While reading "The Build Master" this week, I was introduced to the tool that I find quite interesting: WiX. It's a MSFT produced and supported tool that has been open-sourced (gasp!). Open-source? Microsoft? Useful? My head hurts.
The WiX toolset allows you to create an MSI rather painlessly using an XML format that they've defined. It's actually quite intuitive and useful. The WISE and InstallShield guys have had the market on creating Windows Installers for the longest time. In addition, the horror stories I've heard from people who have the strength to use the WISE / InstallShield tools really caused me to do a double-take when I saw this tool.
In addition, there is no "setup" to speak of with this toolset. It's literally a set of binaries that you can execute from the command-line. There is no installation overhead, making these tools easy to store and version for build escrow purposes.
There is another open-source tool called Votive that ties in to Visual Studio and allows you to create and control the MSI build using WiX from within the GUI. As Borat would say, Niiice.