Unless you prowl around the Start, Programs menu (All Programs in Windows XP), you might not know that when you install Microsoft Office XP you also get a nifty tool for backing up most of the little Outlook files that govern so many key settings, including Outlook Bar, signature, send/receive group, mail profile, and dozens of registry settings. You'll find the Save My Settings Wizard on the Office Tools menu.

You can use the wizard to save your settings, then restore them on the same machine or on a different computer. The Office XP wizard also gives you the choice of saving to a local .ops file or saving to the Web, although the Web option was unavailable when I tried it last week.

For Office 2000, you can download a compatible version of the wizard from Microsoft's Web site. The biggest difference between the two versions is that the Office 2000 version lets you save settings only as a local Office profile settings (.ops) file. It can't take advantage of the online storage.

When you first start the Save My Settings Wizard, an information page informs you that you need to close all Office programs before proceeding. You then have the choice of saving or restoring settings and saving to a local file or to the Web. You need a Microsoft .NET Passport account to use the Web option. If you choose the Web option, the wizard encrypts your data and uploads it to a secure server. Microsoft says that it can't access the data and will share it with no one.

After you choose where to save, click Finish, and the wizard goes to work, consolidating registry information and key settings files into one archive in just seconds. Running the wizard on my production desktop, which has 17 Outlook profiles and all Office XP programs including Microsoft FrontPage installed, produced an .ops file of just less than 4MB.

If you used the Custom Installation Wizard to install Office XP, the .ops file extension ought to look familiar. In fact, the Save My Settings Wizard in Office XP is nothing more than a user version of the Office Profile Wizard that comes in the Office XP Resource Kit (ORK). Administrators can use the Office Profile Wizard to extract settings from an installation of Office XP, then apply those settings to individual workstations when they use the Custom Installation Wizard to deploy Office XP. Both wizards are part of the ORK toolset, which is available through download or in the enterprise edition of Office XP.

Even if you aren't involved in deploying Office XP, you might want to download the ORK tools (11MB–-components aren't available as separate downloads) to get the documentation and the OPS File Viewer. This tool extracts from the .ops settings file a list of all the registry entries and files and saves that list with the same filename as the .ops file but with an .out extension. The OPS File Viewer then opens the .out file for you to examine. The .out file is just a text file, so you can also open it in Notepad.

According to the OPS File Viewer, the Save My Settings Wizard doesn't save Personal Folders (.pst) files or Personal Address Book (.pab) files. It does save customized Outlook Bar settings (.fav), send/receive group settings (.srs), and nickname-resolution files (.nk2) for all profiles, along with the Junk Senders.txt file, print customizations in the Outlprnt file, toolbar customizations in the outcmd.dat file, custom system file views in the views.dat file, signature files, and the Outlook Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) project file (vbaproject.otm). In addition, the Save My Settings Wizard saves dozens of registry settings, making the OPS File Viewer an ingenious tool for analyzing the mass of changes that Outlook and the other Office programs make to the Windows registry.

My results with mail profile settings were mixed. The Save My Settings Wizard definitely stores information from the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows Messaging Subsystem\Profiles\Microsoft Outlook registry subkey but doesn't restore that information unless the target machine has existing profiles with names that match the saved profiles. In other words, you can't use the wizard to easily build several profiles on one machine and transfer them to another.

Office 2000 Save My Settings Wizard

Office Profile Wizard and Office XP Resource Kit Tools Download

Corrections to this Article:

  • The April 30, 2002, Commentary incorrectly stated that the Save My Settings Wizard in Office 2000 saves data to a local file. The wizard actually saves to an online repository run by Microsoft. The ability to save settings to a local file is a new feature added to the wizard in Office XP. We apologize for any inconvenience this error might have caused.