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Packaging and shipping is HARD

I have worked re­al­ly hard on Mar­ave, a full screen ed­i­tor in the style of ommwriter, Dark­Room, Write­Room, py­Room, etc. I have worked very hard and I want users to use it.

Or not even that, I want them to have a chance of us­ing it.

That means I want it to work on Win­dows (and maybe OSX some day, too, if some­one helps me). Which mean­s, I have to pak­age it for win­dows.

Let's do a quick com­par­i­son here from the points of view of the us­er and the de­vel­op­er.

The User, In Linux

This is in Arch Lin­ux, which is what I use, in oth­er Lin­ux vari­ants it will be pret­ty much the same once Mar­ave is a bit more well known.

yaourt -S marave-svn --noconfirm

That gets the code from SVN (right now it's the best way, lat­er I will pack­age re­leas­es, too), all re­quired de­pen­den­cies, builds and in­stall­s. It takes all of 15 sec­onds in my note­book.

Af­ter that, you have a ful­ly work­ing Mar­ave.

In case it's not pack­aged for your dis­tro, just in­stall PyQt (which sure­ly is) and run this com­mand:

easy_install marave

The User, in Windows

You go to http://­mar­ave.­google­code.­com, click on "Mar­ave-0.5.win32.ex­e" (Not linked yet, it's not fin­ished), then down­load a 10MB pro­gram. That is a 10MB pro­gram be­cause win­dows does­n't be­lieve in pack­ages and de­pen­den­cies. On Lin­ux, a Mar­ave pack­age could be un­der 1MB (most of it im­ages), and not be ex­e­cutable, just da­ta.

Of course nowa­days web browsers don't ac­tu­al­ly run pro­grams on down­load, so... let's see it as a gallery!


Yes, save it.


Dou­ble click to open it


Yes, I agree


Sure, what­ev­er




Good to hear!

Now, this Mar­ave that just got in­stalled may or may not cur­rent­ly work be­cause of a miss­ing MSVCR90.DLL but that's for the next sec­tion...

The Developer, in Linux

First, here's the big­gest prob­lem a Lin­ux pack­ager can have:

Since Mar­ave is a new ap­p, and I de­vel­op it in the rather cut­ting-edge Arch Lin­ux, it us­es some newish fea­tures on­ly avail­able in re­cent ver­sions of Qt. In fac­t, it does­n't work with PyQt < 4.6, which is not avail­able in some slow dis­tros, like De­bian, or even in a not-lat­est Ubun­tu.

So­lu­tion? Well, I could just ig­nore it, but what the heck, let's fix it in­stead!

Thanks to PyIn­staller it's not even hard to do, here's the spec file:

a = Analysis([os.path.join(HOMEPATH,'support/'), os.path.join(HOMEPATH,'support/'), 'marave/'],

pyz = PYZ(a.pure)
exe = EXE(pyz,
        name=os.path.join('build/pyi.linux2/main', 'marave.exe'),
        console=0 )

coll = COLLECT( exe,
            name=os.path.join('dist', 'marave'))

Use this, and PyIn­staller will pro­duce a nice fold­er full of ev­ery­thing Mar­ave needs to run on any Lin­ux.

OTO­H, if you can re­ly on a re­cent PyQt be­ing avail­able, it's al­so sim­ple. Here's a pack­ag­ing con­fig­u­ra­tion for a sim­i­lar pack­age in Arch Lin­ux (I must con­fess not hav­ing done one for Mar­ave yet). For oth­er dis­tri­bu­tions it should be about as sim­ple, if more ver­bose, and some­one else prob­a­bly does it for you:

# Contributor: Roberto Alsina <>
pkgdesc="Create PDFs from simple text markup, no LaTeX required."
arch=('i686' 'x86_64')
depends=('python' 'setuptools' 'docutils' 'pygments' 'python-reportlab' 'python-simplejson' 'pil')
source=($pkgver.tar.gz LICENSE.txt)
optdepends=('uniconvertor: vector images support'
            'python-svglib: SVG support'
            'python-wordaxe: hyphenation'
            'pythonmagick: PDF images support')
build() {
cd $startdir/src/rst2pdf-$pkgver
python install --root=$startdir/pkg || return 1
install -D ../LICENSE.txt $startdir/pkg/usr/share/licenses/python-rst2pdf/COPYING
install -D doc/rst2pdf.1 $startdir/pkg/usr/share/man/man1/rst2pdf.1

And that's all you need to know about the process of pack­ag­ing your app for Lin­ux. It's easy to do, and most of the time, easy to do right!

