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Installer Choices

A fairly wide range of options exist for the creation of installer products:

  • Zip files
  • InstallShield
  • Script-based installers
  • Windows installers
  • Home grown graphical installers
  • Open source installers (for example, AntInstaller)

Many Java products are simply packaged as zip files that expand into a set of folders. Normally, you then have the pesky task of updating your CLASSPATH to include the newly installed folders. Script-based installers are handwritten and are mostly used on Unix or Linux platforms.

Windows installers are an increasingly common way of deploying Windows software. Home-grown graphical installers represent a fairly expensive way to deploy software because you are responsible for both the software being installed and the tools to effect that installation.

In this article, I’ll be discussing AntInstaller, which is a very clever piece of software that makes use of the ubiquitous Ant technology and enables users to create cross-platform installers using simple script files. To use AntInstaller, you create a few script files and then build those files to produce a self-extracting zip file.

Once an AntInstaller self-extracting zip file has been created, you can execute the installation from the command line or by double-clicking the zip file. The only platform prerequisite for running an AntIstaller is a Java Runtime Environment (that is, you don’t have to deploy a complete JDK).

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