[Sort of] Manage Adobe Reader XI with Group Policy

When Adobe announced Adobe Reader XI a few weeks ago, one of the new features listed was the ability to [finally!] manage common enterprise settings with Group Policy. Previously, you had to do all of this by customizing your install with the Adobe Customization Wizard. If you didn’t do that, your other option was to either edit the Registry or use one of the custom ADM/ADMX files floating around out there that (#1) isn’t supported by Adobe and (#2) isn’t true Group Policy since it isn’t modifying one of the Policy areas of the Registry.

Now that Adobe has released Adobe Reader XI, the administrator templates are also available for download (ftp://ftp.adobe.com/pub/adobe/reader/win/11.x/11.0.00/misc/ReaderADMTemplate.zip), here’s how you install the Administrative Templates to start managing the settings Adobe deemed to be “common enterprise settings.”

Update (November 8, 2012) – Adobe has released the Adobe Customization Wizard XI for Windows. You can download it here: http://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/detail.jsp?ftpID=5515.

The first thing you’ll want to do is download and extract the zip file on your management station. You should end up with something like this:

Next, if you’re running Windows Vista or later, copy the Reader11.admx file and the contents of the en-US folder to the C:WindowsPolicyDefinitions folder. If you’re still editing Group Policy with Windows XP or Server 2003, you’ll only need the Reader11.adm file. If do happen to end up copying everything, it shouldn’t break anything.

Do you have the Group Policy Central Store enabled? If so, rather than copying to your local disk, you’ll need to copy the Reader11.admx file and the contents of en-US to \your.domain.localSYSVOLyour.domain.localPoliciesPolicyDefinitions since your local workstation is going to ignore the local cache and go straight to the Central Store to find ADMX files.

Fire up the Group Policy Management Console and you should see this under Administrative Templates in Computer and User Configuration:

And… wait a minute… where are all the rest of the settings? I’m as stumped as you are to be completely honest. When Adobe said “common enterprise settings,” I guess I just assumed something like the Microsoft Office Administrative Templates which let you pretty much configure ever major setting a sysadmin would want to tweak in the Office applications. I’m also confused as to why the User side configuration isn’t true Group Policy.

If you check out the User side Administrative Template, you’ll notice that all the settings have a circle with a down arrow next to them like this:

What does that mean? It means that those settings aren’t true Group Policy and are really just editing the same area of the Registry that the application edits when the user makes that change in the application. When you set one of those settings, it applies once and it’s done. If the user decides they don’t like your setting, they can just change it… and you can’t really do anything about it since it isn’t really a ‘Policy’ setting. And, if you remove the policy, the setting will not revert to the default setting.

My initial impression is that I probably won’t use the current ADM/ADMX files and will wait for the Adobe Customization Wizard 11 to be made available. I definitely give Adobe an ‘A’ for effort, but as for implementation, I’ll have to give them an Incomplete. Until Adobe [hopefully] adds more policy options, we’re probably stuck using the Customization Wizard to get the configuration we want.

2 thoughts on “[Sort of] Manage Adobe Reader XI with Group Policy

  1. StylusPilot October 25, 2012 / 9:10 PM

    Thanks for this, I am waiting eagily for November when the Adobe Customisation Wizard XI should be released.

    Hopefully they will continue to improve their Group Policy ADMX

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