Self-Service Updates for Active Directory and the Global Address List

Posted on January 8, 2009 by Daniel Petri in Active Directory with 0 Comments

Directory Update – Update your Active Directory and Global Address List (GAL) information

One of the most annoying daily tasks that help desk personnel and user account administrators face each day is keeping their user’s information updated in the Active Directory. The time involved in making just a few changes a week for a small organization will quickly add up to a lot of time spent each year just to make sure basic information in the Active Directory is current.

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Keeping Active Directory information correct and current is important for organizations that use Microsoft Exchange Server for a couple of reasons. The first and most important is for organizations that use their Active Directory as a corporate white pages service. Users depend on the Global Address List (GAL) to retrieve information (telephone numbers, fax numbers, department, title, address, etc…) about their co-workers.  Users can now easily retrieve the Global Address List from not only all versions of Outlook, but Outlook Web Access and Windows Mobile devices. User frustration and support calls results when the information they require is no valid.

The second reason that up-to-date information in the Active Directory is essential is that Exchange address lists (which allow the directory to be sorted or viewed by a certain criteria) use information such as Department, City, Office, State, Country, Title, etc…  when generating the address list.  If this information is incorrect or even has typographical errors, then the address list is incorrect or incomplete.

In order to improve the accuracy and timeliness of their Active Directory and Exchange Global Address List information, many organizations are turning to self-service directory tools such as ITCS Hawaii’s Directory Update, developed by Microsoft MVP Jim McBee and his company. Directory Update allows you to easily keep track of your AD updates. Directory Update is a easy to use web-based application that allows a user to update or edit their own information in the Active Directory. The administrator controls the attribute labels, which attributes are visible, and which attributes are editable. Important data can be configured such that the user can only select information from a drop-down list or the drop-down list fields can be switched to text box fields.

Directory Update does require some customization in order to make it work with your organization, though. All customization of the interface and drop-down lists is performed through the application’s XML file.  The XML file comes pre-formatted with some sample data. While this file can be edited in any text editor such as Notepad, using an editor that can interpret XML will make it a bit easier to keep your open and close tags set correctly.



[XML File Screen Capture]

Once the application is installed, the user connects to the server’s /directoryupdate virtual directory and is challenged for their credentials. When the user logons on, they are presented with the User Information form.  The default form contains the most commonly used attributes. These attributes include:

  • Office
  • Department
  • Company
  • Department
  • Office Phone
  • Fax Phone
  • Cell Phone
  • Home Phone
  • IP Phone
  • Street Address
  • City
  • State / Province
  • Zip / Postal Code
  • Post Office Box
  • Country

[Default User Information form:  Fields that are visible on a default installation]

Some of the more important fields (such as City, Department, and State) default to drop-down lists, but these can be changed. The attribute labels can also be changed. Additional fields are not visible by default, but can be unhidden. The additional fields include:

  • Employee ID
  • Employee Type
  • Employee Number
  • Custom Attributes 1 through 10

The interface can be customized to suite the needs of a particular user community. Even the logo, screen colors, and title bar information can be customized using either the APPSETTINGS.XML file or the application’s style sheet.

[Customized User Information form: Adding some additional fields that are not visible by default and hiding a few unnecessary attributes.]

The application is easy to install and for a small to medium sized organization can be customized in just a few minutes. The requirements are as follows:

  • Windows 2003 and Internet Information Server 6.0
  • Microsoft .NET Framework v2.0
  • ASP.NET Component enabled under Application Server
  • A service account for the application to use

This application was designed to replace less friendly and flexible applications such as Microsoft’s GALMOD (MS KB 272198). An evaluation version and more information is available via the company’s web site at


Directory Update

How to use the GAL Modify tool – 272198