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Issue 4.5


Zip 2 Secure EXE Creator

Issue: 4.5 (May/June 2006)
Author: Brian Rathbone
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 4,345
Starting Page Number: 10
Article Number: 4507
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Creating an installer for your Windows application is generally considered a standard practice, but there are some cases that call for a different approach. You may, for example, have developed an application that will only be used once on any particular workstation. You wouldn't want the end-user to have to install the application, run it, and then immediately uninstall it.

I recently struggled with this exact scenario while trying to decide how to distribute a technical support application. One of the major benefits of REALbasic is the ability to have everything required to run your application in a single file. The only drawback is that the resources within the executable are not compressed. When there is an expectation that the average end-user could be on a dial-up connection, size can be a critical factor.

During my quest for a solution, I stumbled upon Chilkat Software, makers of ActiveX and .NET components for software developers. There I found ZIP 2 Secure EXE Creator, a free application that creates self-extracting executables from standard zip files. Using only a fraction of the functionality it provides, I was able to create a self-extracting executable that extracts to a temporary directory and executes my REALbasic created application. The end result is a download that's 58% smaller than my original file.

ZIP 2 Secure EXE Creator allows you to specify whether the files will be extracted to a temporary folder, a folder whose name you provide during creation, or if the user will be asked to select a destination folder. Optional AES encryption (128, 192, or 256 bit) is also provided along with password protection, which could be useful for secure delivery purposes. During the creation process, you can to set the application title, and you can provide a custom icon for the produced executable. Command line parameters are also accepted, allowing for automation.

When compared to other applications that create self-extracting executables, specifically when specifying an application to be executed after extraction, there is one difference worthy of remark. ZIP 2 Secure EXE Creator extracts the files, executes the application you specified, and then quits. This is opposed to continuing to run while the specified executable is active for the purpose of cleaning up the temporary files when the launched application terminates. Having the self-extracting application wait until the launched application has finished is good for situations when you don't want any files left behind, but it has the disadvantage of consuming resources and--in some cases--displaying a window while your application is running.

ZIP 2 Secure EXE Creator does not create zip files, which means you will need to create them with another application before you can generate self-extracting executables. Because of the encryption capabilities provided by ZIP 2 Secure EXE Creator, US Export restrictions apply.

ZIP 2 Secure EXE Creator is easy to use, and the single-window interface is self-explanatory. If you've been looking for a cost-effective utility to create self-extracting executables, ZIP 2 Secure EXE Creator is definitely worth a look.

End of article.