The Microsoft® Outlook® profile file (PRF file) allows you to quickly create MAPI profiles for Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 users. The PRF file is a text file with syntax that Microsoft Outlook uses to generate a profile. By using a PRF file, you can set up new profiles for users or modify existing profiles without affecting other aspects of your Outlook (or Microsoft Office) installation. You can also manually edit a PRF file to customize Outlook to include Outlook settings or MAPI services that are not included in the Custom Installation Wizard user interface.
PRF file features in Outlook 2003
As in earlier versions of Outlook, you can continue to use the PRF file to provide options for specifying additional Outlook settings or MAPI services, as well as verification for account settings.
The Outlook 2003 PRF file format is the same as the Outlook 2002 PRF file format. This file format combines the features included in two previous PRF file formats (used with Outlook 2000 and earlier). One format was designed for the Outlook tool Newprof.exe. The second format worked with the Modprof.exe tool for Outlook 2000.
Note The Outlook tools Newprof.exe and Modprof.exe are no longer required. The tools will not work with Outlook 2003 or Outlook 2002. You can use the Custom Installation Wizard to quickly modify profile settings and create a new PRF file that includes those settings.
Outlook 2003 continues to provide the following PRF file processing:
- Outlook 2003 PRF files are executable, so you can update profiles by double-clicking the file name to run the file directly.
- When Outlook processes the PRF file, Outlook verifies that services that should be unique are not added more than once, and that services that cannot be duplicated have unique account names.
Most MAPI services and accounts can be added only once to a profile. The exceptions to this rule include mail server and directory service providers for POP, IMAP, PST (personal store folder), and LDAP.
Using Outlook 98 and Outlook 2000 PRF files
You may already have a PRF file from an earlier version of Outlook (before Outlook 2002) that you want to update and use with Outlook 2003. If you have a PRF file from Outlook 98 or Outlook 2000 that includes Corporate or Workgroup settings only, you can specify the file in the Custom Installation Wizard, and the Outlook profile settings will be included in your transform.
If your earlier PRF file specifies Internet Only settings, create a new PRF file using the Custom Installation Wizard, and then export the settings to a PRF file. The new PRF file can now be used to configure profile settings in your transform, or used to customize Outlook profiles through other methods (such as starting the file directly on a user's computer).
Creating and updating PRF files
To create an Outlook 2003 PRF file, you can configure profile settings in the Custom Installation Wizard, and then export the settings to a PRF file. This process creates a new Outlook 2003 PRF file with your specifications.
You can also specify profile settings by editing an existing PRF file manually using a text editor. This existing PRF file might be one that you created by using the Custom Installation Wizard, or a PRF file from a previous version of Outlook.
Creating PRF files in the Custom Installation Wizard
A straightforward way to create a PRF file with Outlook 2003 profile settings is to customize the settings in the Custom Installation Wizard, and then export the settings to a PRF file.
To create a PRF file in the Custom Installation Wizard
- In the Custom Installation Wizard, on the Outlook: Customize Default User Profile page, select how you want to customize profiles for your users.
To specify settings to be included in a PRF file, choose Modify Profile or New Profile, and then click Next.
- On the next three pages, customize profile information such as configuring Microsoft Exchange server connections and adding accounts.
- On the Outlook: Remove Accounts and Export Settings page, click Export Profile Settings, and then when prompted, enter (or browse to) a file name and location.
Manually editing PRF files
If your organization requires special modifications to Outlook profiles — for example, if you want to add a new service that is not included in the Custom Installation Wizard — you can edit the PRF file. Use a text editor such as Notepad to edit your older PRF file, or a new PRF file created with the Custom Installation Wizard. Make your changes or additions, and then save the file.
The main functional areas in the Outlook 2003 PRF file include:
- A section specifying actions to take, such as creating new profiles, modifying existing profiles, overwriting existing profiles, and so on.
- Sections with organization-specific customizations, including server names, configurations to deploy, and so on.
- Sections that map information specified in earlier parts of the file to registry key settings.
The PRF file includes detailed comments for each section, describing existing settings and options for modifying the file with your updates. The file includes seven sections:
- Section 1: Profile defaults.
- Section 2: A list of MAPI services to be added to the profile.
- Section 3: A list of Internet accounts to be created.
- Section 4: Default values for each service.
- Section 5: Settings values for each Internet account.
- Section 6: Mapping for profile properties.
- Section 7: Mapping for Internet account properties.
To allow each service definition to be customized individually, you can duplicate default variables and values in Section 4 under the separate headings (Service1, Service2, and so on) for each service in the profile. Section 6 also groups variables under each service definition, so, for example, some services can be defined as unique (UniqueService is Yes) while others are not (UniqueService is No).
You typically do not modify existing entries in sections 6 and 7. These sections define mappings for information that is defined elsewhere in the file to registry key settings. However, if you define new services in the PRF file, you must add the appropriate mappings for those services to sections 6 and 7.
The following table lists accounts that are unique, and how Outlook determines if a new account of the same type can be added. Keep this information in mind when you add providers in the PRF file. Outlook verifies that unique services are not added more than once, and that other services do not collide (for example, that all POP accounts have unique names).
||Method for determining collisions when adding new account
||Full path to PST (including file name)
|Outlook Address Book
||Existence of account
|Personal Address Book
||Existence of account
||Existence of provider
By manually editing the PRF file, you can add any MAPI service that is supported by Outlook 2003. Services that should not be added include the following services that were supported in earlier versions of Outlook:
- MS Mail
- Symantec WinFax Lite
- AW Fax
In general, you can also remove services that are listed in the PRF file. However, you cannot remove MS Mail, even though it is included when you generate an Outlook 2003 PRF file. The MS Mail service should have been removed for Outlook 2003 but was inadvertently still included.
Warning When you manually change a text file, you can introduce errors that will cause Outlook to behave incorrectly. For this reason, you should not edit and deploy a manually modified PRF file unless you have no other way to update user profiles. You should use the Custom Installation Wizard or Custom Maintenance Wizard to create and deploy PRF files, if possible.
Applying Outlook user profiles by using a PRF file
You can apply a PRF file in several ways to update Outlook 2003 profiles:
- Import the PRF file in the Custom Installation Wizard or Custom Maintenance Wizard to specify profile settings in a transform, and then include the transform when you deploy or update Outlook.
- Specify the PRF file as a command-line option for Outlook.exe to import a PRF file without prompting the user. For example:
outlook.exe /importprf \\server1\share\outlook.prf
- Specify the PRF file as a command-line option for Outlook.exe but prompt the user before importing the PRF file. For example:
outlook.exe /promptimportprf \\localfolder\outlook.prf
If you put the specified PRF file on a network share, the settings might not be applied if the file is not found or is not available when Outlook runs.
- Launch the PRF file directly on users' computers by having users double-click the file.
- Configure the registry to trigger Outlook to import the PRF file when Outlook starts up. You can use the Add/Remove Registry Entries page in Custom Installation Wizard or the Custom Maintenance Wizard to deploy these registry key options to your users. You can also use the wizards to distribute the PRF file to users by using the Add/Remove Files page.
- Delete the following registry key values:
In the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Outlook\Setup subkey, set the value of ImportPRF to a string value that specifies the name and path of the PRF file. For example, set ImportPRF to \\server1\share\outlook.prf.
For an in-depth example of configuring users' Outlook profiles by using the Outlook PRF file, as well as registry information for updating additional settings, download the whitepaper Configuring Outlook Profiles by Using a PRF File.
For more information about customizing Outlook profiles by using the Custom Installation Wizard, see Customizing Outlook Features and Installation With the Custom Installation Wizard.