Now, let's go to our fi­nal sec­tion...

Windows for the developer

First, re­mem­ber that of re­ly­ing on the sys­tem's ver­sion of Qt? For­get it, there is no sys­tem ver­sion avail­able. And no python ei­ther. And noone is go­ing to in­stall it or your ap­p, so it's "ship ev­ery­thing your­self" mod­e, or noth­ing.

But any­way, PyIn­staller works for Win­dows too! So, us­ing the same spec file, it work­s. Right?

Well, no beause of two prob­lem­s.

Problem 1: You need an installer

Users are not go­ing to open a zip some­where, then do a short­cut to the bi­na­ry on Win­dows, so you need to do some op­er­a­tions, and that means an in­stall­er.

Here's what I came up with to use NSIS, a free in­stall­er cre­ator for Win­dows:

;Include Modern UI

!include "MUI2.nsh"


;Name and file
Name "Marave"
OutFile "Marave-0.5.win32.exe"

;Default installation folder
InstallDir "$LOCALAPPDATA\Marave"

;Get installation folder from registry if available
InstallDirRegKey HKCU "Software\Marave" ""

;Request application privileges for Windows Vista
RequestExecutionLevel user

;Interface Settings






!insertmacro MUI_LANGUAGE "English"

;Installer Sections

Section "Install"

SetOutPath "$INSTDIR"
File /r "dist\marave"

;Store installation folder
WriteRegStr HKCU "Software\Marave" "" $INSTDIR

;Create uninstaller
WriteUninstaller "$INSTDIR\Uninstall.exe"

;Create shortcuts
CreateDirectory $SMPROGRAMS\Marave
CreateShortCut "$SMPROGRAMS\Marave\Marave.lnk" "$INSTDIR\marave\marave.exe" ; use defaults for parameters, icon, etc.
CreateShortCut "$SMPROGRAMS\Marave\Uninstall Marave.lnk" "$INSTDIR\Uninstall.exe" ; use defaults for parameters, icon, etc.


;Uninstaller Section

Section "Uninstall"

Delete "$INSTDIR\Uninstall.exe"

DeleteRegKey /ifempty HKCU "Software\Marave"


It's com­pa­ra­ble to the ef­fort of build­ing a pack­ag­ing file, re­al­ly, ex­cept ev­ery time you want to test it... you in­stall it. There is no way (AFAIC­S) to see what's in­side the in­stall­er ex­cept run­ning it!

When things fail, you get no er­ror mes­sages, at least not the kind that is use­ful for a de­vel­op­er, the guy that needs to know what went wrong.

And af­ter it's fin­ished, you may end with a non-­work­ing pro­gram be­cause of...

Problem 2: system libraries don't exist

Python 2.6 bi­na­ries are built us­ing Vis­ual Stu­dio. That means they re­quire the Vis­ual Stu­dio Run­time, specif­i­cal­ly MSVCR90.DL­L. That con­tains what on Lin­ux would be con­sid­ered part of libc. (lin­ux guy: imag­ine apps that de­pend on a spe­cif­ic libc... hard to do!)

On Lin­ux that's part of the sys­tem. Fur­ther, if you want­ed, you can re­dis­tribute it. On Win­dows... well, it's a bit dif­fer­en­t.

  1. It's part of the "Vi­­su­al C++ re­dis­­tribu­ta­bles"

  2. In­­stalling that does­n't guar­an­­tee it will work (yes, I have tried)

  3. The li­­cense for those 're­dis­­tribu­ta­bles' says you can't make them avail­able for down­load.

    I have been told that in­­­clud­ing that in your in­­stal­l­er is fine and dandy, but how is that not mak­ing them avail­able for down­load?

So what can you do when you need a li­brary and can't ship it and the us­er won't in­stall it?

