Microsoft offers for several Office versions the administrative tempates, which especially allows system administrators to maintain and configure various settings and options for Microsoft Office in a very convenient way. The templates are can be downloaded for free at the Microsoft Download Center.
So, everyone can use them, for example at home or in the small office. However, if you use them, please do this very carefully. Most settings are explained in the templates and also accessible using the Office interface. However, some of them are only accessible (excepted some uncomfortable registry hacks) via the administrative templates and you should know what you are doing before changing these values. Added on 23/04/2010: at the time, I wrote this article, Office 2010 was still beta. So it is possible that some statements in this article may not apply to the final version of Office 2010.
In this article, I will explain how to use the administrative templates on a local computer and show some sample settings for Office 2007 and Office 2010. If I got some spare time, I will report about more settings for the Office applications in further posts. First, we have to download the adminstrative templates for each Office version and install them. This can be done by just executing the downloaded file, which unpacks the templates to a folder you can choose. The following image shows a screenshot for the folder structure after unpacking the files:
As you can see, the folders for each Office version contains the subfolders “ADM”, “Admin” and “ADMX”. These in turn contain the templates in different language versions. Please note at this point, that some of the Office 2010 templates seems not to have been fully translated to the different languages yet. For example, the settings and their descriptions included in the files from the folder for German (de-de) are only in English.
The administrative templates are available in two versions. The older version found in the folder “ADM” use an own markup language and the newer version of the templates, found in the “ADMX” folder, are defined using a standards-based, XML file format known as ADMX files. The ADMX files can only be used by a Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 computer; means also Windows 7. The use and integration of the templates differs a little bit on which version is used. I tried to use the ADMX files for Office 2010 on a Windows 7 DE computer; unfortunately I got some parsing errors.
So I decided to use the ADM files for my tests. You may be logged in as administrator on your system or have appropriate rights to call the group policy editor. For this, just type “gpedit.msc” in the “Start – Run” dialog or in the editbox for searching programs and files on a Windows Vista based computer as shown in the figure below:
After pressing „Enter“, you should see the Local Group Policy Editor Window. On the left side you should see a tree structure, which can be expanded. There are policies applying to the computer configuration and policies applying to the user configuration. If you right click on the tree item “User Configuration – Administrative Templates” , you can reach the context menue entry “Add/Remove Templates” for adding new templates or removing existing ones. The following screenshot shows this dialog on a Windows 7 EN computer.
You can add templates by clicking on the „Add“ button. Just navigate in the file open dialog to the location of your ADM files and select one or more files. The sample above adds all templates for Office 2007. I repeated this stepp for the Office 2010 templates. After you have added the templates, you should see new tree items located under the item “Classic Administrative Templates (ADM)”.
As the office version are also containing settings related to the computer configuration, you should also find some new entries in the section „Computer Configuration – Classic Administrative Templates (ADM)”. And you will certainly observe that there are really many settings which can be setup by the templates. However a settings changed in the local group policy editor will take effect only if this setting is explicitely configured. Let’s have a look on an example how to do this. The option “Live Preview” in Excel 2007 can be found in the “popular” options for Excel 2007 as shown in the figure below.
And now the corresponding setting in the administrative template, which you can find under the tree item „User Configuration – Classic Administrative Templates (ADM) – Microsoft Excel 2007 – Excel Options – Popular. You can change the value by double clicking on the entry “Enable Live Preview” on the right side.
The settings has no effect on Office when it is set to “Not configured”. If you change the value to “Enabled”, then the settings is also enabled in Excel 2007 and if you change the setting to “Disabled”, the setting is disabled in Excel 2007. The local group policy editor also knows about more complex settings as you can see when calling the options for the “Default file format” in Excel 2010.
Now, let’s have a look on some settings which are not accessible using the Office Interface. An almost “classic” example for a registry hack is to get Excel to display four digits for a year independantly from the computer system setting for short dates when entering a date in a cell. On a German system, the system setting for short dates is usually set to DD.MM.YY. Ok, it could be possible to change the computer system setting or use the registry hack, but it’s easier to change the setting by using the appropriate setting in the administrative template. Just navigate to “User Configuration – Classic Administrative Templates (ADM) – Microsoft Excel 2007 – Miscelleanous” for Excel 2007 or “User Configuration – Classic Administrative Templates (ADM) – Microsoft Excel 2010 – Miscelleanous” for Excel 2010 and change the value for “Enable four-digit year display”.
Finally a setting, you will only find in Office 2010. Do you know about the new screenshot tool included in Office 2010 applications like Excel or Word 2010? Very nice and certainly useful, but for those who don’t want to allow the use of this tool, it can be disabled by configurating the option in the administrative template. You may disable the setting “Turn off screen clipping“ found in “User Configuration – Classic Administrative Templates (ADM) – Microsoft Office 2010 System – Disable Items in User Interface”. The following picture shows the result for Word 2010.
My resume: the administrative templates are inviting to explore and discover more features in Office, especially Office 2010. Of course this should be done in a virtual machine for not compromising a real productive system. Finally the download links and links to some interestings sites about the subject mentionned above.
- Download for the Administrative Templates for Office 2010 (Beta)
- Download for the Administrative Templates for Office 2007
- Microsoft Technet zu ADM für Office 2007, Deutsch
- Using ADMX Files for the Local GPO, Englisch