MSI installed Shortcuts - Some tips

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This is a nugget I learned the hard way so hopefully you find this before you’ve wasted a day.

System: Win2003 server + WinXP clients

Situation:

  • You want to install shortcuts on a users PC to a mapped drive on the network
  • The target drive is mapped as part of a login script
  • You choose to install the shortcuts using an MSI via a GPO managed deployment

The critical issue here is that these drives do not exist to the computer until the login script runs BUT the GPO will install BEFORE the login script runs. As a result the computer has no way to translate the long path into one it recognises.

Instead it will truncate the path to 8 characters BUT it does not do this in a standard DOS manner... instead it just deletes anything after the 8 character limit for each folder and the filename.

So: c:\program files\some application\start_my_app.exe becomes c:\program \some app\start_my.exe

The solution:

Work out what your path would be in DOS format and use this in your MSI editor (Orca, etc..) to replace the long path original.

So: c:\program files\some application\start_my_app.exe becomes c:\progra~1\some a~1\start_~1.exe

Of course you must check that this actually works on a target machine and there are the usual factors that may affect it such as any folders that use the same first 6 characters preceding your target alphabetically.

A little experimentation is important but it will work.

Alternative approach:

Of course your other solution is to ensure that all your target applications are installed in folders and have filenames that use no more than 8 characters in their name.

This approach solved problems with applications provided by Sherston who use a Network Install approach that allows the main application to be installed and run from a shared folder on the network. As a result you only need to install shortcuts to the target application on all networked PCs, although Sherston prefer you to run a network install from each target machine, this is simpler.

eg:

  • Crystal Rainforest 2000 / v2
  • Gomez Returns
  • etc...

Did you know... The Sherston Network Install approach can also be used to install applications locally! If you tell the network installer to install the application to C:\Program Files\Sherston Software\(sherston title), then tell it to copy the CD to the same location, but tell it that saves go to a network path (eg H:\sherston\(sherston title)). It works fine. That way all your shortcuts will be local ones.