Microsoft Office System 2003, which includes Office Outlook 2003, became available last week to corporate customers with Software Assurance (SA) or other upgrade protection and to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Universal subscribers. Also available is the new "Microsoft Office 2003 Resource Kit," which includes tools to deploy Outlook 2003 and other Office programs.

The basic tools included in the resource kit haven't changed since Office XP's release. You still get the Custom Installation Wizard and Custom Maintenance Wizard for creating the "transform" .mst files that the Setup program uses, along with .msi setup files, to install certain features and settings. You can also use the Custom Installation Wizard and Custom Maintenance Wizard to create Outlook profile (.prf) files, adding or changing email account settings. Don't confuse these with the .ops files that the Office Profile Wizard creates. The Office Profile Wizard takes a snapshot of an existing Office installation's settings for use with the Custom Installation Wizard or Custom Maintenance Wizard but doesn't cover Outlook profile settings.

Installing the tools also places policy files (e.g., outlk11.adm, office11.adm) in the Windows\Inf folder. You can use these policy files to set group policies on an individual machine or, more likely, in Active Directory (AD). To create policies in AD, you first need to copy the .adm files to your domain controller (DC).

Many of the settings in the policy templates are also available in the Custom Installation Wizard's and Custom Maintenance Wizard's Change Office User Settings step. The difference is that policies enforce particular settings, whereas the Custom Installation Wizard and Custom Maintenance Wizard set initial default values that users can change.

Many new policies reflect the new features in Outlook 2003. One new policy that's sure to be crucial for most installations is the ability to set size limits on Personal Folders (.pst) files. These limits can apply to both legacy .pst files that become inaccessible when they reach 2GB in size and Outlook 2003's new .pst files that support Unicode data and are practically unlimited in size. (The policy allows a size of as large as 3906TB.) You can set both an absolute maximum size and a size above which the user can't add new data to the .pst file. This policy has no equivalent in the Custom Installation Wizard and Custom Maintenance Wizard.

To support the new cached mode in Outlook 2003, Microsoft has added several policies under the Tools | E-mail Accounts options. Also look under the Exchange settings option, which contains a separate policy that you can use to set the threshold below which Outlook operates in low-bandwidth mode, downloading only headers from the Exchange Server system and deferring the download of complete items until the user requests them. You'll also find several policies governing downloads of the Offline Address Book. And you can configure whether users see the UI for configuring remote procedure calls (RPC)-over-HTTP connections to Exchange Server 2003. (This feature is available in the policy editor, Custom Installation Wizard, and Custom Maintenance Wizard, under Tools | E-Mail Accounts, Exchange over the Internet.)

Another new feature you can configure with policies, the Custom Installation Wizard, or the Custom Maintenance Wizard is Outlook 2003's excellent junk-mail filter. You can deploy Safe Recipients, Safe Senders, and Blocked Senders lists as part of your installation. The new Desktop Alert feature, which pops up alerts from the system tray when new messages arrive, also includes several configurable aspects: duration, opacity, and default screen location. And you can control the feature that blocks external content, such as images in HTML-format messages.

Some of the policies' names obscure their purpose, so allow plenty of time to experiment with the different settings as you plan an Office 2003 or Outlook 2003 deployment. And keep in mind that the other Office programs have rich policy templates whose settings you'll want to explore.

Office 2003 Editions Resource Kit Tools

http://www.microsoft.com/office/ork/2003/default.htm

Office 2003 Resource Kit Toolbox

http://www.microsoft.com/office/ork/2003/tools/default.htm