There comes a point where scripting alone reaches its limits. You can create graphical interfaces to make them more user-friendly but the options are limited. You may even want to bundle several tools into one program. That’s what package creation software is for.
The reference in this field has been AdminStudio for years, a complete tool and an efficient support. However, it is an expensive software, you need to have many packages to create to be able to amortize the cost. Of course, there are similar and cheaper applications.
In this article you will find the best package creation software for Windows. Most of them are not free, but they offer trial versions so that you can discover the features and get used to them.
The best paid package creation software
AdminStudio is a comprehensive application preparation solution that helps you identify and mitigate problems before deployment. You can use AdminStudio tools to repackage applications and convert packages to virtual formats. You can thoroughly test your physical, virtual, and mobile applications to ensure they are ready for deployment across your enterprise. Finally, the software allows for automated distribution directly from the application manager.
- Improve service quality and streamline service delivery
- Reduce risk and adopt new technologies faster
- Eliminate security and compatibility issues for mobile applications
- Reliably prepare and deploy application virtualisation formats
- Integrate seamlessly with leading software deployment systems
- Simplify and unify application management with standardised processes
- Increase efficiency with a central application repository
- Identify packaging issues in minutes instead of days
AdminStudio is available in 3 different versions:
Enterprise: for IT organizations looking for an advanced application packaging solution that is available to centrally manage and prepare applications for reliable, conflict-free software deployment.
Professional: Filled with automated tools that simplify virtual application compatibility testing for Windows, MAC, Android, and MSIC, App-V, MSI packaging, allowing administrators to prepare reliable and tested application packages for conflict-free deployment on any Windows OS.
Standard: Provides a cost-effective way for creators of virtual applications and MSI, MSIX, App-V packages to migrate applications to Windows Installer and gives control over MSI packaging, customisation and distribution activities.
2. Emco MSI Package Builder
EMCO MSI Package Builder is a repackaging tool and allows the creation of packages using the Live Monitoring technique. This technology does not create snapshots, unlike traditional repackaging tools; instead, it simply communicates with the operating system to track changes along the way.
EMCO MSI Package Builder is easy to use to package most applications you might want to deploy using your organisation’s automated software deployment platform.
Finally, support is responsive and their site has many tutorial videos to help.
- Automatic MSI creation
- Repackaging Exe to MSI
- Customisable wizard installation
- Definition and modification of file attributes (hidden, read-only, etc)
- Integration of resource management functions
- Live monitoring technology that creates an installation template with a defined set of installation actions and resources
- Ability to create silent installations
Emco MSI Package Builder is available in 3 license types:
- The professional edition from $599 allows the creation of MSIs, repackaging and live monitoring.
- Enterprise edition from 899$ allows in addition the Live Monitoring on a remote machine
- The architect edition from 1245$ is the most complete and allows the creation of MSIX, App-V, Appx packages and to repackage them.
3. Infopulse Pace Suite
PACE Suite is an all-in-one packaging solution that facilitates the rapid deployment of projects of all sizes. Suitable for freelancers, IT departments and large development companies, it provides the tools needed to create software packages and manage future updates with ease. In addition, the intuitive interface and a number of useful wizards make packaging as simple as possible, while offering a comprehensive set of advanced features. PACE Suite is always up to date with two major new releases each year. PACE Suite consists of MSI Generator, MSI Editor, Quality Approver and DOCU Generator.
- Repackaging of any installation into MSI/MST/App-V/ThinApp
- Create and modify virtual packages (App-V, ThinApp).
- Create and modify Windows Installer (MSI), Transforms (MST) packages to customise packages and Patch (MSP) and provide application updates.
- Publish packages to Microsoft SCCM servers.
- Automate routine packaging tasks.
PACE Suite editions have a per-user licensing model, which allows you to keep costs low. Pace Suite is available in 3 versions. Another advantage is that it is possible to buy a licence for only 3 months, which can be very interesting if you have occasional needs.
PACE Suite Freelancer is aimed at freelancers or private entrepreneurs who are looking to facilitate the creation of custom software packages.
PACE Suite Enterprise is applicable to SMEs and enterprises. It is a powerful version that allows companies to easily manage internal software upgrades and migration projects.
PACE Suite Service Provider applies to companies that provide application management services to their end customers. If you want to increase the scope and efficiency of application packaging services for your end customers, consider this license.
Advanced Installer greatly simplifies the process of packaging, updating and deploying applications. The advantage of Advanced Installer is that you don’t need to be a developer or have a decade of IT experience to use it. It has many powerful features and packaging capabilities that IT administrators can use. IT professionals may need a quick and easy way to package applications, create virtualisation packages like App-V, or convert one type of application to another.
