Introduction to Application Packaging
February, 18, 2016
Today we start our application packaging blog with a post about types of packages. This article will be useful for anyone interested in the application packaging topic. Whether you are new to application packaging and you want to learn more about the field, or you’re already an experienced packager and you’re looking to summarize or refresh your knowledge, with this blog we intend to start building a solid software packaging knowledge base – and you are most welcome here!
If you are in software packaging business, first things you need to know – who your clients are and who needs application packaging services. Luckily, to define and identify the software packaging target market is no big trick. Two key markets can be singled out – the business (of any scope) and the private sector. These two market segments are distinct from one another as they have different purposes.
The most important thing for a regular software user, if we talk about the Private sector, is the ease of use. The software should have a flexible and clear UI, so that a user can configure software before installing it. Consequently, at least several other important aspects arise, such as installation path, presence of icons, and possibility to select the features to be installed.
Commercial use aka the business sector implies different purposes, and therefore, other things are of major importance here:
- The main approach to software installation in business sector consists in using deployment systems or group policies for automated software installation within company network. This ensures resources and costs savings, while attaining flexibility in system maintenance and support.
- Considering the automated way to install software, the installation process should run without interaction from the end-user. During installation, a user should be left in a state of blissful ignorance achieved by hiding UI elements. When a user is deprived from the right to mess with UI, he/she can’t accidentally or intentionally interrupt the installation process. Again, this saves many resources.
- Installation process must result in a properly configured software. That means, not only the installation parameters have to be set and pre-configured. All necessary setting rules should be specified and checked before a package is made, including those settings, that are modified at or after the initial launch of an application.
Now that you understand your clients’ needs, let’s see, what packaging methods you might want to consider, if you want to serve your clients in application packaging services and consulting business.
Primary application packaging methods
In the Microsoft Windows software industry, there are many ways to wrap a program, so that later it is deployed in customer’s environment. The way a program is wrapped, determines the packaging method. The most common way to categorize packaging methods is to define the extent to which the program is integrated into customer’s OS.
Based on the rules mentioned above, two most common packaging methods stand out: virtual and non-virtual.
Virtual packages create a virtual environment imitating a real system – its registry, file and security systems. It is done in order to minimize the possible influence of the installation on the OS and correspondingly the risks of damaging it. The main target audience for this type of packages is the business sector, as business customers strive to keep their infrastructure as stable as possible.
Non-virtual packages are the most widespread type, used almost universally – both in business practice and in private sector. The vast majority of software development companies use non-virtual method to package their software. The resulting packages are installed directly into customer’s OS and work flawlessly with the real file system and registry.
This sums up the basics of classification of application packaging methods. In the upcoming blog entries we’ll focus on virtual and non-virtual packages in detail and will tell you how exactly PACE Suite supports various types of packages.
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