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Chapter 6 - Configuring the Active Desktop and Active Channels

Archived content. No warranty is made as to technical accuracy. Content may contain URLs that were valid when originally published, but now link to sites or pages that no longer exist.

This chapter describes how to effectively utilize the new Microsoft Windows 98 Active Desktop and Active Channel ("push") technologies in a corporate network or intranet environment. Network and workgroup administrators, and corporate intranet site authors and Webmasters, can tailor the Active Desktop toolbars, Active Desktop items, screen savers, and Channel bar to a workgroup's specific application and document needs. By effectively managing Favorites, Active Channels, and Webcasting, you can ensure that the most current information gets to the people who need it most.

See Also

  • For information about configuring the Microsoft Internet Explorer browsing software, see Chapter 20, "Internet Access and Tools." 

Overview of Webcasting with the Active Desktop and Active Channels

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This section presents an overview of Webcasting with the Active Desktop and Active Channels in a corporate network or intranet environment. It describes each of the elements that a network or workgroup administrator can configure, and compares how you might use each element to maximize your workgroup's access to the appropriate applications and information.

Webcasting on Corporate Intranets

Windows 98 extends the concept of Webcasting to the corporate intranet. Webcasting is a generic term referring to the automated delivery of personalized and up-to-date information via the Internet or a corporate intranet. By utilizing Webcasting through the Active Desktop and Active Channels, you can make it easier for users to find, receive, and organize the information and applications that they need. The Active Desktop provides a common, customizable user interface for organizing files, Web sites, and applications for individual users or workgroups. The integration of Windows 98 with the Internet Explorer 4 browsing software, coupled with the power of Active Channels to push and pull content from intranet or Web sites, provides true Web integration with desktops and a powerful and customizable information delivery architecture. Figure 6.1 illustrates the concept of Webcasting in a corporate intranet.

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Figure 6.1 Overview of Webcasting 

You can Webcast Active Desktop configurations, as well as Active Channel content, applications and software updates, and content from other internal and external Web sites, to specific users or workgroups on an ongoing basis. This ensures that users and workgroups always have the latest configurations, applications, and information specific to their needs.

About the Active Desktop

The Active Desktop in Windows 98 integrates the Windows desktop with the Internet Explorer browsing software to provide a single metaphor for accessing content or applications, whether on a local computer, a corporate intranet, or the World Wide Web (WWW). The Active Desktop makes it easier for users to access favorite applications, files, folders, and Web sites. It also lets network and workgroup administrators create customized Active Desktop configurations specific to the needs of individuals or workgroups. Figure 6.2 shows an example of an Active Desktop.

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Figure 6.2 The Active Desktop 

Using the Active Desktop, you can:

  • Customize the Start, Programs, and Favorites menus. 

  • Create new toolbars and customize the default Windows 98 toolbars for accessing user-specific or workgroup-specific applications, files, and Web sites. 

  • Add HTML pages or graphics directly to the Active Desktop as wallpaper or Active Desktop items. 

  • Customize folders to be viewed as Web pages. 

About Active Channels

An Active Channel is a Web site that automatically delivers content to a user's computer on a regular schedule. By effectively utilizing Active Channel technology, as well as Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) – based forms, Dynamic HTML, ActiveX controls, Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) applications, and Java applets, you can vastly improve how your workgroup or company disseminates information and applications. You can also create software distribution channels and use automatic browser configuration to ensure that your users or workgroup always has the latest software updates and Active Desktop configurations.

Figure 6.3 provides an overview of how Active Channel content is delivered to users subscribed to an Active Channel Web site.

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Figure 6.3 Overview of Active Channel delivery

A user "subscribes" to an Active Channel Web site by clicking a hyperlink to a Channel Definition Format (CDF) file, which contains subscription information about that channel. The CDF file is copied from the Active Channel server to the user's computer, and the channel is added to the user's Favorites and Channels in the Internet Explorer browsing software. The channel logo is also added to the Channel bar on the user's Active Desktop.

When users subscribe to a Web site as an Active Channel, they can browse the site offline, view an Active Channel Web page as an Active Desktop item, and display screen savers created by Active Channel authors. Whenever the content of the Active Channel is updated, subscribed users either receive e-mail notification that may include the changed pages, or download the changed pages automatically according to the subscription schedule. E-mail notification is delivered at the time of the subscription update. The subscription schedule is specified by the Active Channel Web site author in the CDF file but can be modified by users.

