As I write this, I’ve just installed Windows 7 on my development/presentation laptop, and it’s currently installing a bunch of apps using the Web Platform Installer. If you haven’t tried this tool, you should definitely check it out. It’s free and easy to use and available here. Basically, instead of hunting around in 15 different places online and on your various CDs or DVDs to install your basic dev platform tools (web server, frameworks, SDKs, etc.), you just check a few boxes in the installer and it downloads and installs everything for you without the need for further interaction. It’s even smart enough to start installing some apps while it’s still downloading others, and it front-loads all of the configuration questions it’s going to have so it doesn’t have to stop in the middle to keep asking you to accept a License or specify a location to install something to. I love it! Well done!
What About My Other (Microsoft) Apps?
Of course, like any developer, I have a ton of different apps on my machine, and no small number of them come from my MSDN subscription. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a tool that was part of MSDN that would let subscribers pick a bunch of applications they want to install (Office, Visual Studio, SQL Server, Blend, etc.) and would do the same thing as WPI for these apps? It would ask up front what settings and product keys were needed, and then it would just install everything. Eventually, I’d love to be able to get *all* my apps reinstalled this way, but let’s stick to just MS stuff for now, since they’ve already proven they can do this with the web platform installer.
What about my OTHER Apps?
Another cool feature of the web platform installer is that it also lets you optionally include a bunch of community applications. So, other commonly used applications like Reflector or LINQPad could be included in the MSDN app installer as well, as community tools, if desired (in my imagined utopia world, that is). Vendors could even get on board to have their trail wares installed this way, so various Visual Studio add-ins like ReSharper or CodeRush could be installed in Express or Trial form as part of this install experience, too.
Do you think this would be a good idea? Do you have some ideas for how it could be an even better idea? Is it the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard of? Leave a comment or twitter about it so your voice is heard.