Support for creating
WiX setup packages is now available in SharpDevelop 2.1. It was
originally disabled in SharpDevelop 2.0, but has now been
re-enabled and some new features have been added. It is still a
work in progress. Some parts are not quite finished and there are
some missing features, but it is currently being used to build and
maintain the installer for SharpDevelop itself. At the moment
SharpDevelop ships with WiX 2.0.4221, but it will be updated to
- WiX project and file templates.
- Build a setup package (.msi), merge module (.msm) or WiX
Library (.wixlib) from inside SharpDevelop. All built using
MSBuild and WiX's custom MSBuild tasks.
- Add WiX libraries, WiX extensions and preprocessor variables
to the WiX project.
- WiX Dialog Designer.
- Setup Dialogs window. Lists all dialogs in a project. Each
dialog can then be opened up in the designer.
- Setup Files editor. Add directories, components and files to
the installer via a GUI instead of editing the XML.
The next sections will look at the WiX support in more
Creating a WiX Project
To create a new WiX project, from the File menu, select
New and then select Solution.... In the New
Project dialog select the Setup category.
SharpDevelop has two WiX project templates available
This project template creates a Solution (.sln), a WiX
Project (.wixproj) and a minimal WiX Setup file (.wxs).
The Setup project template creates a basic WiX project which
can be built immediately after creation.
The installer created by this project installs a License.rtf
file to the installation directory.
The Setup project template also has its own dialogs which
can be customised.
The Setup project is the project we will be using in this
Building the WiX project is done in the same way as for other
projects in SharpDevelop from the build menu.
Output messages from the WiX compiler and linker are displayed
in the Output window and any errors are added to the Errors
Creating a Merge Module or WiX Library
By default the project will build an MSI file. You can choose to
create a merge module (.msm) or WiX Library (.wixlib) from the
project options. Select the project in the Project Browser,
then from the Project menu select Project Options.
From the Application tab you can change the output type
to msi, msm or wixlib.
To run the installer, select Run from the Debug
menu or press F5. The installer will then be built and run
and you will see the first dialog of your installer.
Adding a new WiX File
You can either have one big WiX setup file (.wxs) or split the
project up into several different files. The WiX MSBuild tasks will
compile all the WiX files and link them all into one installer.
To add a new WiX file, select the project in the Project
Browser window, right click, select Add and then select
New Item.... From the New File dialog selecting the
Setup category will show you the WiX file templates.
Adding WiX Libraries
To add a wixlib to your project, select WiX Libraries in
the Project Browser, right click and select Add WiX
This opens up the file dialog where you can browse to one or
more wixlibs and add them to the project.
Adding WiX Extensions
WiX extensions can be added to the project in the
Compiling, Library and Linking tabs available
from the project options. The Compiling tab determines what
extensions are passed to Candle the WiX compiler. The
Linking tab determines what extensions get passed to Light
the WiX linker. The Library tab determines what extensions
get passed to Lit the Wix Library Tool. If you are creating a setup
package (.msi) then typically you should put the extensions in the
Compiling and Linking tab. If you are creating a WiX
Library (.wixlib) then you need to put the extensions in the
The extensions can either be typed in directly into the
Extensions text box, one per line, as shown above, or you can click
the Add button to open the Add Extensions dialog and
select one or more of the standard extensions WiX provides.
Preprocessor variables can be added in the
Preprocessing tab available from the project options.
In the screenshot above the DATADIR variable is defined.
Generally the variable values will just be strings, but you can
also use MSBuild properties. In the screenshot above the
SharpDevelopBinPath MSBuild property is being used. You can use
MSBuild properties here since these properties will be expanded
before WiX compiles anything.
In the UserInterface.wxs file the DATADIR preprocessor variable
is referenced as shown below:
Visually Designing a Dialog
To open a setup dialog in the designer, open the WiX file, move
the cursor so it is inside the dialog element, then click the
You can also open a dialog in the designer from the Setup
Dialogs Window, which is described in the next section.
You can have multiple dialogs defined in one WiX file or create
one file per dialog, it is up to you. If you have multiple dialogs
then you need to move the cursor inside the dialog element before
you select the Design tab otherwise the designer will not know
which dialog to load. If you have only one dialog element in the
file then the cursor can be anywhere in the WiX document and does
not need to be inside the dialog element.
In the designer you can reposition, resize and remove existing
controls. You can also add new WiX controls from the Setup Dialog
Controls tab by dragging them to the dialog.
At the moment not all the WiX controls are supported and WiX
specific properties are not available in the properties window.
Setup Dialogs Window
To open the Setup Dialogs window, from the View
menu select Setup and then select Dialogs.
The Setup Dialogs window is then opened.
This window lists all the dialogs available in the project. You
can open a dialog into the designer by right clicking it and
selecting Open. Or view its XML by selecting View
Visually Editing Directories, Components and Files
To open the Setup Files Editor, from the View menu
select Setup and then select Files.
The Setup Files Editor will look at all the WiX files in the
project for the TARGETDIR Directory element or the
DirectoryRef element. Once this is found then it will show the
directories, components and files that will be installed.
The left hand side of the editor shows the files in a tree view.
On the right hand side of the editor you can modify the properties
of the currently selected item.
You can add directories, files and components to your installer
by right clicking a tree node, selecting Add and then
choosing an item to add.
To add a directory and all its contents recursively to your
setup, select the tree node where you want your directory added to,
then right click and select Add Directory.
This opens the Browser for Folder dialog. Select the
directory and then click OK to have that directory and all
its contents added to the setup package. Every file added will have
its own component.
The WiX integration is not completely finished. Here is a list
of items that will hopefully be added at some point.
There are a few other applications and plug-ins available that
can be used to create WiX installers instead of SharpDevelop. Here
is a list of the ones I am aware of.
is a Visual Studio plug-in that you can use to create WiX setup
packages from inside Visual Studio.
Just a few days ago, September 15th,
Votive version 3, which supports Visual Studio 2005. It does
not have a dialog designer, but that is on its list of features
that will be added in the future.
WiX Edit is a
standalone WiX Editor application, created by Jasper Keuper, that
you can use to create WiX setup packages. It includes a dialog
designer along with a whole host of other features, that
SharpDevelop does not have. In fact you can create an installer and
never look at any XML.
WixTrim is a
WiX Visual Editor, created by Oleg Zelenkov, that supports a very
advanced dialog designer amongst other features. The source code
for the editor is also available from
GotDotNet. Unfortunately, WixTrim is not under active
development like the previous two.
If you want to learn more about WiX then a fantastic WiX
tutorial, created by Gabor Deak Jahn, is available