“I don’t think that word means what you think it means…”

Inigo Montoya from "The Princess Bride"If you manage multiple machines, whether they are Macs, Windows PCs, or Linux boxes, you are familiar with the concept of a silent install. It seems pretty clear what a silent install is — one that happens with no user-visible indication that it is happening.

Why, then, do major software vendors find this confusing?

Take, for example, Adobe’s CS3 and CS4 Enterprise Deployment methods. Even when instructed to preform a “silent” install, they bounce two or three icons in the dock, and disk images appear and disappear on the desktop over a several minute (or longer!) period. Focus is stolen from the frontmost application. It’s a far cry from “silent”. But it can be done without user interaction at least.

Here’s a worse example: QuarkXPress 8. See Quark’s knowledgebase article “How to perform a silent installation”

I find this part particularly entertaining:


To perform a silent installation on Mac OS:

  1. Copy the installer folder containing the ‘setup.xml’ file to your computer.
  2. Double-click the QuarkXPress Installer icon and follow the instructions on the screen.

(Final emphasis mine.) Earlier in the knowledgebase article, Quark simply redefines “silent install”:

The silent install feature lets users install QuarkXPress on their computers over a network, without having to follow step-by-step instructions.

That might be a “streamlined” install, or a “pre-configured” install, but it’s hardly a silent install. The user still has to initiate the install and will have to provide administrative credentials. This type of install is not terribly helpful in a large organization.

Fortunately, things are better than they appear. The QuarkXPress 8.1 installer is a standard Apple metapackage, and can be installed silently using the command-line installer (/usr/sbin/installer) or any other tool that uses Apple’s command-line installer (ARD, etc).

QuarkXPress 8.1 installed in this manner will be missing the activation code and any QLA server information. You can create a second package with this information and install it as well to end up with a fully-functioning silent install of QuarkXPress 8.1.

First, run QuarkXPress 8.1 after installing it using /usr/sbin/installer. Enter your registration/license code when requested. This gets written to /Applications/QuarkXPress 8/QuarkXPress.app/Contents/Resources/QuarkXPress.rsrc. That’s the first file you need to include in your licensing/registration package.

Second, If you are using a QLA license server, you’ll need to create a QLAClient.properties file and also include that in your licensing/registration package. This is simply a plain-text file, located at /Applications/QuarkXPress 8/QLAClient.properties, with contents similar to:

QLASERVER_HOST = licenseserver1.pretendco.com
QLASERVER_BACKUPHOST = licenseserver2.pretendco.com

So — create an installer package that installs the following files, properly setup for your organization:

/Applications/QuarkXPress 8/QLAClient.properties
/Applications/QuarkXPress 8/QuarkXPress.app/Contents/Resources/QuarkXPress.rsrc

Use /usr/sbin/installer to install QuarkXPress 8.1 and your licensing/registration package, and you now have a true silent install.

“I don’t think that word means what you think it means…”

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