By Jacob Gsoedl

The Web browser has evolved from an Internet surfing tool into the preferred user interface for enterprise-level applications. It’s no longer an option for an enterprise app to run in a Web browser; it’s a requirement. With corporate intranets and extranets becoming more prevalent, administrative management of Web browsing technologies, in turn, will be an increasingly critical consideration for IT departments. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK) 6 is an effective way to customize IE 6 packages. IEAK 6 comprises four components:

  • The Internet Explorer Customization Wizard lets you create custom Internet Explorer 6.0 browser packages and select their components, settings, and options.
  • With the IEAK Profile Manager, you can automatically change clients’ browser settings and restrictions after installing IE 6, without the need to visit each desktop. To use IEAK Profile Manager, you need to set the URL of the auto-configuration script (.ins file) in IE 6 to a centrally accessible location.
  • The IEAK Toolkit contains helpful programs and sample files, such as an animated bitmap tool, an IE uninstall script, and a sample Web page for users to add components.
  • IEAK Help provides a comprehensive online manual.

CNET and TechRepublic

This article first appeared on CNET’s Enterprise Business site. TechRepublic is part of the CNET family of Web sites dedicated to educating and empowering people and businesses in the IT field.

Internet Customization Wizard
IEAK 6 is a free download. Unlike IEAK 5.5, IEAK 6 includes an integrated license agreement, so that you no longer need to sign up for a specialized license key code to use the kit. After selecting the correct license type (ISP, content provider, or corporate user), the four IEAK components are installed on your system. Our installation was simple and flawless.

The biggest limitation we found is that IEAK 6 only supports 32-bit Windows platforms, requiring a different tool to customize and distribute browsers for older versions of Windows, UNIX, or Macintosh.

The key component of IEAK 6 is the Internet Customization Wizard, which has a five-step process for creating custom IE 6 packages. With each step and selection clearly presented and well documented, the Customization Wizard is extremely easy to use.

The wizard lets you customize IE setup options, installation features, digital signatures, URLs, favorites and links, the user agent string, the connection profile, certificates, security zones and content ratings, and Outlook Express, as well as policies and restrictions.

First plan, then customize
Before you run the Internet Customization Wizard, you should make a list of the components you want to install on your clients. Beyond IE 6, your package can include Outlook Express, Media Player, NetMeeting, the Microsoft Java Virtual Machine, and any self-extracting executables or CAB files for other applications and tools.

Next, you have to define IE settings and policies, which the wizard steps you through. These include proxy server enforcement, restricting the use of Active Desktop, and enforcing disk quotas for offline content. Finally, IEAK 6 lets you customize the look and feel of the browser, including browser title, toolbar, home page, search URL, online support, and favorite links. Enforcing settings does not require Active Directory or Systems Management Server (SMS), which can be used to distribute the custom packages. A Custom IE package can be distributed on network shares, FTP locations, and so on, from which users can install it. You can lock down these customized settings so clients cannot change them.

Profile Manager, Toolkit, and Help
The Profile Manger is used to maintain configuration settings and updates after you’ve installed your custom IE package. With it, you can open any auto-configuration .ins file and change settings, such as those for digital signatures and security zones. You can set the location of the .ins file via the Internet Customization Wizard or manually within IE 6. The Profile Manager is a powerful tool for system administrators to centrally make configuration changes and distribute browser updates without having to visit every system. Like the Customization Wizard, the Profile Manager lets administrators lock down certain settings.

IEAK Toolkit and Help
The IEAK Toolkit contains helpful tools and sample files that you can use for custom IE packages. It includes a guided tour of IE 6, a utility for generating animated GIF files, an .inf file for uninstalling IE 6, and a sample Web page where users can add components, such as NetMeeting or Microsoft’s Java Virtual Machine. There are also several animated GIF files, buttons, and backgrounds.

IEAK Help is a well-structured and thorough online manual with index and search features. Together, IEAK Toolkit and IEAK Help are a comprehensive resource for most questions about IEAK 6.

Companies, ISPs, and content providers that need to distribute customized IE 6 packages with specific components, preset configurations, and security settings—and who need to centrally update IE components—should be pleased with IEAK 6. The wizards, combined with an excellent help facility, make IEAK 6 very easy to use. It performed flawlessly in all of our tests.

Jacob Gsoedl is a corporate IS director and a frequent contributor to CNET Enterprise and CNET Linux Center.

This document was originally published by CNET on Nov. 12, 2001.

IEAK in the enterprise

If your organization uses IEAK, we want to know about it. What do you like about it? What do you dislike? Does it make supporting end users easier? Post a comment to this article and let us know what you think about this tool.