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Office 2000 and ZENworks: A Dynamic Duo of Distribution

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Tim Crabb

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Posted: 12 Aug 1999

Editor's Note: This has been a very popular article, and Tim continues to receive responses from readers with questions that occur to them as they implement this solution. He has graciously been providing answers to the main questions that are posed, and you'll find them near the end of the article in a special section: Q&A about this article. We've also added some helpful comments from readers of this article in a new section called Helpful Tips from Cool Readers.

Microsoft Office 2000 is now available, and with ZENworks 2 there isn't a better way to distribute it to every desktop at your company. What I want to show you is a way that utilizes the new Windows Installer that comes with Office 2000 to provide a flexible and powerful distribution tool.

To configure Office 2000 to be distributed in this way, you need to follow these four simple steps:

  1. Create an install point
  2. Create a custom install template file
  3. Create an AOT that launches Setup using the template file
  4. Install Office2000

1: Create an install point

In order to distribute Office 2000 you will need to have an install point that will be accessed by ZENworks to install. Be prepared with plenty of disk space. This must be the full install of Office if you want to utilize the install-on-demand features of Office. That means you will need about 500mb of disk space. This is easy to configure as you simply launch setup from the Office 2000 in the following way:

setup.exe /admin.

This will launch setup in a special administrative install mode that allows you to customize the central install point that users will access via ZENworks.

2: Create a Custom Install Template File

This is the step where you as an adminstrator can identify the particular needs of your users and build an install of Office 2000 that suits them exactly, as diverse as they may be. Office 2000 helps you by allowing you to customize multiple install types and sizes. You can offer your users a complete install with all the features and functions; or a lean and mean, bare minimum install; or any combination in between. You can even give them the new install-on-demand install, where they get a lean install to start with, and then add features automatically as they use them. You can even set it up so they access only certain features from the network. And with ZENworks you can hide that complexity from the users and deliver only what they need to their desktop.

This is all done as part of Microsoft's new installation initiative called the Windows Installer. The Windows Installer was developed for Windows to provide an install service which will better manage applications being added to or removed from Windows. Office 2000 is the first application to use this new technology.

Some key components that I will refer to as we talk about customizing Office for ZENworks distribution include MSI files, MST files, OPS files.

  • MSI files are comparable to a database of the available components to be installed, and how to install them. This file is a key component when creating an install point.

  • MST files are called Transform files. These files literally act as a filter for how the application gets installed. It works with the MSI file and controls if a component will get installed and how it is accessed. These provide tremendous flexibility and control for administrators.

  • OPS files are Office Profile Settings files. They provide administrators a way to configure default settings for applications. Details such as where the toolbar is, default settings, and the like are all able to be exported for use in the transform file as OPS files. You can read up on how to do this in the resource kit. Microsoft has done a good job in Office 2000 of giving you the administrator the tools you need to truly manage how Office is installed and maintained.

With these terms in mind, make sure you have the Office 2000 resource kit. This can be ordered from Microsoft or downloaded from here.

Once you have installed the resource kit, you will then see an option for the Custom Install Wizard (CIW). You will find this under the Microsoft Office Tools on the Start Menu. Launch the CIW and you will be guided through a series of selections. These include the location of the install point and the MSI database for your installation, modification of an existing transform file or creation of a new one.

Once you've made your selections, you will finally be able to customize the components of Office. Here you can determine how the features will be installed and accessed by your users, allowing you as the administrator tremendous flexibility in what you deliver to your users. Next you will be asked if you want to use an OPS file for default settings. I would generally recommend the defaults. However you can review the resource kit to see if you would like to utilize this further.

Please note there are other advanced features that you can take advantage of. These include adding additional files, registry entries, shortcuts, install points, and install programs to the Office install, thus providing a single point of change for your users. If you are using Outlook and IE5, these can be installed also as part of Office, and their configurations can also become customized in the CIW. All of this information is then taken and saved in the MST file you identified when CIW was started. This file will hold all of the settings for that session of the CIW.

