Chris McGrath’s Blog

Just another Developer’s Blog

Posts Tagged ‘installers

To anyone distributing an installer online…

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Please don’t call your installer Setup.exe. It might be fine when initially installed but people will forget what it contains within a week. And clearing out your downloads folder is really annoying when you have no idea what an file is. This especially goes out to the Microsoft Virtual PC team.

Written by Chris McGrath

July 13, 2009 at 3:23 pm

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One of the biggest problems with software… Updates

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Seriously, how come there isn’t a standard pattern for handling updates? Updating is annoying. Any program that makes updating it easy should be recognised.

So I’ll start it off with my favourite, Firefox. They do a great job at making the process simple. When an update is available it pops up a dialog you hit one button and it’s installed. Further, it makes it even less intrusive by waiting for restart before doing the actual install. This should be the goal of all software developers.

I think a major problem we’ve got ourselves into is thinking that an update is just an install. It may sound logical, you’re installing a new version over an old version, but there is a big difference. An install has to find out information – where to install it, what parts to install and other options. An update already knows (or should already know) this information. Hell, you don’t even need to make people re-agree to the licence agreement if it hasn’t changed.

Now let’s look at some bad ones: TortoiseSVN. It seems to make an update about once a month, and how does it tell you? It pops up a dialog saying an update is available and go to the website to download it. You then go to the website, download the full installer and perform a full installation. Also the dialog has no “Don’t tell me about this update again!” button, so it will keep popping up until it’s installed.

But at least TortoiseSVN waits until you use it to pop up the message. Daemon Tools pops up the message as soon as windows starts. And that’s a tool that I don’t use very often and am happy with how it works, why should I update it?

Finally there’s iTunes. I think iTunes has some great examples of horrible user interactions (I’ve written about it before here) and how to handle updates is no exception. First, an update is 60MB! I can’t understand why the full installer is 60MB, for an update they should be able to make it much smaller. Then they have this “Apple Software Update” which runs in the background.  Yet iTunes itself can detect when an update is avaliable. Now the Software Updater also tries to push Safari on you; and quite aggressively. After seeing this apple fan boys can’t complain about Microsoft pushing stuff on us. Then the installer runs, takes much longer than a update should and oh, it decides to add those shortcuts back that I deleted.

Which leads me to my final difference between installers and updates – shortcuts. An installer puts shortcuts on the machine, if they aren’t there when an update is run it’s because the user deleted them – SO DON’T PUT THEM BACK!

Written by Chris McGrath

July 2, 2009 at 2:49 pm

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