The Outlook 98 Deployment Kit lets you install customized versions of Outlook and Internet Explorer across your networks without users doing much at all.

Extend Your Enterprise Reach with the ODK

The Outlook 98 Deployment Kit lets you install customized versions of Outlook and Internet Explorer across your networks without users doing much at all.

Imagine you’re one of only two network administrator/customer support professionals for a group of 200 users. You have Exchange Server 5.5 installed and working flawlessly. The majority of your users are happily working away on Windows 95, all on the current Exchange client. Internet e-mail flows out of the SMTP gateway just fine.

But Microsoft insists on continuing its product development and refinement, so you’re now faced with the Outlook 98 client program. You install it on your PC for testing—but suddenly, much sooner that you’d like, it’s time to install it on your users’ computers. Management, who keeps up on this stuff, can see all kinds of uses for Outlook 98: shared calendaring, Web forms, journaling, and contacts, among others. Your boss tells you that she wants you to upgrade all 200 desktops to Outlook 98 right away. If there are any users currently using Schedule+, she wants them to start using Outlook’s calendar. She doesn’t want Active Desktop turned on at any of the computers. And, oh, while you’re at it, she says, upgrade the clients from Internet Explorer 3 to IE 4 as well. Then point them all to the intranet home page instead of the Internet. Furthermore, there are a few people who don’t have IE 3 now, and she doesn’t want them to have IE 4 either.

Your Mission, Jim…

A daunting task! There are a gazillion things you can control with an Outlook 98 installation: Where are my personal folders? Should I allow a font change for replies to e-mail? Should I change the cursor or put up a notification box when users get mail? And so on. If that’s not bad enough, IE 4 is perhaps an even larger product, requiring thought and input on a variety of esoteric topics such as proxy server addresses and certificate and ratings settings.

It’s going to take you several months to visit each and every client and set up these two programs. By then Microsoft will have shipped Outlook 2000 (if it hasn’t already!), and you’ll have to start all over again. Not to mention that while you’re out tearing around the countryside installing Outlook 98, other users with legitimate customer support problems are going begging.

Outlook vs. Outlook Express
In messing around with the ODK, we found a file that you can bundle with your installation as “other components.” (“Other Components” shows up early on in the ODK process, so watch out for it.) This file turns off installation of the Outlook Express icon on the desktop, an icon that’s confusing for users. Users see both the Outlook Express icon and the Outlook icon and aren’t sure which e-mail program to use. For some reason I’ve found that users tend to gravitate to Outlook Express when given a choice of the two and no advice.

Administrators have the ability to include this “turn off the icon” file in their installation program so that the suppression of the Outlook Express icon occurs. It works quite well. The file’s name is OL98QFE2.EXE and at last check was available from http://support.microsoft.com/support/downloads/LNP499.asp. You may also be able to find it on TechNet.

Even if you suppress the showing of the Outlook Express or IE4 icons on a user’s desktop, they’re still available in directories on the user’s computer. Super-users can surf and find them anyway.

Bill Heldman

The Cavalry Arrives!

But wait—what’s this? Among the Exchange 5.5 installation CDs, you find one with a novel name: Outlook 98 Deployment Kit, or ODK for short. (Note: The ODK is also referred to as the Outlook 98 Deployment Wizard. The two terms are basically interchangeable.) You pop it in the CD player on your computer; after perusing the help files and readmes you realize you’ve discovered the Rosetta stone for the project you need to accomplish.

The ODK, once installed on your computer, will allow you to set up the Outlook 98 and IE 4 installation files with the requirements you’ve been given. The ODK will copy the installation files to a network drive (or local drive) of your choice. Once it’s there, you can choose to either share out the directory and allow users to install from what they’ll see as a “CD,” or send out an SMS package that includes all of the necessary installation files. Furthermore, you can set it up so that the job runs silently, not bothering to ask the user anything. You can even customize your installation in a variety of ways, including putting a customized title bar on the IE 4 browser window.