In a corporate intranet, an Active Channel Web site author or administrator creates a CDF file that specifies:

  • What content should be delivered to subscribed users.

  • How that content is to be used (for example, as a channel item, or "page" in the channel, as a screen saver, or as an Active Desktop item) and how updates are to be delivered (for example, by sending e-mail notification or by downloading the content directly to the user's computer). 

  • When and how often the user's computer should connect to the site to receive notification of updates or download updated content. 

Network and workgroup administrators can then customize and deploy Active Channel subscriptions, Active Desktop items, Channel bars, and channel screen savers for specific users or workgroups. This ensures that your users or workgroups always have the latest information at their fingertips.

For information about configuring the Internet Explorer browsing software, see Chapter 20, "Internet Access and Tools."

For information about implementing distributed applications with DCOM, see Chapter 25, "Application Support."

Configuring the Active Desktop

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This section describes each element of the Active Desktop that you can configure. It includes discussions of the possible uses in a workgroup environment for each element that you might want to customize, and presents procedures for doing so.

Once you have completed this section and created Active Desktop configurations for specific users or workgroups, you can deploy, maintain, and update them using the Internet Explorer 4 Administration Kit (IEAK) Profile Manager. You can also disable changes to Active Desktop configurations using system policies.

For information about installing, deploying, and updating customized Active Desktop and Active Channel configurations using the IEAK Profile Manager, see "Implementing Active Desktop and Active Channel Configurations" later in this chapter. For information about using system policies, see Chapter 8, "System Policies."

Considerations for Configuring the Active Desktop

By configuring a custom Active Desktop configuration for a workgroup and deploying it using the IEAK Profile Manager, you can ensure that each member of the team uses an identical desktop configuration. You can also control the extent to which specific users or workgroups can alter different elements of their Active Desktop configurations.

This means that, throughout the workgroup, each user has the same toolbars and taskbars, Start and Programs menus, wallpaper, and so on. Each user will access the same files, applications, and Web sites in the same way. This can substantially reduce the time and effort spent in training new team members. If you decide to use automatic deployment of Active Desktop configurations, you can also dramatically reduce the cost of setting up and configuring workgroup client computers.

Before you begin configuring and deploying Active Desktop configurations for your workgroup, you should consider the following:

Which files, applications, and Web sites (internal or external) does your workgroup need to access the most often? 

Compile a list of these file names, paths to local or network applications, and Uniform Resource Locators (URLs). You will need this list when you are creating the default Active Desktop configuration for your workgroup.

Where should each of these elements live in your Active Desktop configuration? 

Do you want to create custom Start and Programs menus for your workgroup? Do you want to add an application to the QuickLaunch toolbar, or would it be better to create a new toolbar containing all of your workgroup's most frequently used applications? Do you want to place most-visited URLs on the Favorites list, on a new toolbar, on the Channel bar, or on the Active Desktop as Active Desktop items or wallpaper?

For information about subscribing to Web sites using Favorites and Active Channels, see "Configuring Active Channels and Favorites" later in this chapter.

How will you deploy Active Desktop configurations? 

If you want to deploy new Active Desktop configurations after setup, you can use the IEAK Profile Manager to deploy the latest configuration to each user at logon or through scheduled updates.

Do you want to let users customize their Active Desktop configurations? 

Using the IEAK Profile Manager, you can control the extent to which individual users can customize their Active Desktops. For example, do you want to let users add their own URLs to a custom toolbar or as Active Desktop items? Consider the degree to which you want to permit users to customize their Active Desktops before you configure or deploy one.

Configuring the Start and Programs Menus

Windows 98 simplifies the process of customizing the contents of the Start menu (the menu that appears when a user clicks the Start button on the taskbar) and the Programs menu (the cascading menu of program groups and applications that appears when a user clicks the Start button and then points to Programs).

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Considerations for Customizing the Start and Programs Menus

When customizing the Start and Programs menus, you should consider the following:

  • Add the folders, documents, and applications that your workgroup uses most frequently to the Start menu. You also might want to add some of these items to the Windows taskbar, the QuickLaunch toolbar, or to new toolbars that you create. 

