It was almost two years ago when Visual Studio approached me about shipping the WiX toolset in Visual Studio. We built a plan that combined the efforts of program management, developers, testers, documentation and localization people from Visual Studio with the volunteer group to release the WiX toolset version 3.0 as part of Visual Studio 2010. We executed on that plan to deliver the WiX toolset as part of the Visual Studio 2010 CTP and were on track to deliver for Beta 1.
In that time we went from over a hundred bugs open to under thirty. Everything in the WiX toolset just works better and so much of that is due to the quiet efforts of those in Visual Studio. However, over that time, the entire management chain from lead up to (but not including) Soma changed. With that amount of change in management comes a potential change in approach.
With that cliffhanger in place, let me switch to Q&A mode. Note, these are my answers based on my conversations with the Visual Studio team.
Q: What is Visual Studio's new approach to the WiX toolset?
A: The WiX toolset is a great compliment to Visual Studio. WiX provides complete access to the Windows Installer technology and integrates well into the build process. Visual Studio will continue to contribute to the project but will not ship the WiX toolset.
Q: That means the WiX toolset *not* be part of the Visual Studio install?
A: Correct. This is the biggest change in the relationship between WiX and VS. Previously, there were plans to ship a subset of the WiX toolset as part of some Visual Studio products. Now the focus is solely on contributing all changes to the WiX Open Source project.
Q: Why did Visual Studio change its approach to the WiX toolset?
A: There is a lot of overhead shipping the WiX toolset "in the box" of Visual Studio. From a business perspective, it isn't clear how shipping "in the box" adds significant value vs. purely contributing to the Open Source project.
Q: So is all of the work Visual Studio still going to be part of the WiX toolset?
A: Absolutely. The business decision to not ship the WiX toolset in Visual Studio does not diminish the value of the effort thus far. Instead, the Visual Studio team is narrowing their focus on distributing the code via a single means, the WiX toolset Open Source project.
Q: Is Visual Studio going to continue to contribute code to the WiX toolset?
A: For the near term, yes. There is a large body of code to support the new Visual Studio 2010 and MSBuild functionality to contribute in the next few weeks. I'm very excited about that (plus all the work already part of WiX v3). After that, we'll see how the Visual Studio team decides to proceed. I hope they continue to participate but their future is in their hands.
Q: What does this mean for the WiX toolset?
A: Not much directly. We wanted to deliver a production quality release of WiX v3 before the end of the year . The Visual Studio team has helped us do that and I really hope they will continue to do so. Personally, I would love it if Visual Studio was one more way to distribute the WiX toolset but that doesn't seem to align with their goals at this time.
Q: Does Visual Studio still provide food for the volunteers that work on the WiX toolset?
A: Yes and I very much appreciate that. I probably don't thank them enough. Visual Studio has done some very nice things to support the volunteers on the WiX toolset and we appreciate it. Delivering high quality tools that build high quality installation packages is in everyone's best interest.
We're proud to be fighting the good fight.