Recently, TechRepublic invited members to participate in a Technical Q&A challenge asking for the best solution to this particular scenario:
An enterprise has developed an internal Word macro that will manipulate data into a standard form required for further processing and eventual Web site publication. This macro needs to be mass-distributed to the entire organization. The distribution will have to accommodate Office installations including 2000, XP, and 2003. What is the best way to distribute this macro without creating a flurry of help desk requests from users?
We greatly appreciate the number and quality of the responses. Several participants gave us similar answers during the week the question was open, but pamcse gave the most complete answer first and was therefore awarded the TechPoints and the TechRepublic gear.
Here is the winning answer:
- Confirm that the macro works in all versions of Word used in the environment (W2000, Wxp, W2003, etc.).
- Create a Word template document (e.g., data prep.dot) which includes the macro.
- Write easy-to-follow steps* to save the
document in the normal templates folder.
*-Alt: Write a simple batch file (doubleclickme.bat) that saves the file to the Template folder. [Assumes common/default folder structure]
- Create template instructions of how to use macro—what it does, how to execute it, etc.
- Incorporate the batch file, template instructions, and install step instructions into an e-mail message. (Use self-extracting zip file if size requires it.)
- Use Exchange Administrator to disseminate the e-mail message and attachment(s) to ALL accounts in GAL [Global Address List].
- Send management directive/advisory to all supervisors advising them of new template, who the template pertains to, and how to install/use it.
- Hope for the best!...just kidding!!!
Why that answer wins
The beauty of this approach lies in its simplicity. Once the macro is created, distributing it to the people who need it should be a simple matter of copying the appropriate template to the appropriate file folder. This can be accomplished via e-mail and careful instruction or by a batch file, as pamcse suggested.
The assumption is that the users are sophisticated enough to follow instructions and implement the macro as needed themselves. For some organizations, this may actually be more of a leap of faith than reasonable assumption, but for other enterprises with users well-versed in Microsoft Word, this will be the best method overall.
A TechRepublic QuickStart Tool
The Microsoft Word Macro QuickStart Tool is a free TechRepublic download. Besides explaining the basics, this QuickStart Tool shows you common tasks, exposes strengths and weaknesses, and demonstrates some of the best uses of the technology. You will also get a list of other online and offline resources that can help you build a solid foundation of practical knowledge.
Not the only answer
While pamcse gave the winning answer, it certainly wasn't the only answer. Many of the Tech Q&A participants are apparently used to working with organizations and users less proficient in Word macro implementation. The proposed solutions from this group revolved around the mass distribution of the macro in question via a login script or other network administrator-controlled methodology. This group assumed that the macro installation was mandatory and that individual users would not be given a choice on when or whether to use it.
In certain circumstances, a controlled and scripted distribution via the network may make sense. Enforcing consistency across an organization in the form of Word macros and templates is required in some instances for quality and/or legal reasons. The typical proposed solution in this group was concisely expressed by rickf651:
This is how I would distribute the macro to those systems which have "standalone" Office suites yet are connected to the network: write a "login" script which checks for the presence of the macro on the client system, and if the test comes up false, then downloads the macro to the client workstation. It is an old yet reliable method which gets the product distributed in short order. The login script method also ensures minimal help desk call-ins as the macro gets distributed as a standalone file, callable from within Word.
An interesting idea
Several of the Technical Q&A participants suggested Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) as a distribution solution. While SMS is certainly capable of handling the delivery of the macro in question, it would likely be considered overkill if it were used for only this purpose. However, if your organization has already implemented this tool, it would clearly solve the macro distribution problem. (Out of curiosity, how many organizations have implemented SMS? I'd like to see some discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of SMS.)
In the end
Because of its simplicity of execution, pamcse's solution to our Technical Q&A won the TechPoints; but perhaps you still have a bone to pick with that decision. Please don't hesitate to let us hear about it. Do you have a better solution? Do you foresee problems with this distribution method that we failed to recognize? Start or join the article discussion and let us hear from you.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.