Using Group policy to Deploy Outlook 2007

If you decide to use Outlook as the client for your Exchange deployment, than one of the biggest administrative tasks associated with the deployment is going to be deploying Outlook.  Although there are a number of system management utilities that can be used to distribute software, it is possible to deploy Outlook by making some minor modifications to your group policy objects.  In this article, I’ll show you how.

Before I Begin

Before I get started, I need to point out that in order to deploy an application through a group policy object, the applications Setup program must be in MSI format.  When I was researching this article, I checked my Office installation media, and found that there was indeed an MSI file for Outlook.  This file was contained within the disk’s ‘Ultimate2007’Outlook.en-us folder.  If you are using a different version of Microsoft Office, this file may be in a different location though, or may have a different name.

Group Policy Based Deployment

Now that you have located your MSI file, open the Group Policy Object Editor and then load the policy that you want to use for deploying Outlook.  Now, navigate through the console tree to Computer Configuration | Software Settings | Software Installation.  Right-click on the Software Installation container, and choose the New | Package commands from the resulting shortcut menu.  When you do, the console will ask you to select the MSI package that you want to deploy. Select be MSI package that you want to deploy, and click OK.  At this point, you will see a screen similar to the one that’s shown in Figure A.


Figure A

The Group Policy Object Editor will ask you if you want to publish or assign the MSI package.

If you look at the figure, you’ll notice that the Deploy Software dialog box asks you if you want to publish or assign the application.  You will also notice that the option to publish the application is currently grayed out.  The reason for this is that we are working with the Computer Configuration settings.  Publishing an application is a user configuration specific setting.

When you choose to publish an application, Windows adds the application to the Add/Remove Programs Group within the Windows Control Panel.  This allows users to initiate the installation process themselves by choosing the application from the Add Remove Programs applet.  If you decide that you want to publish an application, you can do so by navigating through the Group Policy Object Editor console tree to User Configuration | Software Settings | Software installation.  When you right click on the Software Installation container and choose the New | Package command, the option to publish an application will be available to you.

Assigning an application works a little bit differently.  You can assign an application to either a computer or to a user, or both.  This means that the option to assign an application is available whether you go in through the Computer Configuration container or through the User Configuration container.

When you assign an application to a computer the Outlook installation package is applied to the workstation when the user logs on.  This means that Outlook will be accessible to any user that logs onto the computer.

If you assign an application to a user, then the Group Policy places an option for the application onto the user’s start menu.  This menu option is stored as a part of the user’s profile.  The application isn’t actually installed onto the computer until the first time that the user attempts to run it.

In Conclusion

Regardless of which method you choose to use to deploy Outlook, you were going to save yourself a lot of work over performing a manual deployment.  The nice thing about Outlook 2007 is that it is designed to be self configuring.  This means that you should be able to deploy Outlook via a group policy setting, and then be done with the deployment process.  Outlook 2007 will configure itself to work with your Exchange 2007 server the first time that a user attempts to use it.

*Note: For Outlook PST repair, consult our latest article on repairing corrupt pst or ost files.