Transform files are extremely powerful, and there is no limit to the number of transform files you can have for each install point. For example, you could have a custom install for the Sales department that includes Pivot Tables in Excel as a feature that is installed to their hard drive. Meanwhile, the Human Resources department might be given Pivot Tables only to be installed on demand. All these options would be based on the same install point but with different transform files. This allows you as an administrator to look at the organizational needs that you have across your enterprise and provide the tools to the users that they need through ZENworks without creating redundant code bases on servers. You simply use a single install point with multiple transform files.

Once the transform file is updated, CIW will display the setting to launch setup with the transform file you just built. Take note of that command line. It is what is used by ZENworks to launch the proper configuration of Office. It should look something like this:

setup.exe TRANSFORMS=J:\O2K\small.MST /qn+

Gotcha: By default this command line will work fine, however it defaults to a silent install. I would recommend that users see something on their screen while installing, so you may want to change the startup options to /qb+. This will provide basic progress information and error messages to the user. You can see additional install options by simply selecting Help on that screen in the CIW.

3: Creating the AOT

Here is easy part. Now that you have an install point and a transform file, simply create an AOT by

  1. Selecting the container where it will exist, and
  2. Selecting Create a Simple AOT.
This is different from what you may have done with previous versions of Office. Now rather than creating a snAppShot and relying on its settings, vendors (this time Microsoft) - are finally writing smarter, better install routines. In this simple AOT,
  1. Under the identification tab, type the name you would like to call this install.
  2. In the path to the executable, type the path to the setup.exe at the install point.
  3. Select Environment, and in command line parameters enter a SPACE and then copy the startup option from the last page of the CIW.
Your AOT then should look something like this.

Other things you may want to do in the object are

  • Under the distribution tab, mark it distribute always and prompt before distribution. This will provide users with a message prior to install (they'll see whatever you put in the description tab) and also the ability to re-run the install and again receive the message.
  • You may also want to track distributions. I would recommend only doing launches, as this will track the users that are launching SETUP from this AOT. Also you may want to grant rights for files and directories through the AOT, so only users that you associate this with will get the appropriate rights. (That way, network users that scan your volumes won't see this unless they are associated to the AOT.)

4: Install Office2000

Now that you have completed steps 1-3, go ahead and install. You should be pleased to see how easily and quickly Office installs now. All of the touted Office 2000 features should be there, and users should now easily and quickly be able to install the version of Office that you as an administrator are willing to support on their system.

The nice thing about this is that if anything changes and you need to change the install, rather than re-snAppShoting you simply re-create the transform file and your users will be up and running.

Q&A about this article

Mike H. wrote: The article "Office 2000 using ZEN" would have been helpful, except it does not work on an NT workstation.


Yancey Y. wrote: I followed your new document about using Zen to distribute MS Office 2000, but it does not seem to work on NT when the user does not have Administrator rights. Any Ideas?

TIM: Make sure that you have both platforms selected. Also check the rights on NT. Typically you need admin rights on NT - you will want to change this to a secure or unsecure user under Windows NT on the Environment tab. This will allow the application to install under the Workstations credentials. By default normal is selected and you wouldn't be able to install at all - as you found out. Here are the explanations from the help file for how these work:

Windows NT - Run Normal
When an application is run in NT normal security mode it will inherit the logged-in user's credentials.

Windows NT - Run as Secure System User
When an application is run as a secure system user there is no user interface available. The application will be running as a system-level process with the workstation's credentials, but the application will only be visible in the Task Manager.

Windows NT - Run as Unsecure System User
When an application is run as an unsecure system user the user interface is available. The application will have full system-user access and the interactive-user will have the ability to do whatever that application offers on the workstation, so you need to be careful which applications you run in this NT security mode.

For example: If you ran REGEDIT as an unsecure system user, the interactive user would now be able to edit/change ANY registry value. Important: The unsecure system user does not currently work on Citrix** or Windows NT Terrminal Server. Try one of these other modes - it think you will be much more successful.

Yancey Y. replied: I am already starting the installer as an Unsecure System User. After the MS Office 2000 installer reboots, the computer comes up and attempts to finish the install. This is when it does not have admin rights.

TIM: What is happening is the NAL service is only in effect until the reboot - and after that it is dependent on the users' rights on the workstation. So, what are your options:

1. A snAppShot will do everything - but with this complex app/install your mileage may vary.

2. Make everyone members of the Administrators group on their workstations. (Not too realistic.)

3. Apply the Elevated Privileges policy from the Office 2000 resource kit.

Should you choose #3 you need to create and apply a policy from Microsoft's resource kit that elevates the users' privileges. I have included some articles from the Microsoft support site that should help you out.

