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:

  1. Confirm that the macro works in all
    versions of Word used in the environment (W2000, Wxp, W2003, etc.).
  2. Create a Word template document (e.g.,
    data prep.dot) which includes the macro.
  3. 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]
  4. Create template instructions of how to
    use macro—what it does, how to execute it, etc.
  5. Incorporate the batch file, template
    instructions, and install step instructions into an e-mail message. (Use
    self-extracting zip file if size requires it.)
  6. Use Exchange Administrator to
    disseminate the e-mail message and attachment(s) to ALL accounts in GAL
    [Global Address List].
  7. Send management directive/advisory to
    all supervisors advising them of new template, who the template pertains
    to, and how to install/use it.
  8. 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.