Managing Outlook 2007 through Group Policies (Part 1)

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

Introduction

In this article series we are going to use Group Policies to help exchange administrators to manage some Outlook 2007 features. There are a lot of questions about Outlook 2007 configuration in Microsoft Technet forums, and most of those questions can be addressed through Group Policy. I can not remember all of them, but here are some topics that we will cover in this article that may be useful in your environment: outlook automatic configuration, outlook attachments, PST, calendar and how to allow/deny configuration of POP3/IMAP4 accounts.

Deploying Office 2007 System Administrative Template files…

First things first, let us download the Office 2007 System Administrative Template files from Microsoft Download Center. Double click on the downloaded file and a license agreement page will be displayed, read the agreement and if you are okay with that, click on Accept the terms and click on Continue. The process will create three folders and an xls file in the folder specified during the extract process, as shown in the Figure 1.


Figure 1

The file Office2007GroupPolicyAndOCTSettings.xls has three worksheets, the first one basicly says which are the files responsible for each Office program, in our case we are going to use Outlook12.* files. The second worksheet has all ADM settings that can be configured in this template file and the last worksheet has all configurations that can be used by Office Customization Tool. In our article we are going to use just the second worksheet of that file where we can find in detail all registry keys, possible values, explanation, default settings and possible settings that we can use for each item.

Now that we know how to use the excel file which comes with the Office 2007 Administrative templates, we can move forward and add those template files in our current environment. A good practice when playing with group policies is to create a test Organization Unit and move some test users and/or computers to that test OU, create a Group Policy and link to that test OU, and then validate the results on the objects. Finally, document the entire process and create a strategy to roll back the situation if required and then you will be good to use the new Outlook Policies in a production environment.

The procedures to add the templates may vary depending on your environment. We extracted two different formats (ADM or ADMX) where ADM files are used by Windows Server 2003 and previous versions and ADMX is the new format adopted by Windows Server 2008 and future versions. In the next section we are going over the process to add this template pack on both scenarios.

Windows Server 2008

In Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 operating systems, the ADM files are replaced by ADMX files, which use an XML-based file format to display registry-based policy settings. The new format is not stored in each GPO, and we can use a central store location for the templates and these store locations will be replicated among all Domain Controllers of the domain.

If you have not set up the central store location we can start from this point, following these steps:

  1. Log on as administrator on a domain controller

  2. Click on Start, Run and type in \\<Domain-Controller-Name> and click on OK

  3. Double click on SYSVOL

  4. Double click on <Your Domain FQDN>

  5. Click on Policies

  6. Click on File, New and Folder

  7. Type in PolicyDefinitions (Figure 2)


Figure 2

  1. Open the new PolicyDefinitions folder

  2. Create a folder for each language supported by your organization using the format En-US.

Note:
The following document can help you to validate your correct locate identifier.

Okay, we already have a Central Location configured. Let us populate our central location using the Outlook 2007 templates that we extracted at the beginning of this article. Basically we need to move the admx extensions to the root of PolicyDefinitions folder and adml extensions to the folder with your language locale, as shown in Figures 3 and 4.


Figure 3


Figure 4

Because we are using Windows Server 2008, let us click on Start, All Programs, Administrative Tools and click on Group Policy Management Editor. Select the OU created for this test and right-click on it and click New GPO, and fill out the new GPO Name and click on OK. Right click on the GPO that was just created and click on Edit.

Expand User Configuration, expand Policies, and expand Administrative Templates: Policy definitions (ADMX files) retrieved from the central store, expand Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, and we will see all components that can be configured through this policy, as shown in Figure 5.


Figure 5

Windows Server 2003

The process to add a template on a Windows 2003 Group Policy is pretty straight forward. We can edit a Group Policy directly from object properties and then Group Policy tab or using Group Policy Management Console that can be downloaded from Microsoft downloads.

Both methods are valid, as soon as we have the Group Policy opened, let us expand User Configuration, right-click on Administrative Templates, click Add/Remove Templates…, in the new window click on Add.., and locate the file outlk12.adm from the extracted files of the Office 2007 Administrative Template package, the result is going to be similar to the Figure 6.


Figure 6

The result will be all Group Policies related to Outlook 2007 will be listed and we can start playing with them.

Conclusion

In this first article we saw how to add Outlook 2007 templates on both operating system (Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008) using ADM or ADMX formats. In the next article we are going to play with existent Templates to block PST, attachment filtering, and how to block users to add POP3/IMAP4 account profiles in Outlook.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

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