Monday, September 10, 2007

VFP Runtimes - do we need an installer?

Years ago, the conventional wisdom was that you used an installer program to install the VFP runtimes on the user's machine and then possibly had an application update over it. On network applications (that resided on the file server), this was almost a requirement - the users couldn't run the application without the runtime - but you wanted to be able to install updates without requiring the user to upgrade their runtime files if necessary.

How necessary is that today?

In some instances, very. I still have some applications that reside directly on the file server, where is also where the data lies and thus having a separate runtime installer usually helps - but this can also be detrimental. Even with today's fast networks, the performance hits that come from running an application over the network instead of the local workstation can seriously infringe on the application.

The seeming hassle of creating a separate runtime for the application also strikes fear into some developers hearts as they have to (begrudingly, at times) admit their application uses FoxPro, which can affect how a company with a larger IT department might choose to support it.

This created a chorus of FoxPro developers wanting the VFP runtime to be included with the standard Windows install to make it easier for them to deploy their applications.

So as I was rereading past posts, I came across this great one from Calvin - Enable people to run your programs without installing anything.

It got me thinking - there was a time when a desktop install of 5MB was considered very large but those days are long past. With Windows Service Packs hitting up to 1GB and even the DotNet at 22MB, a 5MB install is nothing - I could install this online in less than 2 minutes.

As FoxPro developers, we are also used to putting files into their "proper" locations - "Common Files\Shared, etc, etc" as though there were lots of applications using the same runtimes. This could reduce versionitis, something that was supposed to be dealt with in XP and now Vista. But is this something that drastically affects VFP applications?

So, coming back to the post, Calvin's entire premise is to just zip up the VFP9R.DLL, VFP9RENU.DLL and the dreaded MSVCR71.DLL and put your application (or your application stub) right in there. Don't worry about pathing, just keep everything right in their own folder.

When combined with a program like Zip2EXE, which you can set to automatically unzip and then run a specific program, or even an installer such as InnoSetup, you can build an entire setup for your application (under 10MBs) that puts everything where VFP can find it without affecting other applications.

You may already be doing something like this so tell me, how do you handle installs?

1 comment:

woody said...

I just use the ready2go runtime-installers from our Install that one on any windowsbox since Win95 and it checks/updates/installs everything VFP could ever need. After that, you just copy your exe into any folder and off you go.

Sine that installers can also run silently, you can easily incorporate them into your own App-installers. (See the readme.txt for commandline switches)

BTW: Our Runtime installers seem to be very popular: we have several thousand downloads on the VFP9 installer from all over the world. Maybe I should make some statistics on that one? hmm.....