Using Group Policy to Deploy Office

The Microsoft® Windows® 2000 or later operating system includes tools that allow administrators to install and maintain software applications based on Group Policy. Using Group Policy software installation features, you can assign or publish Microsoft Office 2003 and Microsoft Office 2003 Multilingual User Interface Packs (MUI Packs) to all the users or computers in a designated group.

For large or complex organizations, Microsoft Systems Management Server offers more sophisticated functionality, including inventory, scheduling, and reporting features. However, using Group Policy to deploy Office 2003 can be a good choice in the following settings:

  • Small- or medium-sized organizations that have already deployed and configured the Active Directory® directory service.
  • Organizations or departments that comprise a single geographic area.
  • Organizations with consistent hardware and software configurations on both clients and servers.

If you are managing large numbers of clients in a complex or rapidly changing environment, consider using Microsoft Systems Management Server to install and maintain Office 2003. For more information, see Using Microsoft Systems Management Server to Deploy Office.

 Note    Group Policy bypasses Office Setup.exe and Setup.ini, so although you can use Group Policy to deploy Office from a compressed CD image, you cannot take advantage of new Setup functionality to create a local installation source on users' computers.

Active Directory and Group Policy

In a Windows–based network, Active Directory provides a framework for centralized administration of users and computers. Active Directory makes it possible to manage all users, computers, and software on the network through administrator-defined policies, known as Group Policy in Windows 2000 or later.

A collection of Group Policy settings is contained in a Group Policy object (GPO), and the GPO is associated with an Active Directory container. The Group Policy object can be applied at any level of the Active Directory hierarchy. You can set policies that apply to an entire site, a domain, or an individual organizational unit.

The deployment and management tools designed for Office 2003 — including the Custom Installation Wizard and Office 2003 policy template files (ADM files) — work with Group Policy software installation. By using all aspects of Group Policy, you can make a unique configuration of Office available to all users or computers in a given GPO, and then rely on Windows to maintain users' software configurations automatically.

Deploying the Office package

There are three ways to install and manage Office 2003 applications by policy:

  • Assign Office to computers
  • Assign Office to users
  • Publish Office to users

Assigning Office to computers

Assigning Office to computers is the simplest way to use Group Policy to manage a package as large and complex as Office 2003. With this method, Office is installed on the computer the next time the computer starts and is available to all users of the computer.

Assigned applications are resilient. If a user removes an Office application from the computer, Windows automatically reinstalls it the next time the computer starts. Users can repair Office applications on the computer, but only an administrator can remove applications.

Assigning Office to users

When you assign Office to users, information about the software is advertised on users' computers in the Windows registry and on the Start menu or Windows desktop the next time the users log on. When a user clicks an Office application shortcut, Windows Installer retrieves the package from the administrative installation point, installs the application on the user's computer, and starts the application. If you choose to activate installation by file extension, clicking an Office item (such as a Microsoft Office Word 2003 document or a Microsoft Office Excel 2003 worksheet) automatically installs the corresponding application in the same way.

After an assigned user installs Office, the applications are not necessarily available to subsequent users of the computer. Instead, each assigned user's Office configuration follows the user from computer to computer.

Applications assigned to users are also resilient. If a user removes an assigned Office application from the computer, Windows automatically restores the registry information and Windows Installer shortcuts the next time the user logs on.

Avoiding installation conflicts

Do not assign Office to both a user and a computer. When assigned to a computer, Office applications are installed locally (based on settings in the transform). When assigned to a user, Office applications are advertised on the computer, but are not installed until the user activates them — one Windows Installer shortcut at a time.

Assigning Office to both users and computers can create conflicts in which Office applications appear to be installed locally but are actually only advertised.

In addition, if you assign Office to both users and computers and also apply different transforms, Windows automatically uninstalls and reinstalls Office every time the computer starts or the user logs on.

Publishing Office to users

When you publish Office to users, no information about the software is present in the registry or on the Start menu. However, users can click Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel and view a list of all software published to them.

If a user selects Office from this list, Add/Remove Programs retrieves information about the Office installation location from Active Directory, and Windows Installer installs the package on the computer and applies any transform that you have associated with the Office package.

If you plan to have users run Office Setup themselves (for example, if your organization routinely makes a variety of software applications available to users from an installation location on the network), consider publishing Office to users. In this case, users in the designated group can install Office from Add/Remove Programs anytime they choose.

Unlike assigned applications, published applications are not automatically reinstalled. If a user removes Office after installing it from Add/Remove Programs, the shortcuts and registry information are not automatically reapplied on the computer. However, the next time the user logs on to the network, Office is republished in Add/Remove Programs.

 Note    You cannot publish Office to a computer.

Applying a transform to the Office package

You control which Office applications and features are available to users by applying a transform (MST file) when you assign or publish the Office package (MSI file). Note that you can apply only one transform to a given installation of the Office 2003 package.

Transforms are applied when Office is assigned or published. You cannot reapply a transform after Office is installed. If you need to modify a managed Office installation, you must remove and then reinstall Office with a new transform.

Toolbox     The Office 2003 Editions Resource Kit (ork.exe) download includes the Custom Installation Wizard and Custom Maintenance Wizard. You can find this downloadable file on the Office 2003 Resource Kit Downloads page. For more information, see Custom Installation Wizard and Custom Maintenance Wizard in the Toolbox.

Related links

For a general introduction to the new management services in Windows 2000 or later, see the documentation on the Windows 2000 Management Services page of the Microsoft Windows 2000 Web site.

For a comparison of application deployment features in Systems Management Server 2.0 and Windows 2000 or later, see Application Deployment Using Microsoft Management Technologies on the Windows 2000 Web site.

The Windows 2000 Technical Library on the World Wide Web contains detailed step-by-step guides for using the new installation tools and technologies, including the following:

This guide includes examples of several Office installation scenarios.

Applies to:
Deployment Center 2003