SolutionBase: Employ the Custom Installation Wizard to accelerate multiple Outlook 2003 deployments

Learn to streamline Outlook 2003 installs.

Installing Microsoft Office 2003 on a single workstation isn't that difficult. But if you have to deploy Office 2003 on multiple workstations, the task can quickly become overwhelming. That's where the Custom Installation Wizard in the Microsoft Office Resource Kit comes in. Here's how you can use the Custom Installation Wizard to install a preconfigured version of Microsoft Outlook.

How does the wizard work?

The Custom Installation Wizard creates a transform file (MST) compatible with the Windows Installer found in Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP Professional. It covers all the bases of everything you might want to include in an installation, much as you would if you were at the machine with the CD-ROM.

The transform file includes all the answers to the usual settings you might get prompted for when performing an interactive installation, such as the CD key, the acceptance of the license agreement, and the placement of post-installation shortcuts. The Custom Installation Wizard also allows you to configure program settings that are usually configured after installation, like Outlook's auto archive feature and the sending and receiving intervals at which Outlook checks for new messages.

Obtaining and installing the Custom Installation Wizard

To get things rolling, you need to download the Office Resource Kit for Office 2003 from Microsoft's Web site. Installing the kit is easy. Just run the executable you download and follow the on-screen instructions. After installing the resource kit, open the Microsoft Office Custom Installation Wizard by selecting Start | Programs | Microsoft Office | Microsoft Office Tools | Microsoft Office 2003 Resource Kit and choosing the shortcut for Custom Installation Wizard.

First you'll see the Welcome screen. The Welcome screen of the wizard provides a brief description of what can be accomplished by the wizard.

When you click Next to begin the wizard, a dialog box will appear as the wizard looks for dependent components. On the following screen you are presented with a text box and asked to locate the .MSI file to use for the transform.

Click the Browse button to locate the network installation or the CD-ROM where you copied the Office CD-ROM contents. In this folder, select the PRO11.MSI installer file and click Open. This will allow the wizard to read the installer file for Office and present the configurable

On the third page of the wizard, you'll be asked if you would like to create a new MST file or modify an existing file. Since this is a new installation, select Create A New MST File.

When you click Next after choosing the type of file to use, the progress bar will open the MSI file and read its contents for use by the wizard. On the next page of the wizard, you can specify the output path for your MST file.

I would recommend placing the MST file in the same share as the Microsoft Office suite just to keep them together. As Figure A shows, our test MST file is designated for the accounting installations of Office.

Figure A

Path to the MST file created by the wizard

After you click Next, you'll specify the destination path where the application will be installed. The default is the standard C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office. You should leave the default unless you'll be keeping old versions of Office on the destination computers. You can also specify the name of your organization on this screen, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Destination path and organization name

You'll then see the Remove Previous Versions screen shown in Figure C. If you are sure you want to remove all previous installations of Office and replace them with the new Office 2003 system, choose the Remove The Following Versions option to remove the following versions of Office.

Figure C

How to treat existing Office installations

After making this selection, you can choose not to remove certain versions of an application by double-clicking its name in the list or highlighting the name of the application and selecting the Details button. When you do, you'll see the screen shown in Figure D, allowing you to choose which versions to remove during this installation. To keep one of the versions, uncheck its checkbox.

Figure D

Choose which versions to keep

The next screen, Set Feature Installation Status, will ask you how you want the destination PC to run Microsoft Office. This is just like the interactive installation of Office, and works exactly the same way. Most installations will select to run Microsoft Office from My Computer. You can make the custom installation work the same way by clicking the drop-down list next to Microsoft Office and selecting Run All From My Computer.

If you select Disable Run From Network, the option to run this software across the network will not be available when the product is installed. Disabling Installed On First Use will disallow the application to be installed when a document is opened for the first time. The Do Not Migrate Previous Installation State checkbox forces the installation of Office to use the properties and values set within this transform and only in this transform.

This screen will also show you the approximate size of this installation on disk. This can be useful if you know that there are some disk space requirements that you must meet. If so, you can remove unnecessary applications to bring the installation size within those requirements.

You'll then see the Configure Local Source screen. Here, you are presented with the option to pre-populate the product key and accept the license agreement for a locally cached installation source. Filling out this information now will prevent you from having to visit each workstation to enter the key.

After you enter the product key, the wizard allows you to configure user profile settings. Group policy controls will override these settings, so if you do not have a specific reason to pre-populate the user variables in an Office installation, it is best to leave the default Do Not Customize option checked and go on. On the screen you'll also be able to tell the wizard to migrate user settings; in an upgrade scenario this solution works very well and will bring in existing user values for Office 2003.

On the Change Office User Settings screen that appears next, you'll be able to customize user settings within Office. These work much like changing system or group policy values in Windows.

