As many of you probably already know, Visual Studio 2005 ships with a setup bootstrapper that can be used to create a setup package that chains together prerequisite packages and then installs the product that you create an MSI for within Visual Studio. The setup bootstrapper includes the necessary data files and binaries to install several Microsoft redistributable packages (the .NET Framework 2.0, Windows Installer 3.1, the Visual C++ 8.0 runtime files, SQL Express and a few others).
The bootstrapper is designed to be data driven and generic, so you can add other packages to the list of prerequisites that it will let you install by adding some information to the directory where the bootstrapper is installed on your Visual Studio 2005 development system.
Recently, I found a couple of good resources that can be useful to extend the functionality provided by the setup bootstrapper by authoring new packages that it will be able to install:
- There is an MSDN article that describes how to author the data files needed to add new packages to the available list of prerequises in the Visual Studio 2005 bootstrapper - http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa730839(VS.80).aspx.
- David Guyer (a member of the feature team that created the Visual Studio 2005 bootstrapper) has released a tool that can be used to automate the creation of these data files - the Bootstrapper Manifest Generator. This tool can be downloaded from http://www.gotdotnet.com/workspaces/workspace.aspx?id=ddb4f08c-7d7c-4f44-a009-ea19fc812545.
If you are building a setup package that requires installing other packages as prerequisites, I encourage you to take a look at the Visual Studio 2005 setup bootstrapper to see if it will meet your needs.