  • Add all of your workgroup's custom program groups and applications to the Programs menu. Whenever a Windows 95 or Windows 98 – compatible application is installed on a computer, Windows creates a program group for that application on the Programs menu. However, you might want to reorganize the Programs menu and add custom program groups to suit the specific needs of your workgroup. For example, you might want to create a program group called "Inventory" that contains only the inventory applications specific to your workgroup. 

  • If your workgroup accesses distributed applications that use the Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM), you might want to customize application shortcuts to point to the appropriate local component or to a component on a network server. 

Procedures for Customizing the Start Menu

In Windows 98, you can add and remove items from the top of the Start menu.

To add an item to the top section of the Start menu
  • Drag the item's icon to the Start button on the taskbar. 

To remove an item from the top section of the Start menu
  • Click the Start button, right-click the item you want to remove, and then click Delete on the shortcut menu. 

To reorder the items in the top section of the Start menu
  • Click the Start button, click the item that you want to move, and then drag it to the new location. 

To rename an item in the top section of the Start menu
  1. Click the Start button, and then point to Settings

  2. Click Taskbar & Start Menu, and then click the Start Menu Programs tab. 

  3. Click Advanced

  4. Right-click the item you want to rename, and then click Rename

  5. Type the new name for the item. 

Customizing the Programs Menu

The folders that appear on the Programs menu are arranged alphabetically by default. In Windows 98, you can add, remove, and reorder items.

To add or remove items from the Programs menu
  1. Click the Start button, point to Settings, and then click Taskbar & Start Menu

    Click the Start Menu Programs tab, and then do one of the following:

    • To add an item, click Add, and then follow the wizard's instructions. 

    • To remove an item, click Remove, select the item you want to remove, and then click Remove

To reorder items on the Programs menu
  1. Click the Start button, and then point to Programs

  2. On the Programs submenu, click the item you want to move, and then drag it to the new location. 

Configuring the Taskbar and Toolbars

In Windows 98, you can simplify a user's or workgroup's access to files, applications, and URLs by:

  • Customizing the QuickLaunch toolbar. 

  • Customizing the default Windows taskbar. 

  • Creating new toolbars. 

  • Adding floating toolbars to the Active Desktop. 

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Considerations for Customizing the Taskbar and Toolbars

When customizing the Windows taskbar or QuickLaunch toolbar, or creating new custom toolbars, you should consider the following:

  • Decide which files, folders, applications, and URLs your workgroup uses most frequently. 

  • Determine the best method of presentation for your workgroup. For example, if your workgroup consists of writers working on a specific Microsoft Word document, you might want to create a shortcut to Microsoft Word or to that document on the QuickLaunch toolbar. If your workgroup regularly accesses a folder of related files, applications, or URLs, you might want to create a toolbar containing the contents of that folder and place it on the Windows taskbar or as a floating toolbar on the Active Desktop. 

  • Before you create new toolbars, you should group the files, applications, and URLs that your workgroup uses most frequently into one or more appropriately-named folders. A new toolbar consists of the contents of a folder on a local or network drive; Windows 98 uses the folder name for the toolbar name. 

Procedures for Customizing the Taskbar and Toolbars

Use the following procedures to customize the Windows taskbar and QuickLaunch toolbar, to create new toolbars, and to remove a folder or toolbar from the Windows taskbar.

To create a new toolbar on the default Windows taskbar
  • Drag a file, folder, application, or URL from My Computer or Windows Explorer to the taskbar to create a new toolbar. 

To customize the Windows 98 QuickLaunch toolbar
  • Drag a file, folder, application, or URL from My Computer or Windows Explorer to the QuickLaunch toolbar. 

To create a new toolbar

You create a new toolbar using any existing folder. The new toolbar will contain icons representing the contents of that folder — files, subfolders, applications, and URLs. The name of the toolbar will be the same as the name of the folder.

  1. Right-click on the Windows taskbar to display a shortcut menu, point to Toolbars, and then click New Toolbar

  2. In the New Toolbar dialog box, select the folder from which you want to create a toolbar, and then click OK. Windows 98 adds the folder as a new toolbar, named for that folder, to the Windows taskbar. 

Tip The easiest way to create a new toolbar on the Windows taskbar is to drag a folder from My Computer or Windows Explorer onto the taskbar. If you want to add the new toolbar as a floating toolbar on the Active Desktop, drag the toolbar from the taskbar to the Active Desktop.

