Many years ago, I used to work in the help desk for a large company. At that time, group policies simply did not exist, and there was no way of locking down Windows or a user’s applications. What I found is that many times the problems that users reported with their systems were directly to changes that the users made to various settings. Of course the users rarely owned up to these unauthorized modifications, so the help desk staff had to waste a lot of time looking for the cause of the problem.
I have never liked the idea of taking the “Network Nazi” approach to network administration, but at the same time, there is no denying that ensuring that all of your workstations are configured in a consistent manner, and that the users are not able to alter that configuration drives down support costs. That being the case, I wanted to show you a technique for configuring Outlook 2007 at the group policy level.
The Administrative Templates
By default, the group policy does not contain any Outlook 2007 specific settings that you can use to lock down Outlook’s configuration settings. Microsoft does however offer a set of administrative templates for Office 2007 (of which Outlook is a part) that you can download for free from Microsoft’s site. You can then use these administrative templates to add Outlook specific settings to the group policy.
Applying the Outlook Specific Settings
The Office 2007 administrative templates are bundled into a 10 MB, self extracting executable file named AdminTemplates.EXE. You must download this file to an empty folder, and then double click on it to extract its contents.
Once you have extracted the Office 2007 administrative templates, the procedure for using them varies depending on what version of Windows is being used, and on what level of the group policy hierarchy the administrative templates are being applied to.
Since I don’t have enough space to talk about every version of Windows in existence and every possible group policy configuration, I want to demonstrate the procedure for integrating the Outlook 2007 specific administrative template into a Windows Server 2003 group policy at the domain level of the group policy hierarchy.
Begin the task by opening the Active Directory Users and Computers console. When the console opens, right click on the listing for the domain that the Outlook 2007 related group policy settings will be applied to, and then choose the Properties command from the resulting shortcut menu. When you do, Windows will display the properties sheet for the domain.
At this point, you must select the Group Policy tab. Windows should list the Default Domain Policy, but will also list any other group policy objects that have been applied. Select the Group policy object that you want to import the Outlook 2007 related settings into, and then click the Edit button. Windows will now open the Group Policy Object Editor.
You must now make a decision as to whether you want to apply the Outlook related settings at the Computer level, or at the User level of the group policy. In either case, you must right click on the Administrative Templates container located beneath of either Computer Configuration or User Configuration, and select the Add / Remove Templates command from the shortcut menu.
You should now see a dialog box that lists the templates that are presently associated with the group policy object. Click the Add button, and then navigate to the folder where you extracted the administrative template files. The Outlook related template is located in the ‘ADM’EN-US subfolders, and is named OUTLK12.adm. Select the administrative template file, and click Open. The template should now be added to the list of current policy templates, as shown in Figure A.
Figure A The Outlk12 template should be added to the list of administrative templates.
Click OK, and the Outlook 2007 administrative template is ready to use. You can find the Outlook 2007 specific settings under User Configuration (or Computer Configuration) | Administrative Templates | Microsoft Office Outlook 2007. One thing that you need to know about this administrative template is that it only applies to Outlook 2007. If you still have users who are using Outlook 2003, then you will have to use a separate administrative template for them, as shown in Figure B.
Figure B There are separate templates for Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007.
As you can see, using a uniform configuration can decrease the support cost for an application. Fortunately, Microsoft provides templates for Microsoft Office 2007 applications that allow you to maintain their configuration through group policy settings.
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