A Simpler Approach to User Profiles

Creating user profiles on a large scale is tricky because user profiles include application paths and other user-specific information in addition to the obvious aspects, such as colors and desktop restrictions. For example, if you want to make all Word template files accessible through the H drive but the system stores user templates in each user's home directory, you must tune the H drive mappings to ensure that the letter always points to the proper home directory for each user.

WinCenter's Multi-User Application Manager can create many user profiles for a shared Windows NT implementation. With this utility, you create a user account and use the profile as a template for all other accounts. When you create other accounts from this template, the Multi-User Application Manager searches the profile for each user-specific reference, looking through the Registry and .ini files and adjusting the values accordingly.

You can store user-specific configuration information in .cfg, .dot, and .ini files and the Registry. However, the system can't easily associate user profiles with these extensions. Therefore, the Taylor Group's present approach to the user profile question, and the approach IBM is using for its Palisades Executive Conference Center network, is somewhat different. Rather than searching for all user-specific references in a user profile and replacing them, the Taylor Group restructures the profile to reduce the number of user-specific references and isolate these references in one subdirectory of the home directory. The company then creates a user account to use as a template for installing applications so that a profile exists with all the correct application parameters. When the staff creates new user accounts from this template, these accounts will already be set up and will only require minor tweaking using the Substitute command (which is essentially a drive-letter redirection) to point the new user's subdirectory information to the proper home directory.

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