Well, that's why there is no Win­dows bi­na­ry of Mar­ave yet. Of course if any­one can help, I'd be re­al­ly, re­al­ly hap­py!

fisadev / 2010-02-11 15:34:

Si crees que es difícil empaquetar para Windows, tendrías que probar empaquetar para Windows Mobile: ni siquiera se puede instalar más de una aplicación junta. Merge modules? Dependencias? jajaja. Un instalador por cada cosa que necesites, y que el usuario se arregle para instalarlos todos en órden...
Ojalá puedas resolverlo sin tantos problemas, es un editor muy bueno, tendría lindo mercado creo.

tshirtman / 2010-02-11 16:23:

"Since Marave is a new app, and I develop it in the rather cutting-edge Arch Linux, it uses some newish features only available in recent versions of Qt. In fact, it doesn't work with PyQt < 4.6, which is not available in some slow distros, like _Linux_, or even in a not-latest Ubuntu."

I think you meant debian here :).

Roberto Alsina / 2010-02-11 18:43:

Oops! Thanks for the correction!

Roberto Alsina / 2010-02-11 19:17:

Fixed now.

Joac / 2010-02-11 16:27:

Windows es asi.... 0 facilidades para el desarrollador

Bajusz Tamás / 2010-02-11 17:54:
Roberto Alsina / 2010-02-11 18:43:

Bingo! Ok, I don't have the right.

Bajusz Tamás / 2010-02-11 17:54:
Bajusz Tamás / 2010-02-11 18:50:

Then " could create an installer for your application (see step 6 below), that includes vcredist_x86.exe (which is itself redistributable by anyone), and then run that as part of your application installation. "

Roberto Alsina / 2010-02-11 19:05:

Ys, I still need to figure out that part. And of course, figure out how that's not against the license of vcredist_x86.exe:

"You may not [...] publish the software for others to copy [or] rent, lease or lend the software [or] transfer the software or this agreement to any third party"

Of course I know lots of people do this, but I take software licenses very seriously. I guess I'll just have to ask Microsoft.

jjconti / 2010-02-11 19:10:

Ya lo dijo Raymond... desarrollar en Windows es como bailar en una armadura :)

Roberto Alsina / 2010-02-11 19:17:

Ah, pero bailar en una armadura tiene ventajas!

jjconti / 2010-02-11 19:22:


Roberto Alsina / 2010-02-11 20:06:

Nadie te empuja en el pogo?

Matthias Pospiech / 2010-02-12 08:19:

The redistributables have one problem. They only work if you choose the right one and if _every_ components of you exe, that means Qt, libs your project have all been compile by the same and according compiler version. If every single piece of your resulting exe was compiled with a different version of msvc you need to install all according vcredist files (and there are many version...).

The easiest way to get rid of this problem is to recompile everything (including Qt) as static or to recompile everything at least with the same compiler or to use mingw instead of msvc because then you do not have to deal with this issue anyway.

Roberto Alsina / 2010-02-12 10:03:

It looks like there is a "magical version" that makes it all work (it's the one in the py2exe link above). I'll find someone that has VS2008 to help me with the packaging since he will have the license to redistribute those "redistributables".

andy / 2010-02-12 12:54:

+1 to using mingw -- msvc dll hell can easily become a nightmare

Roberto Alsina / 2010-02-12 12:56:

I'd love to but I lack resources to rebuild python, qt and pyqt on windows with mingw. I just have a small VM with XP :-(

Is there a set pf binaries I could use?

gigi / 2010-02-20 14:46:

You can redistribuite VCRedist_x86.exe, and even only MSVCR90.DLL.

Quote from here


The Visual C++ Redistributable Package (VCRedist_x86.exe, VCRedist_x64.exe, VCRedist_ia64.exe) has to be executed on the target system as a prerequisite to installation of the application. This package installs and registers all Visual C++ libraries.

We recommend that you use this package to redistribute Visual C++ libraries for applications that you built with Visual C++ Express and for cases when you want to deploy all Visual C++ libraries at the same time.


Also checkout

The Windows Python installer also includes vcredist_x86.exe, like many other applications:

BTW, the Linux way has it's problems also. Try installing Anjunta IDE on CentOS to see what I mean.

Roberto Alsina / 2010-02-20 16:19:

You get the right to redistribute vc redist as part of licensing Visual Studio. If VS Express gives you that and is free, that may be a workaround.

Never tried Anjuta, sorry :-)

Malte / 2010-12-30 11:40:

Does Microsoft allow _downloading_ the redistributable in the setup process?

If so, InnoSetup+ InnoTools Downloader would be worth a look.

InnoSetup is FOSS; and it runs out of the box in wine under ArchLinux.

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