Are there commercial cross-platform desktop software that are deployed via zip file with no installer (just let user extract and run)?


1

Due to technical limitations of a 3rd party library I am using, I am forced to deploy my application in a zip file, containing a .bat script that will launch the application.

How important is the installer for the user? Would someone not buy a product because they have to extract the zip file to a directory and run it directly from there?

I plan on purchasing installer generation tool AFTER I make the first couple of sales. They are quite expensive ranging from $2000~$4000.

So my question is could I get away with letting customers download software product bundled in a zip file? They need to extract it and run the .bat script inside to run the application. No exe files available.

The application still notifies the user if there's a new update available for download but the user has to download it themselves and this update doesn't happen automatically.

Update:

Application requires Java and is cross-platform (doesn't run just on windows but mac and linux), the OS specific native libraries are 32-bit. This means I have to bundle the 32-bit JRE with my application. Because there is no open-source free installer that does this very well (launch4j has this option but it does not support forcing the application to run with the bundled 32-bit JRE). JWS does not do this as well. My only option is to use zip or a commercial installer it seems. I left out this technical detail so I wouldn't get into the technical talk (I have SO for that) and to see if I could get away with just using batch file to launch app as my only other option seems to be purchasing the installer.

Software Desktop

asked Dec 4 '11 at 20:51
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Kim Jong Woo
644 points
Top agency to build award-winning mobile apps: Utility NYC
  • There are plenty of good free installers: wix, inno, etc – Tim J 8 years ago
  • NSIS installer. Been using it for like 8 years now. http://nsis.sourceforge.net/FeaturesMike Nereson 8 years ago
  • yes, - I forgot that one too. NSIS is very good. – Tim J 8 years ago
  • Neither Inno nor NSIS seem to support Windows Installer, which is problematic when it comes to certification. – User9982 8 years ago
  • Note, I need a cross platform installer. so far launch4j, jsmooth but they are limiting on their own. Only commercial ones seem to fit the requirements but I really can't use JWS either. – Kim Jong Woo 8 years ago
  • Hi Don, I don't think suddenly being cross-platform changes the question any great deal. I put that there because people think I am trying to deploy Windows only app. However, this was probably because of the technical details I left out (which was to avoid having technical discussion rather than a usability for startup situation). Having said that, I don't see why there needs to be discrimination for cross-platform desktop vs windows only application, with the former not being suitable for startup. I'm sure there's other startups deploying cross-platform solutions. – Kim Jong Woo 8 years ago

3 Answers


3

To directly answer your questions:

Would someone not buy a product because they have to extract the zip file to a directory and run it directly from there?

If you are not offering a trial, most people would have bought the product before they install it. So, I don't think it's a factor of if they would purchase it or not.

How important is the installer for the user?

I think it is pretty important for installation to be easy when installing a product. And if you packaged it as a zip and I un-zipped it and there was a READ-ME-BEFORE-INSTALLING.txt I would read that. However, that's not a great experience.

But, if your product is great I imagine your users would deal with it until you get a solid installer. More important to start getting it out in peoples hands as soon as possible.

answered Dec 5 '11 at 12:18
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Ryan Doom
5,472 points
  • +1 great answer. I do offer untimed trials with some features disabled. My biggest concern was people not being able to run the application at all due to the JRE issue....hence why I ended up with either zip file or commercial installer solution. I agree it's not too clean of an experience but I don't think it's too big of a deal if the application runs fine and it does everything people want, with the added safety that it will run on all platforms. – Kim Jong Woo 8 years ago
  • Yeah, and also something to consider is your audience. If it's an app for grandparents it might be harder for them to get it setup. Whereas an app for techies or business folk can probably un-zip a download pretty easily :D – Ryan Doom 8 years ago

1

I don't get why you can't just create a self-extracting archive? That way they still get the "installation" so-to-speak without having to do any extracting themselves. I use WinRAR for these kinds of things. It has a built in SFX feature and it lets you customize what users see on the self-extractor. WinRAR is $29 to purchase but if you would like a free one, 7-zip also has this feature although, it doesn't let you customize the extractor.

