State of the WiX toolset, July 2011

It's been nine months since the last "State of the WiX toolset" blog post and six months since the WiX v3.5 release. Unlike last year we find ourselves focused on a single front, WiX v3.6. Let's take a moment and evaluate where we are and where we are going.

WiX v3.6 status

WiX v3.6 is about two things. Burn is clearly the primary focus. Mopping up serious bugs in the IIS custom actions and Votive left over from WiX v3.5 is secondary. So, how are we doing? I'll take them in reverse order.

  • Bug mop up - Eric St. John and Peter Marcu continue to smooth the rough edges found after releasing WiX v3.5. Their progress is great. For example, Eric hit zero bugs in IIS CA bugs last week leaving ~10 Votive bugs to tackle. Peter consistently remains in the single digit bugs in the core toolset.
  • Burn - what can I say, Burn works. Every week, the WiX toolset itself is delivered via Burn. There are ~40 bugs open regularly. A couple of them are pretty big, almost feature requests, and require hard work. But most are small problems or finishing touches that don't require multiple days to fix. Things are taking longer than hoped (they always do) but our progress is solid.

Conclusion: WiX v3.6 is progressing well. It's taking longer than I hoped. We took a couple big feature requests from key partners earlier this year that I hoped we could delay until the second version of Burn (for example the support for "add on" bundles). That set us back a bit but things basically work now and it's just a matter of finishing.

When will WiX v3.6 be done? I'm certain we'll be done in less than 12 months but not before 3 months.

Looking forward

I've given some thought about how to go forward when WiX v3.6 is no longer requires full attention. I like how the bug mop up has gone in WiX v3.6 and I'm excited about some big changes for WiX v4.0. So, I'm seriously considering a forked approach again.

  • WiX v3.7 - given that Burn is brand new and I'm sure we will have to punt some really painful bugs at the end of WiX v3.6, we're going to need a place to put them. WiX v3.7 will be a bug fix only release. We'll fix issues punted or found after WiX v3.6 releases. No features, just bug fixes. This release will start immediately after WiX v3.6 is done.
  • WiX v4.0 - the world will change. Ideas abound about technical debt to drive down (e.g. the WiX build process needs major overhaul), features to improve (e.g. make all Id attributes optional) and brand new stuff. This release will start when WiX v3.6 bugs are under control and people have time to roll off.

Conclusion: The future looks exciting but right now we need to keep our eye on WiX v3.6 and finish Burn.


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