When you install the ODK on your computer, you’ll find that the help screens are in the new HTML format. They don’t have much detailed information; most of the help information seems conceptual. But as you move through the five basic ODK sections, you’ll discover that the coders at Microsoft have done a wonderful job in preparing this little software tool. All you have to do is answer questions!

There are five sections to the ODK:

  • Gathering information. This requires your company’s name, the CD key number (from the ODK jewel case), and the folder where you want to place the files.
  • Specifying active setup parameters, including available components, custom components, and trusted publishers.
  • Customizing active setup. You make setup decisions for the package, including the location of Outlook 98 on the user’s machine, and silent install.
  • Customizing Outlook 98 setup options and Internet Explorer settings.
  • Customizing user settings, including restrictions and server addresses.

You can get as carried away with setting up the package as you’d like, up to and including setting up customized URLs, software channels, certificates, and other associated goodies. You can use the Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK) to accomplish some of this work. (Note: The IEAK is designed for the tight tweaking and administration of Internet Explorer to desktops. The ODK allows for some IEAK-like adjustments, but not with the granularity that the IEAK supplies.) [For more information about the IEAK see, “The IEAK Explained,” by Chris Brooke in the April 1998 issue.—Ed.] Be forewarned that you’ll need a Verisign ID or equivalent for any digital signing that you do when including customized work with IEAK. Although the ODK tries to persuade you that a Verisign ID is required with customized files, it’s not.

Question after Question

As you move through the myriad of screens, you’ll answer dozens of questions about the setup. The ODK keeps track of version numbers and allows you to assign a meaningful name (called the “Configuration Identifier”) to each version, so you can figure out how many times you’ve been through the program. The default is 1.0.0.0 and the configuration identifier is empty. As you update the program (trust me, you’ll update the program) the version will increment to 1.0.0.1, 1.0.0.2, and so on. In the configuration identifier you can enter a meaningful string like “Turn off journaling” to use as a descriptor for why you performed this compilation. Figure 1 shows this very cool version information box—sort of a poor person’s SourceSafe.

Figure 1. The ODK Version Information dialog lets you track which customization you’re working on.

You’re prompted for the language you want to install, the default being English. You’ll find other languages on the CD, along with instructions for installing them. You’re asked whether you want the user to have Active Desktop enabled, what directory Outlook 98 should be installed in, whether to enable channels and, if so, what channels.

One of the more useful features is the ability to customize the Links page on IE. For example, you may work in a shop where lots of environmental concerns need to be looked at. You can opt to customize the Links page by deleting the suggested URLs and including URLs that point to the Environmental Protection Agency or other Web sites that are important to your business.

You can also opt for a silent installation. Additionally, you can choose not to install IE. What this actually means is that some IE 4 components will be installed, but the icons won’t show up. In fact, upon rebooting and logging into Windows 95, users will temporarily see the IE 4 banner.

In installing IE 4, you can also choose not to display the IE 4 welcome page (that annoying little URL that sends you out to Microsoft so you can register your software), and you can include customized URLs pointing to your favorite search site and establishing the home page. (Careful here. We were trying to point the home page to our intranet main page and found that for lack of a missing forward slash IE 4 erred upon launching. If, for example, you want to point to http://myserver/intranet/mainpage.htm, you should probably make the URL read http://myserver/intranet/mainpage.htm/ instead.) One of the things you’ll notice while running the ODK is that it looks at the computer you’re currently using to compile the program as its source of Outlook 98 add-on components. Figure 2 shows what the screen looks like after the program has queried your hard drive for components. These are going to be offered to your users; this means that if you’re going to offer a content-rich installation, you’ll have to have a complete installation of Outlook 98 and IE4 on your computer in order to finish the process.

Figure 2. The ODK uses Outlook 98 components installed on the local hard drive.

You’ll get the chance to configure the three installation options—minimal, standard, and full—using the components found on your computer. But if you’re using SMS to send out the package, you’ll have only one installation type to pick from—the type that you select as you move through the screens. In other words, when you get to the installation type, if you select Minimal and then click Next, the program assumes a minimal installation and bundles with it all the components you’ve designated to be included as a part of the Minimal installation.

