Traditionally, Microsoft has released Microsoft Exchange Server tools by including them on the server CD-ROM. Now, Microsoft is moving to a more dynamic approach by distributing tools in downloadable web releases that can be updated more frequently. Internally, Microsoft identifies each new set of tools by a number (WR04 is the collection of tools that aligns loosely with Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 1-SP1); the company makes all the tools available separately online at www.microsoft.com/exchange or in a single download at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=e0f616c6-8fa4-4768-a3ed-cc09aef7b60a. Several interesting new tools support Exchange 2003 SP1: Outlook Web Access (OWA) Web Administration, Auto Accept Agent, Exchange Server Domain Rename Fixup (XDR-Fixup), Badmail Deletion and Archiving, and Exchange Server Profile Update.

OWA Web Administration is my favorite of the new tools. Microsoft has steadily increased OWA's functionality since its first appearance in Exchange Server 5.0, but to modify OWA in any way, administrators have had to update the system registry. OWA Web Administration provides a Web interface to the vast majority of tweaks that you might find yourself wanting to make-from controlling how junk-mail processing works to applying corporate branding to the OWA UI. The new tool is simple, it works, and it solves a problem for administrators-all the hallmarks of a good tool.

The Auto Accept Agent cleans up a problem with resource mailboxes, which are mailboxes that control access to items that people want to book (e.g., conference rooms). When Outlook first appeared, you had to leave a client logged on to the mailbox to be able to accept incoming resource requests and to book the resource. Gradually, administrators automated the process by writing client-side code or server-side events, but all these solutions have been unsatisfactory in one form or another. The Auto Accept Agent uses Exchange Store events to handle resource requests as they arrive in the resource mailbox, determining whether a conflict exists, processing cancellations, and updating resource information.

XDR-Fixup will probably interest a smaller community of Exchange users but is still important because it lets you complete the process of renaming a Windows domain that supports an Exchange organization. Badmail Deletion and Archiving lets you manage the contents of a server's Badmail directory to automatically archive or delete files (i.e., bad SMTP messages) that accumulate in the directory. Exchange Server Profile Update is a profile flipper that updates Outlook profiles so that users can continue to use an old profile after a mailbox move between Exchange organizations or sites.

Another interesting tool is Microsoft's new antispam weapon, Exchange Intelligent Message Filter. IMF is available with the other SP1-related tools, but you don't need to deploy SP1 to use it. (For more information about IMF, see the Web exclusive article "The Exchange Intelligent Message Filter," 2004, InstantDoc ID 42682.)

Aside from the tools that you can download directly from Microsoft, another tool is now available to answer a long-standing customer request. Exchange administrators have often asked for the ability to customize messages, such as the automatically generated messages that Exchange sends after system maintenance to inform users that they've exceeded their mailbox quotas, Mailbox Manager-generated messages, and nondelivery reports (NDRs). Exchange generates messages by extracting string resources from compiled DLLs and merging those values into other predefined values. The strings are language-dependent, which creates some additional complexity for sites that support multiple languages (e.g., the English/French mixture commonly supported in Canada). Before SP1, you could contract Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) to update a DLL (mdbsz.dll contains the string resources that the Store uses), but this approach was expensive because you need a new update after every change of Exchange version or service pack or after any hotfixes that updated the DLL. Now, Exchange developers have released a rudimentary tool that you can use to customize mailbox-limit messages on Exchange 2003 SP1 (and Exchange 2000 Server post-SP3) servers. A description of the tool and a pointer to its download site is available at "You Had Me at EHLO," the Microsoft Exchange Team Blog (http://blogs.msdn.com/exchange/archive/2004/04/20/117024.aspx). As the site points out, the tool is unsupported and has its limits, but it's a start and you can use the code as a base and add more functionality if you like. Be aware, though, that this tool is unsupported. You might be able to get support from the "You Had Me at EHLO" site, but don't expect Microsoft Product Support Services (PSS) to help you install or support it.