πŸ“€ Create traditional MSI installers for your Electron app
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README.md

electron-wix-msi

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Traditional MSI Installers

Most Electron developers use the official windows-installer to create Windows installers. It does not require Administrator privileges and comes bundled with an automatic updater. If your app targets consumers, it will likely be the better choice.

However, if you need to create a traditional MSI the way Microsoft intended for software to be installed, this module is your friend. It creates a standalone MSI that installs your application to Program Files or any user-defined directory, much like the installers for Office, Node.js, or other popular apps. It allows up- and downgrades. For more details, see: Should I use this?

Look & Feel

Installer GIF

Prerequisites

Before using this module, make sure to install the Wix toolkit v3. Only the command line tools are required. If you are using AppVeyor or another Windows CI system, it is likely already installed.

npm i --save-dev electron-wix-msi

Usage

Creating an installer is a three-step process:

import { MSICreator } from 'electron-wix-msi';

// Step 1: Instantiate the MSICreator
const msiCreator = new MSICreator({
  appDirectory: '/path/to/built/app',
  description: 'My amazing Kitten simulator',
  exe: 'kittens',
  name: 'Kittens',
  manufacturer: 'Kitten Technologies',
  version: '1.1.2',
  outputDirectory: '/path/to/output/folder'
});

// Step 2: Create a .wxs template file
await msiCreator.create();

// Step 3: Compile the template to a .msi file
await msiCreator.compile();

Configuration

  • appDirectory (string) - The source directory for the installer, usually the output of electron-packager.

  • outputDirectory (string) - The output directory. Will contain the finished msi as well as the intermediate files .wxs and .wixobj.

  • exe (string) - The name of the exe.

  • description (string) - The app's description.

  • version (string) - The app's version.

  • name (string) - The app's name.

  • manufacturer (string) - Name of the manufacturer.

  • appUserModelId (string, optional) - String to set as appUserModelId on the shortcut. If none is passed, it'll be set to com.squirrel.(Name).(exe), which should match the id given to your app by Squirrel.

  • shortName (optional, string) - A short name for the app, used wherever spaces and special characters are not allowed. Will use the name if left undefined.

  • shortcutFolderName (string, optional) - Name of the shortcut folder in the Windows Start Menu. Will use the manufacturer field if left undefined.

  • shortcutName (string, optional) - Name of the shortcut in the Windows Start Menu. Will use the app's name field if left undefined.

  • programFilesFolderName (string, optional) - Name of the folder your app will live in. Will use the app's name if left undefined.

  • upgradeCode (string, optional) - A unique UUID used by your app to identify itself. This module will generate one for you, but it is important to reuse it to enable conflict-free upgrades.

  • language (number, optional) - The Microsoft Windows Language Code identifier used by the installer. Will use 1033 (English, United-States) if left undefined.

  • certificateFile (string, optional) - The path to an Authenticode Code Signing Certificate.

  • certificatePassword (string, optional) - The password to decrypt the certificate given in certificateFile.

  • signWithParams (string, optional) - Paramaters to pass to signtool.exe. Overrides certificateFile and certificatePassword.

  • extensions (array, optional) - Specify WiX extensions to use e.g ['WixUtilExtension', 'C:\My WiX Extensions\FooExtension.dll']

  • ui (UIOptions, optional) - Enables configuration of the UI. See below for more information.

  • arch (string, optional) - Defines the architecure the MSI is build for. Values can be either x86 or x64. Default's to x86 if left undefined.

UI Configuration (Optional)

The ui property in the options passed to the installer instance allows more detailed configuration of the UI. It has the following optional properties:

