Imagine, the power to install programs on some of your users workstations without running around from workstation to workstation and in the process missing dinner, or your life. More importantly, imagine setting yourself up so that whenever you logon to a computer in your domain you have the tools you need at your fingertips.

Using Advanced Directory, an administrator can push applications like ISO Recorder to all your users. (Or, more smartly, in that program’s case, at least, you could include the msi in a group policy for all of your IT staff so that each time they logon they will have the program available to them should they need it, regardless of what computer they’re at.)

(By the way, if you have a Windows 2000 server with Advanced Directory and have Windows XP boxes, and are not using the Group Policy Management Console, you ought to get with the program.)

Like other group policies, you can deploy applications either to users or to computers and there are two methods for doing so. The first is to “publish” the application to a user. Applications cannot application cannot be published to a computer, which makes sense given the method that the applications are made available. When an application is published, the application appears in the Add New Programs, under the Add/Remove Programs Control Panel, and from there the user can install the file. The second method of deploying an application via group policy is called “assigning” an application and applications can be assigned to both users and computers.

In publishing and assigning an application, the application is not actually installed on the affected computers until it is called for, thus reducing the risk of bandwidth problems.

Here’s how both are done.

Put the package(s) in a place available to all users (i.e. a network share).

In the group policy editor, go to User Configuration->Software Settings->Software Installation. (Note: If you wish to assign an application to a computer, it’s the essentially same process available under the Computer Configuration tree.) Right click on the Software Installation icon and choose New->Package. Browse to find the files on the network share and click open. Choose whether you want to publish or assign the selection and click ok.

You can further set options by right-clicking on the package and choosing Properties. The ISO Recorder, we found out, requires that the Installation User Interface Option, located under the Deployment tab, be set to Basic, instead of the default Maximum.

Without this setting, we recieved an error that read: ‘This advertised application will not be installed because it might be unsafe. Contact your administrator to change the installation user interface option of the package to basic.” [Hats off to Microsoft for one of their clearest error messages, ever.]

For assigned applications to install on logon, you must also check that under Deployment options in the Deployment Tab. (If, for some reason, you choose to assign an application without installing it at logon, the user will be need to go to the Add New Programs in order to install the application, just like they would have to do when an application is published.)

The next time users logon, thereby resetting the group policy to the workstation they are at, any published and assigned applications will be made available or installed. The installation process for assigned applications on logon is rather low profile. The startup message will say that the program is being installed, but there will not be any Wizards or the like and the installation is, for smaller programs, quite fast.