And remember now with ZENworks 2 you can distribute these policies with the extensible policies feature.

How to Set System Policies for Your Organization

Unable to Run Setup

Scott B. wrote: Will the Office 2000 distribution method the you recently described work with the ZENworks 1.0 Starter pack? My guess is yes but there may be something I'm missing. Thanks.

TIM: It should work - however I would recommend 2.0 for the flexibility on the system requirements and inventory. Let me know how it goes.

Tammy S. wrote: I just read through the Office 2000 and ZENworks 2.0 article. Will these steps also work if you are running Zen 1.1?

TIM: As it is written it should - I haven't done anything fancy in the article. However, ZEN2 could help upgrades and management of your desktops with inventory and advanced system requirements.

Rick S. wrote: I've developed the same approach as you to deploying Office 2000 with ZEN. We want to launch the application object from NALExpld. Unfortunately, the Office 2000 installation program, although scripted, stops to complain that an application is running (NALEXPLD) that should be shut down. Unfortunately this introduces user interaction which is then a potential point of failure. Have you figured out a way to make the Office 2000 setup not complain?

TIM: What do you mean launching NALExpld? Here at Novell we call NALEXPLD from the login script and make applications available on the Start Menu. This causes no errors for us - please explain more of how you are configuring this and the problem.

Edward S. wrote: I have several networks to install, each for a different company, and each of these networks will end up having Office 2000 on it. I'd like to install Office 2000 for one network, copy the AOT files, and reuse them on the subsequent networks that I will install. Is this doable? It *would* be nice. And, if it is possible, it should be documented. A lot of people would be interested in this.

TIM: In this scenario of using MST files and the default MS install you should be able to pull this off because the install will remember where it was installed from and will be able to pull the code from wherever you copy it from. You should be able to also create a bunch of MST files and transfer them with your machine.

Jeffrey C. wrote: After reading the feature article I was able to successfully install Office 2000 using a combination of the Windows installer and NAL. I am using NAL as the shell on my Windows 98 desktops to simplify the user interface. I installed Office 2000 with only Word and Excel leaving PowerPoint and Access as "install on 1st use" applications. I would like to control the ability to install these apps with a deleivered NAL application icon. My Questions?? How do I initiate the installation of these two apps with NAL? In other words... how can NAL call the .lnk file from Start Menu%5CPrograms to initite the Windows Installer. I then need to subsequently launch the application with the EXE? The later could be done with a separate NAL icon if needed(i.e. one Setup icon and one App icon).

TIM: I would edit the Start menu and copy the values from the short cuts and launch those from NAL. I believe it still is the Powerpoint.exe and the like so you shouldn't have to re-edit those in NAL. If the value in the install on demand app shortcut is different and updated once the app is installed you could get creative with Pre-distribution scripts or with system requirements.

Mike K. wrote: I'm using Zen to distribute Office 2000 according to the solution you guys provided. All is great except for one thing, how can I stop the app from asking for the keycode at the start of use?

TIM: It shouldn't be asking for the key code - when you create the administrative install that should be stored in the MSI database and not ask again. Please make sure that you did the setup /admin and followed the steps explicitly and you shouldn't see this.

Helpful Tips from Cool Readers

Jim Dawson: Regarding the 'Office 2000 and ZENworks...' article: There is one 'gotcha' that may not be readily apparent from reading this article. Unless the Windows Update feature has already been installed on the workstation (Windows Update is included in Internet Explorer 4.01 SP1 and greater), it will not be possible for users without local Administrator rights to install Office 2000.

George C. Lutch: One of our fellow techs asked a question concerning what to do if after installing Office 2000, using your method, the user gets prompted for a serial number. I came across a similar instance where I was using office 2000 pro bundled with a PC and it didn't ask for a s/n during the /admin install. I battled with this for a little while before changing to a non-OEM version of Office 2000. Switching made all the difference. I was then able to follow the directions without a hiccup.

About the Author

Tim Crabb is a Desktop Architect in Novell's IS&T department.

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