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WiX v3.7 - MSBuild, Self Update and Reference Counting

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The recently released Windows Installer XML (WiX) toolset v3.7 includes full support for MSBuild and also enables developers to include self-update capability with the help of a Bootstrapper application. It also incorporates reference-counting with which MSI and MSP packages are automatically reference counted by the burn engine.

WiX enables developers to create installation packages for Windows from XML source code. The toolset compiles the source code and is linked to create executables such as:

WiX, part of outercurve foundation also includes a command line build tool which works with any automated build system. Moreover, MSBuild is not only supported from the command line prompt but also integrates with Visual Studio 2012 and Team Build.

In addition to the creation of Windows installation packages, WiX toolset also includes several extensions which extend the functionality of the toolset such as ability to install IIS web sites, creation of SQL Server databases and register exceptions in the Windows Firewall. With the help of managed and native libraries included with WiX SDK, you will be able to write code that works with Windows installer in both C# and C++.

Wix includes Votive, a Visual Studio add-in that enables you to create and build WiX setup projects using Visual Studio Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and provides support for syntax highlighting and IntelliSense for .wxs source files. It also adds a WiX setup project type to Visual Studio which you can access from File menu.

WiX internal structure comprises of following components

  • Candle - Compiler
  • Light - Linker
  • Lit - Library tool
  • Dark - Decompiler
  • Tallow/Heat - Tool for generating WiX filelist code with the help of directory trees.
  • Pyro - Tool to create Patch files (msp)
  • Burn - Bootstrapper

Several developers have reported bugs after working extensively with the WiX toolset.

Steve reports:

Unable to open an existing Visual Studio 2008 WiX project after the installation of WiX 3.7.

Brian commented:

Problem installing Wix37.exe to Windows 7 64-bit platform. The message from the UI only display "Error, Retry". I am not sure what is the problem. My system have Wix 3.6, VS2010, VS2012 installed.

Greg Duncan:

Not a huge, monster update, but IMHO even better because of that. I'd rather an agile like cadence than otherwise. I've got a strong feeling that I'm going to be revisiting WiX here in the near future


  1. WiX Manual
  2. WiX Tutorial
  3. Book - WiX 3.6: A Developer's Guide to Windows Installer XML
  4. How to: Install the Windows Installer XML (WiX) Tools
  5. Creating a WIX Installer for ASP.NET Web Applications
  6. Automate Releases With MSBuild And Windows Installer XML
  7. Beginner's Guide to Windows Installer XML

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