In these tools there are reasonable expectations of usability and documentation to be able to use the tool to recoup the investment in time. IS has always been notoriously expensive at the $1000 level. Suddenly it shot up to $8000 with nothing to show. A little bit of eye candy to allow you to change properties and attributes? But the the crux of the product is still the same old cumbersome technology and even worse, their expectation for you is to spend time "searching" forums for how to do simple things? There is an implied ethic in giving people something for their money. It is mandated that I use IS. My bosses have decreed this because of legacy apps. If Flexera is not interested in assisting my time without making me do primative searches of emails to find out how to do something or wait until their experts get around to reading my email, then this makes a huge professional statement that if I made the same kind of statement to my customers would mean I would be shot out of the saddle in short order by my competitors and lose my customers. The worst thing you can do is make your customers miserable where they are looking for relief. That is professional suicide. You still have a job, congratulations. But if you feel that was Flexera does to you is good practice and you do it to your customers, then prepare yourself from changes that are inevitable. No bravado needed here, this is just common sense. The Auto industry are poster boys for this kind of American hubris. Imaging the people in Turkey, or the Ukraine that would love to have your job and do it for a fraction of what you it for. Either get efficient and be the best or prepare to loose your comfy unchallenged inefficient ways. If you understood this you would understand why I am frustrated with companies that don't care when they provide me products as I have stated here. This is just common sense or at least should be. We all pay for apathy. It may take a while or it might come quickly. But, don't debate it will not come.
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Level 7

#1 "If I may as a customer be critical without sounding too much like a butthole". too much now

#2 I tried VS built-in install project once. Per their syntax, had to create a separate .dll project just to collect SQL connection information to modify app.configs. Separate .dll project for each user-input screen? Overkill!

#3 Not all installers can be simple. That's where InstallScript comes in to play!

#4 Again, if you keep getting stuck in those "show stopper problems", give them a call! InstallShield obviously doesn't have the customer base that programming languages like C++, C#, etc do. Not all MSDN articles are top notch but in those cases you can do a quick google search and find answers on thousands of forums like Experts Exchange, developer Fusion, Microsoft Technet, etc, etc. InstallShield does not have that advantage (yes there is and maybe others, but not thousands!).
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