  • enabled (boolean, optional) - Whether to show a typical user interface. Defaults to true. If set to false, Windows will show a minimal "Windows is configuring NAME_OF_APP" interface.
  • template (string, optional) - Substitute your own XML that will be inserted into the final .wxs file before compiling the installer to customize the UI options.
  • chooseDirectory (boolean, optional) - If set to true, the end user will be able to choose the installation directory. Set to false by default. Without effect if a custom template is used.
  • images (Optional) - Overwrites default installer images with custom files. I recommend JPG.
    • background - (optional, string) 493 x 312 Background bitmap used on the welcome and completion dialogs. Will be used as WixUIDialogBmp.
    • banner - (optional, string) 493 Γ— 58 Top banner used on most dialogs that don't use background. Will be used as WixUIBannerBmp.
    • exclamationIcon - (optional, string) 32 x 32 Exclamation icon on the WaitForCostingDlg dialog. Will be used as WixUIExclamationIco.
    • infoIcon - (optional, string) 32 x 32 Information icon on the cancel and error dialogs. Will be used as WixUIInfoIco.
    • newIcon - (optional, string) 16 x 16 "New folder" icon for the "browse" dialog. Will be used as WixUINewIco.
    • upIcon - (optional, string) 16 x 16 "Up" icon for the "browse" dialog. Will be used as WixUIUpIco.
Template Configuration (Optional)

This module uses XML bulding blocks to generate the final .wxs file. After instantiating the class, but before calling create(), you can change the default XML. The available fields on the class are:

  • componentTemplate (string) - Used for <Component> elements. One per file.
  • componentRefTemplate (string) - Used for <ComponentRef> elements. Again, one per file.
  • directoryTemplate (string) - Used for <Directory> elements. This module does not use <DirectoryRef> elements.
  • wixTemplate (string) - Used as the master template.
  • uiTemplate (string) - Used as the master UI template.
  • backgroundTemplate (string) - Used as the background template.

Should I use this?

Let's start with what's bad about this: Electron is based on Chromium, and as such, inherintly dependent upon frequent updates. Whenever a new version of Electron comes out, you should release a new version of your app. The default installer for Windows is based on Squirrel, which comes with support for automatic updates. An app that updates itself is fantastic for most consumers. If you are not sure if you need a traditional MSI, chances are that you don't.

"Young man, creating an installer and dying is easy. Updating it and living is harder."

-- Windows George Washington, 1776

If you are however developing enterprise software, you might find that IT departments don't want automatically updating software. They want controlled rollouts and detailed control over the installation. This is true for universities, hospitals, the military, and many other organizations that have a managed IT infrastructure. Their administrators will expect a "classic" installer - the same way they would install Microsoft Office, Node.js, Photoshop, or any other software. If you see your app being used in those environments, you should push the self-updating package, but have a traditional MSI in your pocket. Bear in mind however that you will need to find a way to get updates to your users without relying on Electron's auto updater.

MSI Administration

The msi packages created with this module allow for a wide range of command line parameters. The installer is a "Windows Installer", meaning that the actual installer's logic is part of Windows itself. It supports the following command-line parameters:

Install Options

</uninstall | /x> Uninstalls the product

Display Options

  • /quiet Quiet mode, no user interaction
  • /passive Unattended mode - progress bar only
  • /q[n|b|r|f] Sets user interface level
    • n No UI
    • b Basic UI
    • r Reduced UI
    • f Full UI (default) /help Help information

Restart Options

  • /norestart Do not restart after the installation is complete
  • /promptrestart Prompts the user for restart if necessary
  • /forcerestart Always restart the computer after installation

Logging Options

  • /l[i|w|e|a|r|u|c|m|o|p|v|x|+|!|*] <LogFile>
    • i Status messages
    • w Nonfatal warnings
    • e All error messages
    • a Start up of actions
    • r Action-specific records
    • u User requests
    • c Initial UI parameters
    • m Out-of-memory or fatal exit information
    • o Out-of-disk-space messages
    • p Terminal properties
    • v Verbose output
    • x Extra debugging information
    • + Append to existing log file
    • ! Flush each line to the log
    • * Log all information, except for v and x options
  • /log <LogFile> Equivalent of /l*

Update Options

  • /update <Update1.msp>[;Update2.msp] Applies update(s)

Repair Options

  • /f[p|e|c|m|s|o|d|a|u|v] Repairs a product
    • p only if file is missing
    • o if file is missing or an older version is installed (default)
    • e if file is missing or an equal or older version is installed
    • d if file is missing or a different version is installed
    • c if file is missing or checksum does not match the calculated value
    • a forces all files to be reinstalled
    • u all required user-specific registry entries (default)
    • m all required computer-specific registry entries (default)
    • s all existing shortcuts (default)
    • v runs from source and recaches local package

License

MIT, please see LICENSE.md for details.