A Debugger that Doesn’t Debug

Despite all of InstallAware‘s claims of superiority, ease-of-use, and drop-dead simple compatibility and scripting capabilities compared to the competition in the market; it’s driving us crazy.

The biggest problem is the “debugger.” It’s in quotes for a reason. Take the world’s most powerful debugger, and try to debug an application that’s one big, huge “TRY” block – you’ll never get anywhere because you get a pretty error message instead. Except in our case, the message says “error,” and it leaves us to guess just where in the several hundred lines of badly-implemented scripting “MSIcode” the error is.

Even worse, if at all possible, are the breakpoints. By “break” they mean that the installer will “pause” right there – but you can’t really do anything with that pause – you can’t even access the IDE! It’s just like hitting the freeze-frame button on your Cable Box – it’s worthless.

InstallAware has a colorful history from stealing website designs to abusing the freeware communities – and you can always spot their CEO in the comments section claiming “that’s OK” because they have better products anyway. Well, it seems they don’t have even that…

InstallAware has given us non-stop hell ever since we’ve tried to do more than copy files from one location on our hard-drive to another location on the end-users. It’s time to say goodbye to a product that’s more hype than show – something we should have done a long time ago when we first came across those articles.

To be totally honest however, InstallAware does do some things right. For instance, it has awesome themes (not overdone WinBlinds-style themes) that ship with the product (much nicer than InstallShield’s), and its compression techniques are the best. EasyBCD 1.52 is only 1.5MB though other installers we tried ended up giving us > 3MB setup files. But that’s a price we’re willing to pay for some piece of mind.

Debugging an InstallAware setup is absolutely impossible despite all of InstallAware’s claims about the ease-of-use of their (admittedly nice) IDE and the simplicity of MSIcode… But we’re just not seeing that. While it’s easy to see what’s happening in the script, it’s way too limited. Besides having to drag-and-drop even simple if-else-end blocks from a sidebar (no, you’re not allowed to type them in!), there is too much stuff that happens behind the scenes. In our case, the highly-informative “message box” (that said “error” and had only an “OK” button!) was occuring somewhere in an “apply changes” subroutine – which is hidden from view.

So please forgive us for ever using InstallAware in the first place, for leaving InstallShield behind, for promising to ship EasyBCD earlier today yet not being able to do so. Sorry to have to switch installers once more, but hopefully we’ve learned a valuable lesson here and it’s good-bye InstallAware from now on.

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