your changes. The tool then saves these customizations as an .MSP file. The big question is -- what should you do with the .MSP file once it's created? Microsoft Exchange expert Brien Posey explains how to install an Office Customization Tool .MSP file onto users' workstations to customize Microsoft Outlook.
The .MSP files that the Office Customization Tool produces are associated with the Windows Installer but aren't compatible with all versions. To use .MSP files, target workstations must be running Windows Installer version 3.1 or higher. If your target systems are running Windows Server 2003 SP1 or higher, or they're running Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008, then you have the correct version of the Windows Installer in place.
Microsoft offers a download to bring the Windows Installer up to date on older versions of Windows. You can download the Windows Installer and read about the software requirements at Microsoft's website.
Note: If the .MSP file format seems familiar, that's because Microsoft generally releases patches to the Windows operating system or any of their other products in .MSP format.
What should you do with the .MSP file once you've created it? First, remember that the customization file that you created is just that -- a customization file. It doesn't contain a full-blown copy of Microsoft Office. This means that you cannot install the customization file in place of installing Microsoft Office. You must install Microsoft Office onto each client and then apply the customization file.
Because both the customization file and Microsoft patches are in .MSP format, you might assume that you can apply the customization file using Windows Server Update Service (WSUS), as you would a patch. In fact, you cannot use WSUS to deploy the customization file. However, there are several other options to deploy the file.
The best option is to use a software management application, such as Microsoft's Systems Management Server (SMS). If you don't have access to an SMS, you can easily write a one-line script that will deploy the configuration file when a user logs on.
To install the customization file this way, copy it to the same location as the Microsoft Office system files and then run the following command (where custom.msp is the name of your .MSP file): MSIEXEC \p \\server_name\share_name\custom.msp.
These two methods, and some variations on them, are the only methods that will successfully install the customization file. Some sources state that you can place the .MSP file into the Updates folder and run Microsoft Office Setup again, but this technique won't work. Additionally, you can't run Microsoft Office Setup and specify the .MSP file in the command line.
The customization file can also be used to provide additional localizations for Microsoft Office. In this case, you must add additional language packs to the Microsoft Office source files before creating the customization file. If you create the file first, and then install the language packs, the customization file won't be aware of the new language packs.
About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a five-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional award for his work with Exchange Server, Windows Server, Internet Information Services (IIS), and File Systems and Storage. Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, Brien has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal website at www.brienposey.com.
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This was first published in October 2008