Inno Setup - Basic Windows Installer

This tutorial covers how to use "Inno Setup" to create professional looking installers for Windows programs.

Inno Setup - Basic Windows Installer

Writing an installer for Windows isn't that easy and, for the time being, 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". The following screenshots show an example setup:

The base folder.
The x64 folder contains the executable and all necessary dlls.
The "Data" folder contains all data related subfolders.
The "Artwork" folder contains all subfolders related to game art.
The "Audio" folder contains all subfolders related to game 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.

A graphical wizard appears!

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:

Basic information about the game the installer is created for.

Fill out the information and click "Next". On the following screen you can chose 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 Stécker vum Himmel.exe. Make sure to also add all the dlls you need, by using the "Add file(s)" button.

Now to add the game data, we you can chose the "Add folder" button to add the data folder and all its subdirectories:

Adding the data folder and all its subdirectories.
All aboard?

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:

Install the game data into the "Data" subfolder, please.

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 finetune a few settings, such as allowing the user to create a start menu entry or a shortcut on the desktop:

Shortcuts, anyone?

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. Use ".txt" or ".rtf" files.


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.

Languages, languages and even more languages.

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:

Finetuning the output.

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:

Inno Setup Script

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!


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