Are you tired of running to client computers to set up a new mail profile or change configuration properties? This article will introduce AutoProf’s Profile Maker 5.1 tool, which can save you a lot of time in deploying profiles for various messaging clients. To see how it works, we’ll go through a step-by-step deployment of a Microsoft Outlook profile.

Introducing Profile Maker
AutoProf’s Profile Maker 5.1 is a robust solution for adding, deleting, or modifying settings for various messaging software platforms, and it’s very easy to use. In the past, I have successfully used it to push out Microsoft Outlook profiles. Although this article will focus on using Profile Maker to deploy Outlook profiles, the newest version of the software includes support for a large range of messaging services, including:

  • ·        Outlook 97/98/2000 (XP support is forthcoming)
  • ·        Outlook Address Book and Contacts
  • ·        Outlook Personal Folders
  • ·        Outlook Personal Address Book
  • ·        Outlook Internet E-Mail
  • ·        Exchange Client
  • ·        Exchange Server/Remote
  • ·        Schedule Plus
  • ·        Microsoft Mail
  • ·        HP OpenMail 5.2-5.4
  • ·        Novell GroupWise
  • ·        Netscape Communicator Preferences
  • ·        SAP MAPI Service
  • ·        Transcend cc:Mail ConnectorWare
  • ·        DIGITAL Office Server
  • ·        Banyan Intelligent Messaging
  • ·        FaxWare Global Address Book
  • ·        Corel Address Book
  • ·        Compaq Work Expeditor
  • ·        Control Data IMAP Service Provider
  • ·        At Work Fax (Windows 9X)

The benefits of Profile Maker
Profile Maker 5.0 can definitely benefit large organizations where standardization of configurations is required. Profile Maker can configure multiple profiles in a customized and consistent fashion. These customizations, in Microsoft Outlook, for example, can allow you to select options for things like disabling AutoArchive and emptying deleted items on exit without prompting, specify which Exchange server to connect to, and choose which user name to resolve to.

Pushing settings may also require obtaining resources on a network (personal address book, personal folders, etc.). Profile Maker provides a long list of intrinsic variables that you can specify in profile definitions. The following are some examples of these intrinsic variables:

  • ·        %osver%—Local operating system (95, NT, etc.)
  • ·        %profilename%—Name of the MAPI profile currently being configured
  • ·        %appdatadir%—Windows “Application Data” path

Having these variables supplemented with Windows environmental variables can add a great amount of flexibility to the enterprise administrator.

Using Profile Maker
Profile Maker 5.0 works from a command line, with options for specifying which file (created by Profile Maker) to import. To demonstrate the process, we’ll walk through a step-by-step example of how to create a profile for Outlook 2000.

This example will create a .prf file for import into Outlook. The .prf file is a Microsoft tool that allows you to create automatic profiles for Outlook. Profile Maker makes it much easier to create the files. You can refer to Microsoft KnowledgeBase articles Q172073 and Q145905 for more information on the actual .prf file.

Example deployment of an Outlook profile
In order to follow along with this example, I would encourage you to download and install Profile Maker 5.1. The evaluation version is fully functional and will allow you to do everything this example covers. In addition, some of the sample .prf files included with the installation are great templates to work from.

After you have downloaded and installed Profile Maker, launch the GUI tool for setting up .prf files. Figure A shows one file prepared for import into Microsoft Outlook.

Figure A
Example of a Profile Maker profile

The Services tab allows you to add or remove services for the Outlook profile. This example will use three services: Microsoft Outlook Client, Outlook Address Book, and Microsoft Exchange Server, as you can see in Figure B.

Figure B
Profile Maker Services tab

The services allow you to specify which Exchange server and alias to use in the profile. This example will have me logging into S-CMH-EXCH1 (the Columbus, OH, office’s Exchange Server #1) with my alias (which is resolved from the GAL—or you could populate the display name here instead). Figure C shows the properties of the Microsoft Exchange Server service as I configure them.

Figure C
Exchange Server connection settings

The Microsoft Outlook Client service provides the full array of Microsoft Outlook options that can be set in the application. The properties of the Microsoft Outlook Client service in the .prf file can be set as you see in Figure D.

Figure D
Outlook client properties

Profile Maker can also allow you to specify password settings (handy for remote users), as you can see in Figure E.

Figure E
Telling Outlook how to handle password authentication

For those of you in a multiple-protocol environment, or a migrated protocol with the same client configurations, you can even specify the protocol RPC binding order (which is really the HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Exchange\Exchange Provider registry key), as shown in Figure F.

Figure F
Setting the networking protocols

Once I have modified the sample .prf file to my liking, it is ready for import. There are a number of ways to get it to the client. I like pushing them out via a login script or a client-initiated script. It all depends on the scenario for which you want to use the tool.

For this example, I will push the .prf file into Windows via a Windows Script Host file (.vbs) that I could have invoked from a login script or a desktop shortcut executed on the client PC.

This script imports the e2ksample.prf file into the MAPI configuration into Windows and uses the example settings listed in the earlier screen shots. This script has some more functionality that becomes intelligent in determining who the user is or what the workstation name is to obtain the correct .prf file. The (…) sections are where the other functionalities are omitted for simplicity. The .prf file has provisions to cancel the import if this does not execute successfully. Profile Maker also has an extensive command-line interface for importing the profiles into the client configuration. Refer to the Profile Maker technical reference PDF file for more on this subject.

You can download the technical reference and other helpful files at AutoProf provides a wealth of information about configuring Profile Maker, and many of the topics are geared for the enterprise. For example, it has information on Outlook profiles on Windows NT Terminal Server, “walk-up” profiling, deployment, simplification of Outlook administration, and pricing. AutoProf also offers other innovative solutions to ISPs and managed messaging solutions.

A very powerful tool
Profile Maker is a powerful tool for many mail platforms. A large number of us could benefit from deploying mail profiles in such an organized manner. Some of us may have found ways to do this with other tools, such as registry imports, automated installations, or user-operated procedures. However, Profile Maker offers a way to put more control and consistent administration into the desktop environment, which is critical to a successful IT strategy.

How do you manage Outlook profiles?

Are you thinking of giving Profile Maker a try? We look forward to getting your input and hearing about your experiences regarding this topic. Join the discussion below or send the editor an e-mail.