AutoProf’s Profile Maker 7 offers amazing flexibility in deploying Outlook and other desktop settings with ease. Previously, I covered Profile Maker 5.1 as a way to push Outlook profiles to client systems. The newest release, version 7, provides even more functionality for adding policies. Let’s take a look at how Profile Maker 7 works and examine some sample configurations.

About Profile Maker
Profile Maker allows you to configure your Exchange and Outlook clients with policies that you specify and deploy. Profile Maker can deploy configurations on large, medium, or small networks. The software provides you with the options to deliver the Outlook configurations to your clients with ultimate flexibility and no trips to the workstation. From the AutoProf Web site, you can download technical reference white papers, check out an introductory slideshow, register for a live demo, download a free trial version of the software, and read various success stories.

How Profile Maker works
Profile Maker 7 is essentially a desktop management tool that configures Microsoft Outlook and can configure other Windows variables for your networked clients. You do this using the Profile Maker Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in.

The computer runs the Profile Maker Master Service (pmMS), which distributes configurations and retrieves licensing and logging data. Profile Maker can exist as a service running on one system in your environment, or it can interact with other systems running the Profile Maker Secondary Service (pmSS).

The secondary service interacts with the master service and clients by distributing configurations and bringing logging and licensing back to the master service, as illustrated in Figure A.

Figure A

Installation and startup
As mentioned above, you can download and install a fully functional evaluation version of Profile Maker. The evaluation software limits the installation to only two usernames. You can also add an unlimited number of additional users that contain the “test” string within the username.

This means that when you download and install Profile Maker, you will need to generate a license key for the users you will be testing. In this example, I generated a test license for the user “administrator,” who is logged in to make the configurations on the Profile Maker console and one for my test user “rick.Vanover,” who will execute the Profile Maker client. As you can see in Figure B, these are the two users licensed to use Profile Maker.

Figure B

Navigating through Profile Maker is intuitive and simple. The MMC snap-in for Profile Maker provides six objects in the tree view of the application (Figure C).

Figure C

These objects perform the following functions:

  • Support—Links to Profile Maker’s support on the Internet
  • Licensing—Shows the license agreement for the software and allows you to enter registration information
  • Logging—Shows user executions of the Profile Maker client and which configuration was deployed to the user
  • Windows Network—Views your network and allows you to deploy your configurations, add pmSS computers, and synchronize Profile Maker information
  • Migration Database—Allows org-to-org migrations
  • Configurations—Lists configurations you create to deploy Outlook profiles

Creating configurations
Creating Profile Maker configurations is easy. Simply click the Configurations object and you can add a new configuration. You can add multiple configurations and use Profile Maker’s features to determine which configurations are deployed to which scenario. Profile Maker’s GlobalPolicy feature lets you conditionally execute configurations based on criteria you specify. You can add policies based on the criteria in the GlobalPolicy drop-down list (Figure D).

Figure D

Multiple policies can be added to configurations, and some of these policies have a “not” option. These policy options are smart. For example, you can create a configuration that applies to Windows 2000 (all versions), Windows 2000 except Server, or just Windows 2000 Professional.

Within each configuration, you add applications that you want to administer. All Windows-based versions of Outlook are available for configuration in Profile Maker. Microsoft Office, IE, and other Windows-related configuration items are also available for you to administer with Profile Maker.

Once you add an application, you create a profile and a service. Each has properties that you administer and configure within Profile Maker. These properties can also use Profile Maker variables, which are supplemental to Windows environmental variables. The Profile Maker variables fall into three categories. Here’s one example for each:

  • System dependent—%logonuser%—The Windows Networking username of the current user
  • Configuration dependent—%profilename%—The name of the most recently configured MAPI profile
  • File system—%desktopdir%—The current user’s desktop directory

Profile Maker client
The Profile Maker Client is the operative piece of Profile Maker. It communicates to the Profile Maker service(s) to configure the workstation with the configurations created on the Profile Maker console. The client is a single, self-contained executable (~200 KB) that requires no installation and works well in a login script, for example. The client can even be run from a remote location and/or from a desktop shortcut. The client installs the Profile Maker configurations that have been sent out from the Profile Maker console. The client has options that you can use to specify the pmSS/pmMS server name, specify a configuration, and suppress messages, among other things.

Sample configurations
I created a sample set of Profile Maker configurations on a Windows 2000 Server with Exchange Server 2000. I wanted the configurations to satisfy a sample situation where there are four classes of users:

  • Standard Outlook users—Windows 2000 and Outlook 2000
  • Power users—Windows 2000 or Windows XP and Outlook 2000 or Outlook 2002/XP
  • Remote Windows 95/98 users—Windows 9x and Outlook 97/98/2000
  • Remote Windows 2000 users—Win2K with Outlook 2000

Setting this up in Profile Maker was a snap. The properties of the Exchange Service let me specify which user and server to use in this profile. I used one of the Profile Maker variables to resolve the username (Figure E).

Figure E

The properties of the profile (ORG_USER, in this example) allow you to specify how it will be inserted. The Action category provides options to determine how or whether the profile will be brought into the Windows client system (Figure F).

Figure F

You can configure Outlook options in Profile Maker too, as shown in Figure G. This can help maintain client environment standards for your organization.

Figure G

The end result is a policy-made set of Outlook configurations you can deploy to your Outlook clients. Figure H shows all configurations and the GlobalPolicy options that apply to one of the classes of an Outlook user.

Figure H

Final word
Profile Maker 7 provides superior profile management with its policy-based administration and easy deployment. Keeping client configurations consistent will allow you to be more responsive to the IT challenges you will face, and Profile Maker can help you make it happen.