On the other hand, if you choose to allow users to install the product as though from a CD share, they’ll have all three choices and commensurate goodies that you’ve chosen to allow to be installed with each installation type. For example, if you choose to remove the VDOLive Player component from the Standard installation and the user installs from a network share point and selects Standard as the installation type, that user won’t get VDOLive Player installed. The bottom line: You’re controlling virtually every installation choice and component when you run the ODK.

You’ll get a sense, as you run through the ODK, of the tight integration that Microsoft has built into Outlook 98 and IE 4.

Ten Tips to Installation
After going through plenty of deployments using the Outlook 98 Deployment Kit, I have 10 pieces of advice for you.
  1. First and foremost, test, test, test! Even the program, when finished compiling, advises you to “test thoroughly.” You’ll find that even after testing, when you think the thing is airtight, you’ll have some hiccups that you need to correct. If you’re using SMS to send the package out, send it to a small test machine group at first. Then, when you think you’ve got the holes filled, send it to a small machine group of production users, and continue on from there. Don’t just haul off and send it out to all users at once. Time your deployment! Remember that things you left untouched wind up being not included or not turned on during the user installation.
  2. Also realize that the IE 4 icons are out there even in a “don’t include IE 4” installation (though they’re not visible on the desktop). Thus, a power user could easily set things up to surf the net.
  3. If you lock the user’s computer down too tightly (definitely within the realm of possibilities), remember that you won’t be able to do anything with that user’s computer without some registry hacking. It’s better to leave the door open a little bit. For example, it’s possible, within the user customization settings screens, to turn off the ability to launch Control Panel. Then, when the user calls you for help, you can’t access Control Panel to see what’s going on! It doesn’t take too many of those Catch-22s to make you pay attention to the ODK process.
  4. How do you handle some clients getting IE 4 and others not? Make two passes through the ODK and have the installation files copied to two different directories. On the non-IE screen you’ll see a checkbox allowing you to turn off installation of IE 4. Don’t choose to change any IE 4 settings. Also, in the user customization settings screens you’ll find a checkbox to block any IE icons. Check it.
  5. Don’t discount the channels option too early. It’s possible for you to set up software to download channels later on, as well as to create push channels for your intranet using FrontPage 98. If you disable channels and decide to use them later, guess who’ll be sorry?
  6. Users who have been using the Exchange client and IE 3 won’t see a change to their Exchange profile, even though you point to a different profile name in the ODK. Also, they won’t see the IE 4 icon on their desktop even though IE 4 starts when they launch the program.
  7. We couldn’t figure out a way to automate importing a user’s old Schedule+ calendar into the new Outlook calendar and ended up doing a manual process for each user who needed it. There may be a method out there, but we aren’t aware of it. Users who followed our instructions when importing their Schedule+ files became confused when they were prompted as to whether they wanted their old Schedule+ files deleted from the server or not—even though we told them it was OK in the instructions. It turns out that a lot of the users didn’t read the instructions. Go figure. Users also got confused at the prompt asking them if they wanted Outlook to be their default contacts and tasks manager.
  8. We also couldn’t figure out a way to turn off the help avatars (Einstein, kitty cat, etc.), nor could we get Outlook 98’s two annoying advertisement e-mail messages to stop posting in the users’ inboxes upon initial startup. Also, it appeared to us that there was no way to turn on the advanced menu bar and hence display the folders pane (though you may find an answer to this in your experimenting). All of these may translate into your having to create an instruction sheet or visit the client so you can tweak configuration.
  9. You may remember that the IE 4 installation, upon reboot, takes up another five to 10 minutes of your time while it prepares your computer’s settings for the first time. This is obvious to users (the system is blocked from other use) but it needs to be pointed out to them ahead of time.
  10. Finally, and most important, communicate with your users! If you put yourself in the position of the average user, you’ll find that most have a certain set of functions they’ve learned how to do within any software product, and that’s about as far as they want to go. Maybe they’ve just gotten comfortable with the Exchange client, and now you’re going to throw the Outlook 98 client at them—a client with far more windows and features to confuse them. You’ll have to figure out some way to communicate that, even though the product looks and acts a little differently, its functions are mostly the same. An intranet is a perfect way to accomplish this because you can point your IE 4 installation to an intranet page and then use training pages (possibly even NetShow) to get users up to speed.