To add a floating toolbar to the Active Desktop
  • Drag the toolbar from the Windows taskbar to the background of the Active Desktop. 

To add a toolbar to the edge of the Active Desktop
  • Drag a folder from My Computer or Windows Explorer to any edge of the Active Desktop. 

To remove a folder or toolbar from the Windows taskbar
  • On the Windows taskbar, right-click the toolbar name to display the shortcut menu, and then click Close

Using an HTML Page as Wallpaper

You can display an HTML page as the wallpaper on the Active Desktop. The HTML page can be on your local computer or on a network drive, but it cannot point to a URL on your intranet or on the World Wide Web.

For example, you might set the desktop wallpaper to your workgroup's home page, so that users can instantly access the latest information. If a user clicks a hyperlink on an HTML wallpaper page, the destination of the hyperlink opens in the Internet Explorer browsing window.

Note The Internet Explorer browsing software does not support the use of HTML pages that contain framesets as wallpaper.

To use an HTML page as the default Active Desktop wallpaper
  1. Right-click on the Active Desktop to display a shortcut menu, and then click Properties

  2. Click the Web tab, and then select the View my Active Desktop as a web page check box. 

  3. Click the Background tab, click Browse, and then browse to or type the path of the HTML page you want to use. 

Setting Your Workgroup's Home Page in the Internet Explorer Browsing Software

In configuring your workgroup's Active Desktops, you probably want to specify the default Internet Explorer browsing software home page — the first page displayed when a user starts the Internet Explorer browsing software or clicks the Home button on a toolbar — that is the most appropriate for your workgroup. For example, you might want to use your workgroup's or company's intranet home page.

To specify the default home page in the Internet Explorer browsing software, browse to the appropriate home page for your workgroup, and then on the View menu, click Internet Options. On the General tab, click Use Current.

If you use the IEAK Profile Manager to deploy your Active Desktop configuration, you can import the default home page using the Start and Search Page item under Wizard Settings.

Using Graphics, HTML Pages, and Explorer Windows as Active Desktop Items

In Windows 98, you can add an HTML page, a Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) or Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) graphic file, or an Explorer window to a local or network resource as an item on the Active Desktop. In a corporate intranet, for example, you might want to add a frequently-used HTML form, such as a sales order, for faster access by sales personnel. You might add an animated GIF file of your corporate logo to make it easier for users to copy and paste the logo into letters, spreadsheets, or Web pages. You might want to simplify access to a workgroup's share on a network server by adding it to their Active Desktops as an Explorer window.

The Microsoft Active Desktop Gallery on the World Wide Web contains unique Active Desktop items, such as the Microsoft Investor Ticker (shown in Figure 6.4) and Java clocks, that you can download for free. To use any of these items, visit the Active Desktop Gallery Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/ie/ie40/gallery/ .

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Figure 6.4 The Microsoft Investor Ticker Active Desktop item 

You can also add Active Desktop items that display dynamic, regularly-updated content supplied by traditional and Active Channel Web sites. For information about using traditional or Active Channel Web sites as Active Desktop items, see "Using Active Channels and Web Sites as Active Desktop Items," later in this chapter.

For information about creating Active Channel Web sites on your intranet that deliver content as Active Desktop items, see "Creating and Managing Active Channels on Your Intranet" later in this chapter.

To add an Active Desktop item to the Active Desktop
  1. Right-click on the Active Desktop to display a shortcut menu, and then click Properties

  2. Click the Web tab, and then select the View my Active Desktop as a web page check box. 

  3. Click New

  4. If you want to select an item from the Microsoft Active Desktop Gallery, click Yes, and then select the item. Otherwise, click No, and then type or browse the path to the HTML page, graphic file, or directory that you want to display as an Active Desktop item. 

Customizing Folders

Windows 98 gives you greater control over the appearance of folders. Using the new Folder Options dialog box, you can:

  • Specify whether folders should be displayed in the classic Windows 95 style, in the new Windows 98 Web style (using a single-click to launch files and applications), or using a combination of custom settings. For example, you could define custom settings to use Web style and choose to disable the single-click option. 

  • Specify advanced settings, such as whether to show the Map Network Drive button on the toolbar, show file extensions, or show pop-up descriptions for folders. 

