A Windows Installer installation program is distributed as an .msi package, which consists of a Windows Installer database (.msi database) and related data files (.cab files, uncompressed data files, etc.). The .msi databases, implemented as COM structured storage, contain dozens of tables that describe the changes that are to be performed on the target system. For example, some of the .msi tables are:
Other .msi database tables describe the appearance and behavior of the installations user interface, install and configure Windows services and ODBC information, determine characteristics of the target system, and store icons and other binary data for use during installation.
From a developers perspective, perhaps the greatest change in Windows Installer installation programs is that there is no explicit script to write. Instead, Windows Installerbased installations perform standard and custom actions, where an action displays a dialog, queries the target system, or makes changes to the target system. These actions are arranged into sequences, which are ordered collections of actions.
Windows Installer includes a collection of application program interface functions, or APIs, dedicated to managing product installations. Applications must call the Windows Installer APIs in order to take advantage of features available with Windows Installer.
An integral part of Windows operating systems, Windows Installer provides a standard format for component management as well as an interface for managing applications and system tools. Various versions of Windows Installer are available as redistributables for Windows operating systems.
Although it is possible to create a Windows Installer package by editing .msi database tables directly, the large number of tables and relationships among them makes doing so a formidable task. InstallShield organizes the process of developing an installation for Windows Installer into various views, providing graphical editors and wizards that shield the developer from much of the implementation detail that is associated with .msi databases.
For more information on Windows Installer technology, see the.
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