WEB MECHANICS

      Editors: Dean Zollman and Kevin Zollman, [dzollman, kzollman]

By N. Sanjay Rebello



                                                                                        than having to download the software
                                                                                        multiple times, the user can download
                                                                                        once and then run the setup program lo-
                                                                                        cally for each installation. If you disallow
                                                                                        the user storage option, IFTW will in-
                                                                                        stall the software on a single computer
WINDOWS 9X OR NT SOFTWARE, THE COMMERCIAL PRODUCT                                       and then delete the installation file.
                                                                                           IFTW also lets you create several
InstallFromTheWeb provides a con-              steps and asks you to make choices and   Web installations of the same product
venient way to do this.                        enter information. You begin by starting for placement at different Web sites.
   Created by InstallShield Corp. (http://     a new project and entering information   Users can choose which site to down-, IFTW lets users        relevant to your product such as name,   load from—for example, picking the one
download and install software by click-        e-mail, copyright, version, and so on. Towith the lowest installation time. You
ing a few buttons. Based on our team’s ex-     illustrate the tool, my colleagues and I can also digitally sign your installation if
perience, we believe it is one of the quick-   created a Web installation for our Spec- you have software publishing credentials
est and most convenient Web-based in-          troscopy Lab Suite program.1 Figure 1    from a certificate authority such as GTE
stallation packages for these platforms.       shows the Project Information panel for  (
                                               the software. The Wizard will import     html) or Verisign (
Getting started                                this information into an HTML file and    com). A certificate might satisfy users
   To Web-enable an existing installa-         display it to pros-
tion file (an .exe file that installs an ap-     pective users be-
plication), you need access and write          fore they down-
privileges to a server and a dedicated         load the software.
Internet connection of 56 Kbps or                 Point the Wiz-
higher. (You must have already created         ard to the folder
the installation file using other soft-        containing the
ware.) The recipient of your software          previously created
(the “user”) must have Windows 9x or           installation files
NT, an Internet connection, and either         that you want
plug-in technology such as Internet Ex-        We b - e n a b l e d .
plorer or Netscape or another browser          You have the op-
that supports ActiveX (http://msdn.            tion of letting             users store the in-
activex/ctrlovw.asp). Users must down-         stallation files in a
load and install the IFTW client.              location of their
                                               choice. This op-
Using the Design Time Wizard                   tion is useful if the
   The Design Time Wizard provides             user wants to in- Figure 1. Project Information panel of the Design Time Wiz-
a point-and-click authoring environ-           stall the software ard. The Wizard imports information entered here by the dis-
ment for Web-enabling an installation.         on more than one tributor into an HTML file and displays it to users before they
It guides you through a sequence of            computer; rather download the software.

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 1999                                                                                                           79
                             WEB MECHANICS

Figure 2. A part of                                                                        page (accessed through Internet Ex-
the script of the                                                                          plorer 4.0) of the sample Web installa-
Spectroscopy Lab                                                                           tion we created for our Lab software
Suite Web-en-                                                                              (
abled installer                                                                            programs/webinstalls/win95/sls/
page automati-                                                                             SpectroscopyLabSuite.htm). To start
cally generated by                                                                         a subsequent Web installation, users
the Design Time                                                                            click the button at the top left. The soft-
Wizard. The com-                                                                           ware prompts them with some simple
plete path of the                                                                          questions and asks them to make
file on the server                                                                          choices at each stage. For instance, if
must be specified                                                                           the developer chooses to let users save
in the Value and                                                                           the installer locally, they will be asked
Embed state-                                                                               whether and where they want the in-
ments.                                                                                     staller saved. After they have answered
                                                                                           the necessary questions, the Web in-
                                                                                           stallation proceeds seamlessly.
Figure 3. The
                                                                                              The steps for creating and running a
opening Web
                                                                                           Web-enabled installation are outlined
page as seen by an
                                                                                           in Table 1. Note that step 6, download-
Internet Explorer
                                                                                           ing, is only for those users who wish to
4.0 user. The but-
                                                                                           redistribute the application locally.
ton at the top left
appears only if the
                                                                                           Advantages and disadvantages of
end user has in-
stalled the
                                                                                              IFTW is one of the most user-
                                                                                           friendly Web installation packages for
TheWeb client.
                                                                                           Windows 9X and NT systems. The in-
Clicking the but-
                                                                                           stallation process is several times faster
ton starts the Web
                                                                                           than downloading an archive from an
                                                                                           FTP site and installing it on a local
                                                                                              IFTW is compatible with other In-
who are wary of malicious intent while        the Wizard. These files, along with the       stallShield installers, such as Install-
Web-installing applications.                  exiting non-Web-enabled files, must be        Shield 5.0 or InstallShield Express (we
   IFTW lets you test your installation       transferred to the appropriate location      used the latter to create our installation
locally before you place it on a Web          on the server. Your installation is now      file before Web-enabling it). We have
server. After testing, you can ask IFTW       completely Web-enabled.                      not used IFTW to Web-enable instal-
to build the Web installation. The Wiz-                                                    lations made with other vendors’ prod-
ard creates the Web page for the instal-      Running a Web-enabled                        ucts, such as the popular tool Installer
lation using a built-in template that is      installation                                 Vise for Windows.
complete with links to the client and            The first time users access a Web in-         IFTW is not cross-platform; you
your Web-enabled installation. Figure         stallation created by IFTW, they will        must use a different package for Mac-
2 shows the contents of the HTML file          not have the client installed on their       intosh and Unix systems. For example,
for the Web page. If you did not cor-         system, so they will not see the button
rectly specify the full path of the instal-   needed to launch an application. Inter-      N. Sanjay Rebello is an assistant professor of
lation on your server, you can edit the       net Explorer users will see a digital cer-                     physics at the Clarion Univer-
value and embed tags in the HTML              tificate that, when clicked, downloads                         sity of Pennsylvania. His re-
file. You can also edit your organiza-        the client. Netscape users must first                          search focuses on physics ed-
tion’s name, e-mail, or copyright infor-      click the client link on InstallShield’s                       ucation and use of the Web
mation (Figure 1) at this stage.              Web site (http://www.installshield.                            in teaching physics. Contact
   The Wizard also builds other files          com/client), download and save the                             him at the Physics Dept.,
needed for the Web installation; all the      client, and then run the downloaded                            Clarion Univ. of Pennsylva-
files have the same name as the .ifw pro-      file (Iftwcli.exe) to install it.             nia, Clarion, PA 16214;
ject file that you chose earlier through          Figure 3 shows the opening Web