Some useful settings include Outlook's AutoArchive settings. You can specify the AutoArchive interval and save location during the installation so that users' e-mail messages get archived regularly. You can also enter customizable error messages within Office applications and set options such as AutoSave. These are best reviewed when the transform file is being created. The overview screen shot is provided in Figure E, but I have not gone into overwhelming detail on each of the available settings because they are quite self-explanatory.

Figure E

Configure individual application settings for each installation here.

In the next step of the wizard, you'll be asked to add any external files to the installation of Office. These would be any files not normally installed with Office that you wish to add to a user's computer. If there were documents you wished to be placed on the user's system that might be used by Office but not included in a standard installation, you could add them here. For typical installations, you probably won't need to modify this screen.

The Add, Modify Or Remove Shortcuts screen presents the shortcuts that are installed by Office when a standard installation is performed. You can add to or remove from this list as you see fit. As you can see, there are also options to modify and remove shortcuts.

In the next step of the wizard, you are asked about additional servers or installation points for your install. This may come in handy if you have many installations occurring at the same time and the primary install point is busy. You could copy the contents of the Office CD to another network share on a different server and specify that location as an alternate at installation time. If your primary server were to go down during the installation of Office, alternates specified here would keep things running smoothly.

If you wish to configure security settings for your Office installations such as add-ins, digital certificates, or macros, you can do that in the Specify Office Security Settings screen. The default setting is to leave these not configured with no additional digital certificates. If you know that there is a spreadsheet, for example, that these users will need, and that it contains macros, you could take care of the settings here and eliminate questions about any macros in the future.

The next step allows for command lines to be included in the installation of Office. You can install additional programs by adding their command line interface commands to this wizard, automating even more tasks. You can select to run these instructions once only, once for each user, once per machine, or every time the product is installed. You should only do so when there is a need to do so, because this occurs during the Office installation.

Outlook-specific configurations

The Outlook: Customize Default Profile screen that appears next deals with the Outlook profile of the user. At this point, you can do the following with the profile:

  • Use existing profile—Use the profile already configured on the user's computer, or prompt the user to create a profile the first time Outlook is started. Choosing this option disables the remaining Outlook pages in the wizard.
  • Modify Profile—Modify the default profile on the user's computer. If no profile exists, Outlook creates a profile based on the options you choose on the remaining Outlook pages of the wizard; the default profile name is Outlook.
  • New Profile—Create a new profile on the user's computer and make it the default profile; any existing profiles are not removed and remain available to users. You must enter a name in the Profile name box. This name appears in the E-mail Accounts dialog box in Outlook. Outlook creates the profile based on the options you choose on the remaining Outlook pages of the wizard.
  • Apply PRF—Import an Outlook profile file (PRF file) to define a new default profile. Selecting this option disables the remaining Outlook pages of the wizard, but does not update the wizard with the settings in the PRF file. You can use any profile created for Outlook 2003. Enter a name and path for the profile in the Apply The Following Profile (PRF file) box. If you created a PRF file for a previous version of Outlook, you can import it to Outlook 2003, provided that the profile defines only MAPI services.

If Outlook settings are migrated, the wizard skips to the Specify Send/Receive Groups screen because other portions of the wizard are not relevant when migrating Outlook settings.

If you instead chose to modify the existing profile or create a new profile, you'll see the Specify Exchange Settings screen. Here, you'll be able to specify the mailbox name and Exchange server for this installation along with other Exchange settings, like cached Exchange mode. If you are not using Exchange, you should leave the settings on this screen

When you click Next, you'll see the Add Accounts screen. Here you can specify additional profile options for Outlook that will be used on the installed computers. The profiles specified here are POP3, or HTTP profiles that are not stored on your Exchange server.

When you click Next, you'll see the Customize Default Settings screen. Here you can convert a personal address book (PAB) to an Outlook native address book. If you are not planning to migrate from Outlook or do not need to use the PAB in other applications, this could be the time to create an Outlook address book. You can also set the default e-mail type—HTML, RTF, or Text—as well as the default editor—Word or the Outlook editor.

You'll then see the Specify Send/Receive Group Settings screen. Selections on this screen allow you to further configure the Outlook settings applied when Office is installed. Options you can configure include:

  • The send and receive interval for mailboxes.
  • Which configured accounts to include in send and receive operations.
  • The behavior of Outlook when Outlook is online and offline.

Settings on this screen apply only when Outlook is used with Exchange.

You'll then see the Variables screen. Here, you can modify any setup variables that the wizard suggests you use. You would enter the name of the variable and its value to add new variables. Variables listed here apply only to the installation of Office 2003.

Finally, the Completed screen appears. Here, you'll be asked to save your transform file (MST) and the path will be displayed. Clicking Finish will write all the information collected by the wizard to an MST file and then show you the use of your new file.

Ready to go

After the wizard is finished, you're ready to start deploying the transform file. You can deploy the customized version of the MSI file, just like you can any other MSI application. For more information about deploying applications, see the article "Configure IT Quick: Create and manage group policies for software distribution".

By Derek Schauland

Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.