If extensibility with add-ins is hard sometimes (or most of the time), creating setups for add-ins is incredibly difficult always, no matter which installer technology you use. If COM-based add-ins of VS.NET 2002/2003 (still supported in VS 2005, 2008 and 2010) were complicated (they required COM-based registration and Windows Registry-based registration), XML-based add-ins of VS 2005 and higher (which only require file-based registration) are complicated too, and they are far from XCopy deployment, because:
- You need to put an .AddIn file in one of several specific folders of choice, but they have a lot of problems (localized, different for Windows XP / Vista, new locations in new Visual Studio versions, hardcoded subfolders, locations that don't work), etc.
- You need to modify the .AddIn file to put its Assembly tag value pointing to the actual location of the dll file of the add-in, which requires a custom action.
- And once you have your add-in installed, you are only half the way: uninstalling it is even more complicated due to the fact that you need to remove its commands, and that requires a custom action to either:
- Create an instance of EnvDTE.DTE, iterate its commands and remove the ones of the add-in.
- Execute the command line devenv.exe /ResetAddin <myaddin> /Command File.Exit. For some reason beyond me Microsoft decided that the /ResetAddIn should not open invisible the IDE, make its job resetting the add-in, and close it, so you need to pass the /Command File.Exit, but you have the problem that the IDE is visible (and maximized) for a second, and good luck making that custom action invisible because most installers know how to do that with console (MSDOS) command tools, but not with Windows applications such as devenv.exe.
Needless to say, I really do hate setups, and MSI the most (very complicated). So, when I learned about Windows Installer XML (Wix), a toolset that builds Windows installation packages (MSI) from XML source code, I decided to take a look. That was back in March 2010 (I remember I was on vacation at New York) and I found MSI and WiX so tricky that despite some (failed) attempts at spare time I have been procrastinating about it until this summer of 2011, when I finally succeeded (hopefully) creating a setup using WiX that works correcty in all scenarios (fresh install, change, uninstall).
Not only I have created setups for all users (requiring admin rights) but also setups for the current user (not requiring admin rights), approaches that require some discussion that will be the subject of a couple of small articles in the next days. Meantime, apart from this old article of 2008 (now renamed):
HOWTO: Create a setup for a Visual Studio add-in for all users (requiring admin rights) using Inno Setup
I am very satisfied of providing the following new samples:
HOWTO: Create a setup for a Visual Studio add-in for all users (requiring admin rights) using Windows Installer XML (WiX)
HOWTO: Create a setup for a Visual Studio add-in for the current user (not requiring admin rights) using Inno Setup
HOWTO: Create a setup for a Visual Studio add-in for the current user (not requiring admin rights) using Windows Installer XML (WiX)