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If you've been struggling, trying to work around Java's lack of an installation toolkit, then you should probably take a look at Setup Factory 4.0 by the Indigo Rose Software Design Corp. Most Java programs or packages require an installation which might involve something as easy as placing a few files on the user's system, or it might be much more complex. More complex installations might require the installation of native libraries, configuration files and even require feedback during the installation process from the user.

The Setup Factory program creates self-installing executable files for the various Micrososft Windows platforms. This includes 16-bit Windows (Window 3.1, 3.11), and 32-bit Windows platforms (95 and NT). Currently, Setup Factory does not supply instruments for any other platforms, which is its product's greatest drawback for Java programmers and products.

The advantage the Setup Factory offers over other setup toolkits for the Windows platform, such as the popular InstallSHIELD product, is that you are freed completely from scripting or installation programming languages. Instead, Setup Factory uses a wizard interface to create a new installation executable from your specifications. A wizard interface is a type of application interface that gathers information from the user through multiple, sequential input dialogs. Wizard interfaces are amazingly easy to use, which means you will be able to create an installation executable yourself within one hour of taking the shrink-wrap off the Setup Toolkit product.

Setup Toolkit lets you create multiple installation projects. You create a project for each unique product installation set you want to make. Setup Factory can create a single installation executable, or break the executable into floppy-disk-sized chunks. Using these two options, you can create installation sets appropriate for distribution on a set of floppy disks, on a CD-ROM or for downloading across the Internet.

The Setup Factory program lets you define a project by specifying all the files that are to be installed on the user's machine. The first step is to create a directory tree with all the files of a completed installation. The wizard interface steps you through choosing the files from your local disk to add to the Setup Factory project. The files, along with their relative paths, are stored in a setup project definition file.

Along with the project files, you also specify certain installation details such as the expected target directory name on the user's computer, Start menu entries you want to create, Windows registry entries you want to create, etc. Setup Factory will create a working .EXE file for you. This executable includes all the files from your installation set, as well as a wizard installation program that will lead users through installation.

One additional nice feature of Setup Factory is that it lets you create sub-project level "packages". These allow your user to install only typical program features, or customize program installation on the user's system. Creating these sub-project level packages is easy. Again, Setup Factory uses a wizard interface to gather installation program details from you, the installation program author.

Because it is so easy to effect the Windows registry, AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files on your target Windows machines, Setup Factory is a quick-n-dirty tool for creating installation sets for your Java programs or class packages. You can easily add entries to the CLASSPATH environment variable, or to the Window\Java VM\ library and classpath registry entries. Until JavaSoft gives us a cross-platform Java installation toolkit, guaranteed to be available on every Java VM installation, you need to take installation matters into your own hands. Only a work-in-progress, or a product you don't want to be taken seriously, would be distributed as a simple .ZIP file. Create professional installation programs using IndigoRose's Setup Factory 4.0.

About the Author
Brian Maso is a programming consultant working out of Portland, OR. He is the co-author of The Waite Group Press's upcoming release, "The Java API SuperBible." Before Java, he spent five years corralled in the MS Windows branch of programming, working for such notables as the Hearst Corp., First DataBank and Intel. Readers are encouraged to contact Brian via e-mail with any comments or questions at [email protected]


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