People frequently ask about the future of ClickOnce deployment. I hear and read things like “Microsoft hasn’t updated their ClickOnce blog since 2006.” “They never change anything in ClickOnce.” “You never hear anything about ClickOnce deployment updates.” “Are they going to keep supporting it?” “Why doesn’t Microsoft use ClickOnce themselves?”
The answers to those questions are: 1. It’s not sexy so nobody talks about it. 2. Yes they do. .NET 3.5 included ClickOnce deployment for VSTO applications, which is awesome. And SP-1 included optional signing and hashing, file associations, and other fun stuff. 3. You do if you know where to listen. 4. Yes. 5. They use it for many of their apps used internally. I don’t think they can use it for Visual Studio or Office. Can you imagine what the prerequisite list would look like?
Silverlight is sexy. Windows Phone 7 is sexy. WPF is sexy. Deployment? Not so much. The release of Silverlight 4 was even noted on one of the Apple News sites. How does “I created this really cool component that you can embed in a WPF application and it cleans your computer screen and tidies up your desk” compare with “I figured out how to install this really cool component on your computer.” See what I mean?
Deployment is like Amazon.com delivery. You don’t ever think about how your books get from that cool page on the web to your Kindle in two minutes (or, if you’re a traditionalist, to your front porch in two days), but aren’t you excited when they show up?
Even though Microsoft doesn’t go on Oprah to discuss their feelings about ClickOnce deployment, I have discovered over the past few months that they really do care about it.
Saurabh Bhatia, the ClickOnce expert at Microsoft, has been helping me over the past year to respond to some of the more difficult questions in the forums. When I attended the MVP Summit in February, I met with Saurabh and some of the other people who work in and around ClickOnce. The 1-hour meeting stretched into 3-1/2 hours as we discussed feedback and information I had collected from the MSDN Forums, StackOverflow, blog articles, and from individuals who e-mailed me or talked to me after my presentations. I passed on complaints, common problems, and most frequently requested new features. They really wanted to know, and were glad to get the information.
In return, they provided me with a look at what’s coming in .NET 4.0 (that’s the next blog post). Since I’ve returned, they have followed up with answers to my questions. (They were sending me e-mails with answers before I’d even left Washington!) Saurabh and one of his cohorts, Jason Salameh, continue to provide resources to help me support the ClickOnce Deployment community, and Saurabh set up regular meetings just to touch bases and help me with any difficult issues or questions that come up that I can’t answer. I think of it as a “Stump Saurabh!” session, but so far I’ve only managed to stump him once (proxy authentication). I learn something new with every conversation.
Also coming soon is an update of the Patterns and Practices Smart Client Software Factory and the ClickOnce documentation for it. (I know that because they asked me to do the update to the docs. I was so flattered!)
It’s safe to say that Microsoft will continue to support and enhance ClickOnce deployment. My next blog post will be a summary of the new features available in .NET 4.0. If there are features you want, post a comment and I’ll pass it along. If you have questions about problems you’re having with ClickOnce deployment, please post a question in the MSDN ClickOnce and Setup & Deployment Forum. I’ll see you there.