Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Distributing applications as zip files

I really like just being able to download a program as a zip file, unzip it, and run it. Sure, an installer has some advantages such as adding shortcuts to your menu etc, but I don't rate these as highly as the convenience and simplicity of a 'zip install'.

This is especially true for Java programs which can remain platform independent. I even use the same installation on my dual boot laptop - regardless of whether I'm in Windows or Linux, I can just have the one binary unzipped to a common location.

There is another reason why simplicity wins too - at work the corporate environment is necessarily complex. I just tried installing a program (WinMerge) through an installer and it claimed that 'You must be logged in as an administrator when installing this program'. I am supposed to have administrator rights on this machine. I've run other installers (FireFox) okay. So this installer tried to do something different and apparently it couldn't. Luckily there is a plain old binary zip download for it.