When you develop a new piece of test code or scratch-an-itch code as a developer, most often, you just need to run the software on the same computer that you developed on. That keeps things easy because you already have the linked libraries installed. But every so often, you need to install the software on a machine ‘out there’. For such occassions, you need to create a Setup Project in Visual Studio.
It is easiest to create the Setup Project as a new project in the same Solution that has the application itself. You simply add a new ‘Setup Project’ (File->New->Project->Other Project Types->Setup and Deployment->Setup Project).
You can then ‘Add’ ‘Project Output’ under ‘Application Folder’. You can select the application project within the solution that you want to package. These steps are sufficient to build the installer files.
There are a lot of Properties you can tweak to make things work just right. Here is the Properties window for the Setup project.
There are some pretty good tutorials by Phil Wilson over at Simple Talk. If you have a little time, it will be very enlightening to read the series. Jump on, if you feel the need:
Getting started with setup projects
Visual Studio Setup – Projects and Custom Actions
Updates to Setup Projects
The last article has pretty good information on things to do while rebuilding Setup Projects. If you’ve built a project once, it’s very likely you will need to build it at least once more. There are certain things you can do to make your life easier when doing a build-install-test-update-rebuild-reinstall cycle.