Installers: The good, the bad and the ugly

It seems that developing software installers can sometimes be more difficult than developing the application. Take, for example, installation of the PrintUI extensions into InDesign.

First, a bit of history. (If you are in a hurry, skip down to the recommendations at the end of this blog post.)

Adobe developed a piece of software called Extension Manager which was designed to take care of installation of software which interacts with their creative applications. The theory was great. You create a manifest file which describes what files are supposed to be installed where, and create a ZIP package with all the assets. Extension Manager then puts all the pieces into the correct place. Nice and simple.

Without going into all the gory details, Extension Manager proved to be better in theory than it was in practice. For example, as new versions of the Creative Suites were introduced, Adobe made changes to Extension Manager such as requiring that the ZIP packages be signed for security. And we discovered that some of our users had other issues such as Extension Manager not working properly or not even existing on their computer.

And now Adobe has decided to eliminate Extension Manager starting with CC 2015.

We need to be able to install the PrintUI extensions into any version of InDesign starting with version 5.0, so we decided to create our own native Mac and Windows installers that don’t use Extension Manager. In other words, it works the same way that installers work for most other software applications. Unfortunately, it seems that if you had previously used Extension Manager, it can mess up your system and prevent the native installers from working. But since there’s no documentation on how Extension Manager works, it’s not clear how to fix this problem.

This leaves us with two separate methods of installing our extensions, and neither one is completely reliable.

To make a very long story short, here are our current recommendations for installing the PrintUI extensions:

  • As a reminder, you can download the installers by logging into
  • If you are installing the extension for the first time, use the native installers (with a DMG extension for Mac or ZIP extension for Windows).
  • If you had previously installed using Extension Manager (using the file with the ZXP extension), we recommend using Extension Manager to uninstall and then try the native installer to upgrade.
  • If the native installer does not work, try reinstalling using the ZXP.
  • If you have installed CC 2015 or newer, the upgrade might have removed CC 2014 which can make using Extension Manager impossible. In this case, you should reinstall CC 2014 to enable using Extension Manager. Instructions on how to do that can be found here.