Nullsoft Scriptable Install System
||This article has an unclear citation style. (April 2013)|
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (July 2010)|
|Stable release||2.46 / 6 December 2009|
|Preview release||3.0a1 / 14 July 2013|
|Written in||C, C++|
|Operating system||Windows, POSIX|
|Type||Software development tools|
Nullsoft Scriptable Install System (NSIS) is a script-driven installation system for Microsoft Windows with minimal overhead backed by Nullsoft, the creators of Winamp. NSIS has become a widely used alternative to commercial and proprietary products like InstallShield, with users including Amazon, Dropbox, Ubisoft, BitTorrent, and McAfee. 
NSIS was created to distribute Winamp. It is based on a previous Nullsoft product, PiMP (plugin Mini Packager), and is also known as SuperPiMP. After version 2.0a0, the project was moved to SourceForge where developers outside of Nullsoft started working on it on a regular basis. NSIS 2.0 was released approximately two years later.
NSIS version 1 is in many ways similar to the classic Windows Installer, but it is easier to script and supports more compression formats. NSIS version 2 features a new streamlined graphical user interface and supports LZMA compression, multiple languages, and an easy to use plugin system.
The NSIS compiler program makensis compiles scripts like the following example into executable installation programs. Each line in the script contains a single command.
# Example script Name "Example1" OutFile "example1.exe" InstallDir "$PROGRAMFILES\Example1" Page Directory Page InstFiles Section SetOutPath $INSTDIR File ..\makensis.exe SectionEnd
Modern user interface
Version 2.0 introduced a new optional streamlined graphical user interface called Modern UI (MUI). The MUI has a wizard-like interface. It supports a welcome page, finish page, language selection dialog, description area for components, and greater customization options than the old user interface.
# Modern UI example script !include MUI.nsh Name "Example 2" OutFile "Example2.exe" !insertmacro MUI_PAGE_WELCOME !insertmacro MUI_PAGE_LICENSE "license.rtf" !insertmacro MUI_PAGE_DIRECTORY !insertmacro MUI_PAGE_COMPONENTS !insertmacro MUI_PAGE_INSTFILES !insertmacro MUI_PAGE_FINISH !insertmacro MUI_LANGUAGE "English" !insertmacro MUI_LANGUAGE "German" !insertmacro MUI_LANGUAGE "French" Section "Extract makensis" SetOutPath $INSTDIR File ..\makensis.exe SectionEnd
Since NSIS version 2.30 (Released on 25 August 2007) there is new version (beta) of this UI accessible: Modern UI 2 (MUI2) which is an enhancement to Modern UI. Unlike the old MUI this version is based on nsDialogs instead of old-fashioned InstallOptions .ini files.
From version 2.34 (Released on 24 December 2007) this MUI2 is ready for mass consumption and it is included in all NSIS packages. Also all examples had been switched to it. Modern UI 2 documentation.
NSIS can be extended with plugins that can communicate with the installer. Plugins can be written in any managed programming language capable of building a dynamic-link library, and they can be used to perform installation tasks or extend the installer interface. A plugin can be called with a single line of NSIS code.
Several plugins come with the NSIS package that permit the installer to display a splash screen, display a custom page, display an image on the background, download files from a website, perform mathematical operations, patch files and more.
NSIS supports the following features:
- Very small overhead (34 KB)
- zlib, bzip2, and LZMA compression
- Plugin support
- Script preprocessor
NSIS projects can be configured by simply editing text files (with .nsi extension). However, several third parties provide editing software:
- EclipseNSIS is a module for the Eclipse platform. It allows NSIS scripts to be edited, compiled and validated.
- HM NIS Edit (freeware) editor with support of custom C++/Delphi plug-ins.
- Venis (freeware) editor.
- Visual & Installer (Add-in which integrates NSIS with Microsoft Visual Studio IDE and allows to create and build NSIS projects right within it)
Several projects that extend or replace the Modern UI have started in the past few years. Interfaces such as the ExperienceUI and UltraModernUI completely change the style of the installer by skinning it to look like the InstallShield interface. Other interfaces like InstallSpiderUI aim for a more minimalistic approach on the visual side of things while maintaining the same level of functionality as the ASD.
The generated installer is a Portable Executable, with the installation files archived within the installer, a 34 KB overhead for the NSIS installer, and the installation script compiled into executable code. As the installation script is compiled, the script can not be obtained from the delivered executable without reverse-engineering the binary.
The archive contains several folders:
- $PLUGINSDIR : installation routine plugins
- $INSTDIR : files used during the installation
- $_OUTDIR : files to be installed.
The official release of NSIS does not support Unicode but only a means to convert some files to different encodings via a plugin. However, a variant of NSIS that has full Unicode support is available. Notable projects using this variant are:
- Google (Picasa)
- Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice for Windows
- Mozilla (Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird)
- Second Life
- List of installation software
- Graphical Installer (NSIS plug-in based on the Modern UI 2 interface, which enriches its functionality and allows to completely re-skin the installer)
- Visual & Installer (commercial add-in which integrates NSIS with the Microsoft Visual Studio IDE and allows to create and build NSIS projects right within it)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to NSIS.|
- NSIS home page
- NSIS SourceForge project page
- SourceForge.net Project of the Month in January 2006
- OpenCandy Installer Platform Comparison June 2011