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New to Windows 98, the Customize this Folder Wizard lets you display a background image for a folder, or create an HTML document to view the folder as a Web page.

Tip If you enable thumbnail views of folders in Web view of My Documents or Windows Explorer, your users can see thumbnail images of any Microsoft Office 97 files in those folders. To utilize thumbnail views for a folder, you must select the Enable thumbnail view check box on the General tab of that folder's Properties sheet. Users creating Office 97 documents should always select the Save Preview Picture check box on a document's Properties sheet.

To customize the display style of all folders
  1. In My Computer or Windows Explorer, click the View menu, and then click Folder Options

  2. Click the General tab of the Folder Options dialog box, and then select a display style for folders. 

To customize advanced settings for viewing all folders
  1. In My Computer or Windows Explorer, click the View menu, and then click Folder Options

  2. Click the View tab of the Folder Options dialog box, and then select the options that you want for viewing folders. 

To redirect the default folder for My Documents
  1. Right-click the My Documents folder on your Active Desktop, and then click Properties

  2. Type or browse to the target folder you want to use, and then click OK

    When you initially save a new file in any Windows-based application, the specified target folder will be used as the default instead of the C:\My Documents folder, and when you open My Documents on your Active Desktop, it will open the new folder you have designated. 

Maximizing Pop-up Descriptions with Microsoft Office 97

If your workgroup uses Microsoft Office 97, pop-up descriptions in Windows 98 can help your users find documents more quickly. When a user rests the mouse pointer over a file icon in Windows Explorer or My Computer, a pop-up description of that file appears. If the file was created using a Microsoft Office 97 application, such as Microsoft Word, the pop-up description is actually the content of the Author and Subject fields in the Summary tab of the file's Properties.

By recommending to your users that they always specify the author and subject of an Office 97 document, you can effectively utilize pop-up descriptions to make it faster and easier for users to find the files they need.

To enable pop-up descriptions for your users or workgroup, follow the procedure "To customize advanced settings for viewing all folders" (earlier in this chapter) and then select the Show pop-up description for folder and desktop items check box.

To display a background image or create an HTML page for a folder
  1. In My Computer or Windows Explorer, select the folder that you want to customize, and then on the View menu, click Customize this Folder

  2. Use the Customize this Folder Wizard to display a background image for the folder or to create an HTML document based on the standard template defined by Folder.htt. The HTML document will be displayed when the folder is viewed as a Web page. 

    You can use this feature to customize the view your users have of a particular folder. For instance, you can display only certain files or none of them, and instead display informative text or even hyperlinks.

For more information about customizing folders, look up folders in the Windows 98 online Help index.

Configuring Active Channels and Favorites

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This section describes the most effective methods of configuring your users' or workgroup's computers to receive information and updates from subscribed Web sites and Active Channel Web sites.

Once you have created custom Active Channel, subscriptions, and Favorites configurations for specific users or workgroups, you can deploy them using the IEAK Profile Manager.

For information about creating and deploying customized Active Desktop and Active Channel configurations in a corporate intranet, see "Implementing Active Desktop and Active Channel Configurations" later in this chapter.

For information about creating and managing Active Channels on your corporate intranet, see "Creating and Managing Active Channels on Your Intranet" later in this chapter.

Understanding Active Channels and Favorites

You can ensure that your users or workgroup consistently receive the latest information and applications from both internal and external Web sites by configuring Favorites and access to Active Channels.

About Active Channels

An Active Channel is an internal or external Web site that has been configured by the Web site author using a Channel Definition Format (CDF) file. The CDF file specifies the content of the Active Channel (the Active Channel pages) and when and how that content should be delivered to the user.

When a user subscribes to an Active Channel Web site, the CDF file and specified Active Channel content are downloaded to the user's computer. The user can customize the subscription options specified by the CDF file or accept the specifications set by the Active Channel Web site author. The Active Channel Web site is then added to the user's Favorites folder, and a channel logo is added to the Channel bar.

Active Channels on the Active Desktop

In Windows 98, the Active Desktop contains a Channel bar, which displays logos for each subscribed Active Channel.

When a user clicks an Active Channel logo on the Channel bar, that channel is displayed in a full-screen browsing window. The Active Channel Web pages are displayed in the right-hand portion of the window. The left-hand portion of the window displays the Channel bar, expanded to show a detailed map of the selected Active Channel Web site.

