AdminStudio Helps IT Roll With Changes - Page 2

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InstallShield Software Corp.s AdminStudio 3.0 takes some of the sting out of packaging software applications for deployment to the ever-changing corporate desktop. The product fits in best at midsize to large organizations that need a sophisticated tool to customize software application installations before the products are deployed to the desktop.

AdminStudio 3.0s work process manager, handy wizards that automate much of the complex process of installation and streamlined user interface make it easier to use than Version 2.0. In eWeek Labs tests, AdminStudio 3.0 enabled us to handle all the chores associated with installing WinZip Computing Inc.s WinZip 8.0—a product that touches nearly every aspect of software installation—without resorting to writing scripts.

Desktop managers should consider AdminStudio 3.0, which started shipping last month at $2,899, for software packaging chores, including repacking traditional setups into Windows Installer format and checking for conflicts with already-installed applications. However, when it comes to simple, clean operation at a competitive price, Lanovation Inc.s Prism Pack (formerly PictureTaker) is the ticket at $2,200 for 100 managed PCs. Prospective customers should note that neither product handles non-Windows applications.

AdminStudio 3.0 is only for desktop administrators working in a Windows Installer environment. A Microsoft-developed standard, Windows Installer attempts to reduce .dll file contention while also easing the repair of applications that have been clobbered in the field by allowing the Installer to replace corrupted files. Like its competitors, AdminStudio 3.0 is a pre-deployment packaging tool only. IT managers will need to use another tool, such as IBMs Tivoli Software Distribution tool, to actually distribute the packages to end users.

In tests, we found that the improvements made to AdminStudio 3.0, especially to the workflow process, were big steps forward over the previous version of the app. It was relatively easy to keep track of where we were in the process of customizing our applications for distribution. In addition, although the product shielded us from the scripting process that has traditionally accompanied the creation of tailored installs, desktop managers shouldnt think that the process is now simple enough to be delegated to a junior staff member.

We had no trouble using the wizards and doing things such as putting "eWeek" in the "company name" field. However, anything more complicated—even fairly routine tasks, such as concatenating installs or modifying where files should be installed on the target system—almost always involved a trip to the manuals and tinkering with the bowels of both the application we were installing and AdminStudio 3.0.

AdminStudio 3.0 includes a much-needed conflict checker, something Prism Pack already had. We imported the Windows Installer .msi file that we created for our test package into the small sample database of Installer files that shipped with AdminStudio 3.0. It was then a matter of waiting a few minutes while the conflict checker ran through the .msi files looking for overlaps with either the files themselves or file associations. Desktop managers will find this feature very handy because manual checking would be nearly impossible.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant is at cameron_sturdevant@ziffdavis.com.