If you are trying to achieve something specific, you can comment it below my post and I'll try to see if there's more I can help you with.

answered Dec 4 '11 at 23:47
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Propeller
134 points
  • Learn. Windows Application Certification Requirements, best practices. All the rest. Or go on - making software that is not really software for the OS it runs on. – Net Tecture 8 years ago
  • Hi Shedo, this is a great answer. However, is there a self-extracting cross-platform archive? does 7-zip build self extractor on mac and linux as well? I updated the quesiton for you to see. – Kim Jong Woo 8 years ago
  • Well as far as I know, only Windows has batch file support so you might want to look up AppleScript for Mac and shell scripting for for Linux. Another thing that I guess I can tell is that Mac users are used to extracting files from archives. On the Mac, we don't typically have installers for applications. We simply extract it from the archive or mount the DMG (DMG is like an ISO in Windows) and copy the application from there to the apps folder. – Propeller 8 years ago
  • And also, have you tried to look at izPack (http://izpack.org/) and / or PackJacket (http://packjacket.sourceforge.net/features/) ? – Propeller 8 years ago
  • Hi Shedo, I have looked at izpack but it doesn't allow packaging JRE along with the installation. It also requires the user to have the JRE installed already. As not all computers out there may have this enabled, it worries me to see the installation not running. Is PackJacket similar to izpack? I don't see much difference there. – Kim Jong Woo 8 years ago

0

Due to technical limitations of a 3rd party library I am using, I am forced to deploy my
application in a zip file, containing a .bat script that will launch the application.

As someone doing installation for 15 years or so that sounds ridiculous and wrong. Point. Because nothign says an installer can not doo pretty much just deinstallation. I would love you to rpoove me wrong here, but I dare saying it shows you are clueless how installer technology (under windows) is working and supposed to work - otherwise you would not say you are FORCED to to something in a zip file.

Would someone not buy a product because they have to extract the zip file to a directory and
run it directly from there?

Pretty much every enterprise. And you never get windows application certification - which is a significant step either. At the end they willlaugh at you and do what you obviously dont want to do - package it up in an installer.

I plan on purchasing installer generation tool AFTER I make the first couple of sales. They
are quite expensive ranging from $2000~$4000.

Yes, especially if ysomeone buys them who has no clue. See, some years ago MS was publishing their own installer open sourcee frameowkr for free - the same running the installations of like Visual Sdutio. WIX. It is now a free download. Makes 0 USD. It requires a little more knowledge than most do (no fancy UI but a XML file) but it is fully controllable. Oh, and you better know what you are doing.

So my question is could I get away with letting customers download software product bundled in
a zip file? They need to extract it and run the .bat script inside to run the application. No
exe files available

Yeah. I mean, what is wrong ith screaming "unprofessional" all over your product? It takes 5 minutes to make an exe file that just does what your batch file does, and it allows you to set an icon for the file. You can get away with it. You can also get away with murder. CAN. Not advisable.

The application still notifies the user if there's a new update available for download but the
user has to download it themselves and this update doesn't happen automatically.

I hope you only target private users for this. Self updating should be something admins disable with install.

In companies softare is centrally deployed and updated and users have no right to just start programs without installation.

PLEASE get basline professional.

answered Dec 4 '11 at 21:16
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Net Tecture
11 points
  • NetTecture is arrogant as usual but no reason to downvote this answer as he is right about Windows Installer technology - you do not have to pay anything to make an .msi file. Now, you can also come across other free installer solutions - just make sure they are using MSI under the hood, the windows certification being the reason. – User9982 8 years ago
  • The attitude comes from yearss working. That said, until WIX came out it was also a crap vendor area - you could use what MS did provide (in visual studio, VERY crappy) or what vendors sold you VERY expensive and mostly QUITE buggy. WIX, though, makes it a nice job. Something that is very nice and cheap and just works. I really hate the attitude of people telling they HAVE to send a zip with a batch file. Well, hire a pro. – Net Tecture 8 years ago
  • Yeah. You know the one in Visual sutido is worse than a zip file, not following ICE requirements for windows installersss and abusing a lot of basic features? WIX. Point. Google is your friend (wix visual studio). And no, I wont consult here (wrong site). The OP being "ignorant" in the true sense (not knowing, not learning his trade) is a well known problem many have. At the end, if it is their job selling software they better learn. As I originally said - McDonalds always wants to hire those not capable of doing another job. – Net Tecture 8 years ago
  • Note if the application was Windows only, I would of course agree with your points. however, I should've been more specific with the technical requirements (my intention was to stay away from technical discussion and more to do with the perceived usability from the user). Having said that, I am sure we have so much to learn from your ever so great experience. I forever submit to your awesomeness. – Kim Jong Woo 8 years ago
  • As someone who deals with admins regularly: I give a crap (and they dont either) whether your app is windows only or not - it is important that the WINDOWS part behaves well. If it is not windows only, do the same for linux (rpm packets) but dont use that as excude to make a crappy job. When sone manages windows desktop, he does not care whether you also have a linux distribution. He cares totally that you do a good job for the software HE buys. – Net Tecture 8 years ago
  • In your infinite wisdom, I am certain that you have some time to clarify a few things here. You say you give a crap and then go o to saying other people don't. Which am I to follow the advice of? The people or your uttering of profound knowledge? Which is right? Please help me see the light here Sire. Excude? I don't wish to ban anyone from using my software. Is it because it's not wind0ze only? Oh no! – Kim Jong Woo 8 years ago

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