Bill Heldman

Deciding for Your Users

After answering the basic setup questions, you get down to the nitty-gritty of user customization screens. Here’s where you can drill into the fine details of what you allow your users to do. You can, for example, turn off the Channel UI on IE 4 so that even if your users wanted to, they couldn’t subscribe to Disney’s Web channel. You can disable just about anything in either Outlook 98 or IE 4.

In fact, if you don’t touch an item, that item isn’t selected for the user. When we were configuring the user screens for our deployment, we found out the hard way that Outlook 98 journaling was turned off! Why? Because we hadn’t made any decisions about journaling, we left the boxes blank. The HKEY_Users\Default\Software\Microsoft\SharedTools\Outlook\Journaling keys thus weren’t populated. This translated into a problem when a user tried to create a journal entry via a contact in Outlook 98 and generated an insufficient memory or resources error.

The moral of the story is to look at each item that you think your users will have interaction with and then make a decision about that item. If you’re never going to use NetMeeting to set up virtual conferencing, then leave the NetMeeting and LDAP settings untouched. But if you think that at some point you may get into group collaboration, make some preemptory decisions now about the settings.

The user customization screen looks very similar to the tree style that Microsoft has gone with in other programs of late. You select a category, click the plus sign to see the objects within that category, then click the object you want to edit and change its settings accordingly. The dual-paned window shows the object tree on the left and the object settings screens on the right. Figure 3 shows a sample of the Outlook 98 and IE 4 user customization settings screens.

Figure 3. Outlook 98 and IE 4 user customization settings screens.

Once you’ve designated user customization settings, you come to one final screen where you’re allowed to pass in any customized registry settings. Then the program compiles and prepares the directories and cabinet files necessary for a client installation point. Compilation is about a five-minute process, so be patient.

Distribution Channels

The ODK was designed for use with SMS or to be used as a CD sharepoint for users. If you’re going the CD-as-network-component route, all of the necessary installation files are set up in a directory called CD, with Setup.exe as your starting point. However, users who run Setup.exe will be privy to the full bevy of messages that come from installing the program.

If you’re running SMS, you’d logically want to use the Package/Job methodology to send the files to users. One caution here: The silent installation option is so good that users don’t know when the thing is done running and they’re ready for reboot. We’ve had a variety of client experiences where some users followed our instructions and watched the computer, listening and looking for hard drive activity to make sure the job was done, only to reboot mid-job and require a reinstallation. Others allowed the job to run to completion but then tried to run the Outlook program (the icons show up on the desktop but, of course, the registry hasn’t been re-read) only to find mysterious DLL errors.

You’ll probably want to come up with some method to alert users that the package has finished running. We toyed with the idea of running the whole thing through the SMS Installer program after it had been compiled so that we could attach a finished message. (We tried a batch file that called the program and then put up an “I’m done” statement, but it worked only marginally well.) Since we were working with users who’d never used Package Command Manager (PCM) before, we opted to simply visit different groups of users at a sitting and watch the program execute with them.

Figure 4 shows what the directory tree looks like. Note that the directory structure is CD\EN\PACKAGES and that SETUP.EXE is run from within this directory if using SMS. If you’re setting up a CD share, you’ll want to share out the CD directory and instruct users on how to map to it and install the files (or set up another SMS package and job for this installation type).

Figure 4. The final directory tree.

I Did It Myyyyyy Way…

Now that you know the ODK is out there, I hope you’ll try it. It’s a solid, reliable tool for creating trouble-free Outlook 98 and IE 4 installation packages. There are some gotchas to watch out for, yes. And we’re not saying that all of your users will sail through the process (of our 200 users, we had about a two percent problem ratio), though you’ll be surprised at how well the ODK works and how smoothly it installs. In short, the ODK gives you a tool to automate and deploy two very large and complicated applications without having to stay up nights worrying about how you’re going to get it done.

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