With the start of the Profesional Developers Conference 2005, the Windows Installer Team is starting a series of Best Practice Guidelines for Building Quality Installs. Windows Installer (MSI) is a rich engine with many features to solve installation problems including an extensibility feature called custom actions. Given all the freedom provided when composing packages, package producers and consumers both need a reference with guidelines for quality packages.

Customer Value: Some package producers report getting lost in the Windows Installer (MSI) feature set and ask for guidance to do the right thing while saving time. Some package consumers report back to us the common problem they find they are provided and ask us for help in getting the package producers to do the right thing.

Testability: How do package producers and consumers arrive at the same interpretation of a best practice? With each Best Practice we'll include a testability component to provide neutral guidance on whether a package conforms.

Complementary Infrastructure: For the sake of the exercise, we're assuming there is both a declaration file called a Vendor Questionnaire that is provided by the package provider and a report file called a Compliance Report that is provided by the package consumer. We're also assuming one has a tool that snapshots the system and can difference two snapshots.

Quality Accountability Model: It is expected that a package provider would declare any variation from a best practice in the Vendor Questionnaire. It is expected that a package consumer would report any variation from a best practice in the Compliance Report. With this transparency, the consumer if fully informed as to the qualities of the software one is considering consuming and if either the declared qualities or declarations are missing, a fair upfront discussion can occur between provider and consumer.

We welcome your feedback. Please let us know if there are areas you are particularly interested in.

[Author: Robert Flaming]
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