A question for tech writers: why does every technical manual and book include a section at the beginning on “conventions used in this document,” full of ridiculous and useless tips like, “Tips are indicated by a lightbulb icon in the margin”? Is it because you’re paid by the word?

To steal a joke from Mr. Bunny’s Guide to ActiveX, I would like to announce that “the familiar dot (.) symbol from Internet addresses shall be used on this website to denote the end of a sentence.”

Incremental Installation

Last year I was designing the upgrade installer for CityDesk. I was considering RTPatch but it was really expensive (disproportionate to what we would spend in bandwidth), so we just made an upgrader that reinstalls full copies of every file that had changed.

At the time RTPatch was $5000 for a license, and their salesman called me up to give me a hard time for contradicting myself. After all, step 9 in the Joel Test is using “the best tools that money can buy.” “Touché,” I said, and hung up.

Now there’s competition. A little Israeli company, Red Bend Software, has a product called vBuild, which is tightly integrated with InstallShield Professional (the non-Windows MSI version of InstallShield). vBuild is about $2500 and RTPatch has come down to $2750. Still pricey but starting to seem worth it. Today I’m going to try converting CityDesk’s setup from InnoSetup, which is excellent and free, to InstallShield, which is decent and expensive, just to take advantage of vBuild.

About the author.

I'm Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Trello and Fog Creek Software, and CEO of Stack Overflow. More about me.