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Practical Development Environments by Matthew B. Doar

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Installation Tools

The previous section described the various file formats that can be used to release a collection of files (i.e., a package). This section describes installation tools, which are the tools that create installers, which are the programs (and their datafiles) that actually run on the customers' machines. Installers not only unpack and decompress the files from whatever package file format was used; they also perform all the other steps necessary to make the product work on each machine. Table 9-1 shows some of the different ways to install software, along with examples.

Table 9-1. Different ways to install software

Package contents

Installation tool

Installer

Source code

Packaging tool such as tar or WinZip

Run a build tool such as make (e.g. , many open source projects).

Run a custom build script (e.g. , some Perl applications).

Compiled files

Unpack the executables (e.g., .exe files in a self-extracting zip archive).

Packaging tool such as rpm

Unpack the files and execute other commands, using an already installed application (e.g., rpm).

Specialized installation tool such as InstallShield

Run the programs that were shipped with the compiled files (e.g., most commercial software).

Platform-independent compiled files

Packaging tool such as jar

Unpack the files and execute other commands, using an already installed application (e.g., JVM).

Tip

Installation tools can be thought of as specialized build tools: both kinds of tools take a description of ...

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