InstallPad is a brilliant open source app for Windows that lets you automate the download and installation of entire suites of programs. InstallPad relies on “application lists,” which are XML files that tell it where to download the programs and how to install them. It has a built-in GUI for building and editing an application list (or you can edit XML by hand if you like), and you can select which applications from the list to install. The really cool part is that it does all of this silently. You don’t have to play “Next, Next, Next, Next, Next, Next, Finish” game with the installers, because InstallPad does it for you. It also lets you pass arguments to the installers and invoke scripts when installation is complete. It can download from HTTP and FTP sources as well as run local installers or network resources. The obvious audience here is the network administrator who frequently has to bootstrap machines with the same bunch of apps, but it also has benefits for when you’re doing a reformat-and-reinstall, or setting up a virtual machine with a bunch of apps.
Over at Lifehacker, Gina Trapani has put together a few application lists for InstallPad, including a “PC Rescue Pack,” “Media Pack,” and a general-purpose “Lifehacker Pack.” Don’t miss ’em.