Below are the main features of Advanced Installer:
- Creation of applications with trial and licensed versions
- Import from Visual Studio, InstallShield LE, WiX, Eclipse, Inno Setup and NSIS
- MSIX and App-V packaging
Advanced Installer simplifie grandement le processus de packaging, de mise à jour et de déploiement des applications. L’avantage d’Advanced Installer est qu’il n’est pas nécessaire d’être un développeur ou d’avoir une décennie d’expérience en informatique pour l’utiliser. Il possède de nombreuses fonctionnalités puissantes et des capacités de packaging que les administrateurs informatiques peuvent utiliser. Les professionnels de l’informatique peuvent avoir besoin d’un moyen rapide et facile de packager des applications, de créer des paquets de virtualisation comme App-V, ou de convertir un type d’application en un autre.
Advanced Installer offers 3 license types, Professional, Enterprise and Architect. The Architect version is very interesting for repackaging and integration with SCCM. You can automatically create the SCCM package from the Advanced Installer.
The best free package creation software
1. Nullsoft Scriptable Install System (NSIS)
NSIS is a professional system that you can use to create anything from the simplest to the most complex Windows installers. It is small, but has a large number of features, which makes it suitable for distribution over the Internet.
NSIS allows you to create as much complicated logic as necessary to handle any situation. Fortunately, for beginners, it also includes a set of plug-ins and predefined scripts to help you get started.
- Ability to create Windows installers that can install, uninstall, define system settings, extract files, etc.
- The smallest Windows installer compared to InstallShield.
- A single installer that is compatible with all major versions of Windows, from Windows 95 to Windows 10.
- Three compression methods (ZLib, BZip2, LZMA) to ensure the best possible compression for your packages.
- With the scripting language, you can perform many different installation tasks such as upgrades, version checks, system reboots, changing environment variables, accessing the Windows API and more.
- Create custom dialogs and interfaces to include user input, configuration options, and even a custom wizard interface.
- Support for web-based installation and Internet file correction.
NSIS is free and regularly updated. Finally, it also has a large community that can help you get started.
2. Inno Setup
Inno Setup is an advanced, totally free Windows installer that has been around since 1997. It has a ton of features and works great for small businesses with moderately complex needs.
- Supports all versions of Windows, from Windows 2000 to Windows 10
- Supports installation of 64-bit applications on 64-bit Windows
- Supports single EXE file creation for easy file distribution
- Customisable configuration types and full support for application uninstallations
- Creation of shortcuts, registry entries and INI files
- Supports silent installations and Pascal scripting engine for more advanced installations
- Third-party extensions that enhance the features of the Inno installation
Package creation software: summary
- EMCO MSI PackageBuilder d’EMCO
- Advanced Installer
- Nullsoft Scriptable Install System
- Inno Setup
What is an .EXE (executable) file?
An executable file, or .exe file, such as the file commonly known as setup.exe, is a file that runs a program on an operating system such as Windows, without requiring additional software to perform its tasks. It cannot be read as a data file since it is compiled from the source code, and it usually contains graphical elements for the user interface.
What is an .MSI file?
Originally, an MSI file (or MSI package) was a database file used by the Windows installer (formerly Microsoft Installer) to install update information, set registry values, etc. in the Windows operating system. Although MSIs were originally created for Windows updates only, they have been used by many third-party vendors to install applications on Windows.
A typical MSI file is a database that may contain the following:
- A user interface for installing files
- Executable files (.exe)
- Connectivity parameters of the open database
- Configuration settings
- Registry settings
- Custom actions to be performed
- Installation instructions
- Order of the installation procedure
- File to be installed, or path to location of uncompressed file
- Other relevant files
All of this information is needed to properly install the associated application on a desktop or server.
What is the difference between an MSI and an .exe file?
An .exe file is a non-MSI installation or start-up program, which can include one or more MSIs, whereas an MSI file allows only one. An EXE can therefore run multiple MSIs, a necessary dependency of .NET, and gives users additional control over the installation process.
An MSI file can also include a special .exe file, called a “bootstraper” setup.exe file, which does not install the application but simply checks that the correct version of Windows Installer is installed and launches the MSIEXEC.EXE file in the Windows operating system to run the MSI file.
MSIs can take the user out of the equation and perform the installation using the predetermined options and environment in which the application is installed. Silent installation, which we will define below, is essential so that an MSI does not require user interaction to accomplish its task.
Here’s a roundup of the best package creation software. With the new velocity of Windows 10, Office 365, SCCM, Windows Server and other fast-moving upgrade cycles, relying on tedious manual packaging to keep up is no longer an option. More and more companies are turning to IT automation to manage an efficient and productive IT environment. If you or your company can afford it, look to AdminStudio. If not, Emco MSI Package Builder will do the trick. It’s also very easy to learn.