Understanding the differences between publishing and assigning applications

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One of the greatest features of Windows 2000 is the way that it lets you automatically distribute applications to end users. You can do this several different ways, and any good Windows 2000 book can provide you with a comprehensive set of instructions for getting the job done. However, as a close friend recently found out the hard way, not knowing the terminology can cause problems. In Windows 2000, there’s a big difference between publishing and assigning applications. In this article, I’ll discuss those differences.

Publishing applications

Publishing an application makes the application available to users beginning with their next login. You can publish any application that is contained within a Windows installer package or a .ZAP file. When you’ve published an application, a user can install (or uninstall) it by using the Add/Remove Programs applet in Control Panel. Likewise, the application is automatically installed should the user try to open a file that requires it.

For example, suppose you’ve published Microsoft Excel 2000. If a user attempts to open an .XLS file, the system will automatically install Excel and load the file the user was trying to open.

Assigning applications

Assigning applications works a little bit differently. You can assign an application to a user, or you can assign an application to a computer. The effect of assigning an application is different depending on whether it is assigned to a user or to a computer.

If you assign an application to a user, the application will be available after their next login. At that time, the shortcut to the application will already exist on the desktop or on the Start menu, depending on where you placed it. Even though the shortcut exists, the application isn’t actually installed yet. The application is installed when the user tries to access the shortcut or when the user attempts to open a file that requires the application. Should the user try to uninstall the application, it will automatically become available again at the next login. Only applications contained within a Windows installer package can be assigned.

Assigning an application to the computer works a little bit differently. As with assigning the application to users, only applications bundled within a Windows installer package can be assigned. At the time an application is assigned, it’s actually installed on the PC without user intervention. The application becomes available to users after the next reboot. Because the application is assigned at the PC level, only an administrator is permitted to uninstall it. Should the application become damaged or partially deleted, the system is usually smart enough to detect the problem and reinstall the application to repair it. //

Brien M. Posey is an MCSE who works as a freelance writer. His past experience includes working as the director of information systems for a national chain of health care facilities and as a network engineer for the Department of Defense. Because of the extremely high volume of e-mail that Brien receives, it’s impossible for him to respond to every message, although he does read them all.

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