Using group policy an application can be published to a specified group of users. Once an application is published it will appear in the Add/Remove Programs applet from the control panel. Using this method applications can be easily deployed to large amounts of machines.
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When an application is assigned to a user it will appear to be installed, e.g. The icons will appear in the start menu. When the icon is selected the application will automatically install. Applications can be assigned to both users and computers. When an application is assigned to a computer it is available to any user logging onto the machine. When an application is assigned to a computer it will be automatically install before any user logs on, ensuring the availability of the application to all the users.
Using the Group Policy Object Editor select The Software Settings container in the User Configuration options to publish the applications for the users. Software settings from the Computer configuration box is used when assigning applications to computers. Remember!!! Applications can only be published to users and not computers. Right-click on Software installation. Select New > Package. Specify the location of the MSI file, e.g. This could be a shared folder containing the Office Installation Files. The MSI file is located on the machine 10.0.0.1 inside a shared folder called Office XP. Click on Open to continue. The folder containing the application MUST be shared and have the correct permissions applied to it!
The Application can either be Published or Assigned. Select the Advanced option and click OK to view some additional properties. N.B. The publish option is greyed out when configuring the computer policy. A general description about the application is given, N.B. these details are supplied automatically by the MSI package. The Deployment page allows various options to be configured relating to how the application is to be installed. The Deployment type option specifies how the application is going to be deployed. The Deployment options settings specify which features of the chosen Deployment type should be enabled or disabled.
The Auto-install this application option is used to automatically install a published application if the user tries to open a file with the appropriate extension. e.g. If a user attempts to open a .doc file, Microsoft Word will automatically be installed. N.B. Because this option is the default with Assigned applications it is greyed out when the deployment type is set to Assign.
A useful option is the Uninstall this application when it falls out of the scope of management checkbox. If checked, the application will automatically be removed when the Group Policy is deleted. The main feature of Published applications can be switched off by selecting this box. The Installation user interface option specifies the level of interaction required for the installer package. Basic is good enough for most users. The Upgrades tab is used to configure which applications this application will upgrade. e.g. Office XP will upgrade Office 2000.
The Categories page (if any categories are available) can be used to group applications into different categories for easier navigation by users. The Modifications page is used when using Microsoft Transform Files (MSTs). Different Transform files can be applied in the specified order. The Security tab can be used to configure permissions for the MSI file, a user will need read permission to install the application. Using permissions can be beneficial for controlling access to individual users. If for example there was one user in the domain who wasn’t allowed to use Office, rather than creating a separate GPO and container for the user, the user can just be denied access. The Application has now been published for all the users on the domain.
Installing Published Applications
Once an application has been published, it will be available on the user’s machines once the group policy has been applied. Click on Start. Select Settings. Select Control Panel. Double-click on Add/Remove Programs. Select Add New Programs. The new application has been successfully published and is now available for users to install.