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Basic Windows Installer

Writing an installer for Windows isn’t that easy and, at this time, definitely out of the scope of the bell0bytes tutorials. There exists, however, a proven software, Inno Setup, to create installers without having to do a lot of scripting.

Inno Setup is a free (open-source licence) installer for Windows programs, developed by Jordan Russell and Martijn Laan. First introduced in 1997, Inno Setup today rivals and even surpasses many commercial installers in feature set and stability. The best thing is that to create a basic installer, no scripting is necessary at all, as Inno Setup comes with a graphical wizard that can handle basic installers surprisingly well.

You are not prepared!

Before creating the installer, the game executable, eventual dlls and all game data must be collected. I have my Visual Studio projects set up in such a way that the game executable is in a subfolder called x64 and all game data is in subfolders on the same level, usually called Data with different subfolders for art and music, such as Data\Artwork and Data\Audio.

Once all the data is in place, we can start the graphical wizard of Inno Setup.

The Graphical Wizard

When Inno Setup starts, the graphical wizard pops up automatically.

Chose Simple Script and click on ok. On the next screen, you can simply click Next. On the next screen we can to enter basic data about our game.

Fill out the information and click Next. On the following screen you can choose the default installation directory, the default settings are usually fine.

Click Next. Now on the following screen we chose our game files. The application main executable file is usually the .exe-file created by Visual Studio, in this case that would be svh.exe. Make sure to also add all the dlls you need, by using the Add file(s) button.

Now to add the game data, click the Add folder button to add the data folder and all its subdirectories.

Note that if you want some files or data to be installed in different subfolders, you can click on them and then click the Edit button. In the box that appears you can select specific subfolders.

Don’t worry if you forget to select the subdirectories, they can easily be changed later on when reviewing the script created by the graphical wizard.

For now, once satisfied, click Next. On the next screen you can fine-tune a few settings, such as allowing the user to create a start menu entry or a shortcut on the desktop.

Once you have selected all the options you want, click Next.

On the next screen you can select a Licence file to be shown to the user, and two files to be shown before, respectively after the installation. You can use this to show a readme file, for example.

Once again, click Next. On the next screen, you can select all the languages the installer should be available in. Pick whatever languages you like or deem necessary.

Click Next. During the next step, you can customize the output, i.e. where Inno Setup will store the installer or setup file it creates for us. You can also specify the name of the installer, in this example that would be SvH_Installer. One can also add a custom icon for the installer, I chose the little barking dog as seen on the bell0bytes website.

Click Next and on the following screen click Next again. Then click Finish. When asked if you want to compile the script now, click No.

You will now see the script the Inno Setup wizard created for us.

You can add some finishing touches to the script, for example, we want the main executable file and its dll to be installed in a subfolder called x64. To do so, we simply add \x64 to the destination directory of both files under [Files], as follows:

Source: "O:\Downloads\Test\SvH\x64\Stécker vum Himmel.exe"; DestDir: "{app}\x64"; Flags: ignoreversion
Source: "O:\Downloads\Test\SvH\x64\lua53.dll"; DestDir: "{app}\x64"; Flags: ignoreversion
Source: "O:\Downloads\Test\SvH\Data\*"; DestDir: "{app}\Data"; Flags: ignoreversion recursesubdirs createallsubdirs

Since we moved the executable file to a new subdirectory, we also have to update the run command and the create desktop shortcut command to reflect those changes:

Name: "{commondesktop}\{#MyAppName}"; Filename: "{app}\x64\{#MyAppExeName}"; Tasks: desktopicon
Filename: "{app}\x64\{#MyAppExeName}"; Description: "{cm:LaunchProgram,{#StringChange(MyAppName, '&', '&&')}}"; Flags: nowait postinstall skipifsilent

Last but not least, you can also change the directory structure for the Start Menu entry, for example:

DefaultDirName={pf}\bell0bytes/Stécker vum Himmel
DefaultGroupName=bell0bytes/Stécker vum Himmel

And that’s it already. Now simply navigate to Project->Compile and Inno Setup will create the installer file.

Have fun!