80                                                                                                COMPUTING IN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING
   Other commercial products for creating                                   Vbox Builder by Preview Systems (http://www.preview-
   Web-based installations                                      is a royalty-free solution that lets you create se-
                                                                         cure trial versions of your software without making source
      WebDeploy by Wise Solutions (http://www.wisesolutions.             code changes. Trials can be limited or unlimited, based on
   com) creates dynamic Internet/intranet installations using In-        uses, time, or dates, including a master expiration date. Vbox
   stallMaster and InstallManager for Windows 3.1, Windows 95,           lets you sell software directly through your Web site. The new-
   and Windows NT. These installers do not require ActiveX con-          est release offers a simplified ZipLock ESD (electronic security
   trols or plug-ins. Other features include DLL support, self-regis-    device) system for improved security.
   tering DLLs, a “Setup-Capture” function that guides you                  DameWare Web Transport by DameWare Development
   through creating installs, and more.                                  ( has a wizard-driven interface that
      InstallConstruct by Pacific Gold Coast Corp. (http://www.           lets you package an application by quickly creating and digitally is a developer tool for creating installers, setup wiz-     signing a 32-bit, secure, self-extracting file. You can also create a
   ards, and uninstallers for Windows 3.1, 95, 98, or NT. Four types     mini-setup procedure that can register components, display a
   of packages can be created: self-extracting executables, cabinet      text file, and create shortcut groups and icons. The setup proce-
   files with an extractor, and cabinet files for HTML-based Internet      dure includes uninstall functionality, and the newest release pro-
   installations. You can customize the installation in various ways     vides error messages.
   and even have your setup program launch automatically.                   DirectUpdate Client by Idyle Software (
      Installer Vise is a powerful setup creation utility by Mindvi- provides a simple way for users to download
   sion ( A unique feature of this soft-      and install the latest versions of your products. DirectUpdate
   ware is the ability to reverse-engineer another installer by taking   lets you incorporate automatic software version checking and
   a snapshot of a computer and running an installation program.         update installation of any product. DirectUpdate can check
   Installer Vise will detect all file and registry changes that were     for a new version, download it, extract it, and install it. It can
   made, then automatically create a new installer. Other new fea-       be integrated through a DLL or with your own code. It uses a
   tures include the ability to manage builds for different types of     client that is installed on the user’s machine.
   installs, improved support for handling DirectX installs, support        NET-Install by 20/20 Software ( is a
   for FTP and HTTP installs, and built-in product serialization.        software distribution and installation plug-in that combines
      ActiveUpdate by Synopsis Software (http://www.synopsis-            downloading, decompression, and installation into a single automates much of the update design process,            function. By clicking a link, you can download, decompress, and
   allowing you to instantly distribute new software over the Inter-     install software in one simple step. A publisher’s toolkit for creat-
   net. The program generates a module that is distributed with an       ing Net-Install installations is available.
   application. This module checks the Internet for the latest version      More information about these and other Web-based in-
   of the software and then lets users download and install an up-       stallers is available at
   date if one is available. Useful features include an online update    ming/Installers_and_E_Commerce_Tools/index.html.
   component and password protection.

Installer Vise for the Mac and Stuff-it         downloaded through a Web browser.                  Nevertheless, IFTW is a useful tool,
Installer by Aladdin Systems are two            After downloading, however, the user             because it facilitates the Web-based
popular installers for the Macintosh.           must run the installer locally.                  distribution of software.
Installer Vise lets distributors save the         Another disadvantage of IFTW is
single-file installer as a binhex (.hqx) or      that it uses ActiveX technology that is          Reference
binary (.bin) file that can be placed on         optimized for Internet Explorer 3.0 or            1. N.S. Rebello et al., Comput. Phys., Vol. 12,
the Web server and recognized and               higher. Netscape requires a plug-in.                 1998, pp. 28-33.

Table 1. Creating and running a Web-enabled installation.
   Step   Task                                                              Who              Where
   1      Create the non-Web-enabled installation                           Developer        Developer’s local machine
   2      Web-enable the installation using IFTW                            Developer        Developer’s local machine
   3      Transfer the installation to the server using FTP                 Developer        FTP from local machine to Web server
   4      Access the installation’s Web page using a Web browser            User             User’s local machine, connected to server
                                                                                               over the Internet
   5      Run the Web installation                                          User             Local machine (buffer)
   6      Download the installer (optional)                                 User             Local machine’s hard drive

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 1999                                                                                                                              81

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