According to the subscription for the Active Channel, the user's computer regularly connects to the Active Channel Web site to check for, and optionally download, updated content.

The user may also receive notification of changes by e-mail. Once the user has manually or automatically downloaded the updated content, he or she can browse the Active Channel offline.

Depending on the contents of the CDF file and subscription options, an Active Channel Web page can also appear on the user's Active Desktop as an Active Desktop item or channel screen saver. An Active Desktop item is like having a live browsing window to an Active Channel Web page directly on the desktop. A channel screen saver is an Active Channel Web page that displays as a Windows screen saver.

For information about configuring Active Desktop items, see "Using Active Channels and Web Sites as Active Desktop Items" later in this chapter.

For information about configuring channel screen savers, see "Using Active Channel Screen Savers" later in this chapter.

For information about creating channels as Active Desktop items and channel screen savers for Active Channel Web sites, see "Creating and Managing Active Channels on Your Intranet" later in this chapter.

Subscription Options for Active Channels

The CDF file created by an Active Channel Web site author specifies the subscription options for that channel as follows:

  • What content should be delivered to subscribed users. 

  • How that content is to be used (for example, as a channel item, or "page" in the channel, a screen saver, or as an Active Desktop item) and how updates are to be delivered (for example, by sending e-mail notification or by downloading the content directly to the user's computer). 

  • When and how often the user's computer should connect to the site to receive notification of updates or download updated content. 

In a corporate intranet, a network or workgroup administrator most likely will accept the default subscription options specified by the Active Channel Web site author, in part because the download schedules are designed by the author and network administrators to minimize server loads. However, you can override the defaults specified by the CDF file to customize your workgroup's subscriptions. For example, if your server experiences delays due to heavy network traffic, you might configure your workgroup to receive e-mail notification of updated content in an Active Channel (as opposed to receiving automatic, scheduled download of that content).

For information about configuring subscriptions to Active Channels, see "Configuring Subscriptions" later in this chapter.

About Favorites

In Windows 98, Favorites let users subscribe to any internal or external Web site, and easily access any local or network resource. The Internet Explorer browsing software regularly checks Web sites subscribed to as Favorites for updated content according to the schedule and other options specified in the subscription. Depending on advanced subscription options, the user may also receive e-mail notification of the updates or automatically download the updated content.

You can configure your workgroup's Favorites to simplify access to the most frequently visited intranet or Web sites, and to files or folders they frequently access. By adding specific Web sites to Favorites and configuring their subscription options, you can ensure that your workgroup uses the most appropriate methods for receiving notification and downloading content whenever a Favorite Web site changes.

Considerations for Configuring Active Channels and Favorites

By effectively utilizing the power of Active Channel technology in Windows 98, you can coordinate a targeted flow of information to and from the users and workgroups that need that information the most. The key is deciding what information to Webcast, which users need that information, how often they need that information, and in what format you want the information to be Webcast or accessed.

What information do you want to Webcast? 

Do your users or workgroups regularly access specific internal or external Web sites? What kinds of information do they need from these sites?

For example, if your workgroup's home page includes schedules and the names and e-mail addresses of team leads, you might want to subscribe your users to the workgroup's home page to receive updates automatically whenever schedule or team information changes. If your workgroup relies on the latest information from a white paper or product specification, you might want to notify your workgroup by e-mail of any changes to that document and include the document as an attachment to the e-mail. If your workgroup needs to follow a stock price or a count of inventory items minute-by-minute, you might subscribe your users to a stock or inventory ticker as an Active Desktop item or channel screen saver.

Which users need the information you plan to Webcast? 

In some cases you will want to target the flow of broadband information — such as a change in team leadership or the location of a new intranet site — to an entire company or workgroup. In other cases, you will want to target information to specific users or workgroups —as when distributing a new template only to writers and editors, or distributing new employee evaluation guidelines only to managers.

How often do users need to receive updated information? 

Do your users or workgroup need to receive updated information on a daily, weekly, or minute-to-minute basis, or should you simply notify them of the update and let them browse the new information at their leisure? A workgroup administrator or Active Channel Web site author can specify the appropriate format and frequency of the Webcast in the CDF file for each Active Channel. The urgency of the information can help you determine the best format for Webcasting it.

What format do you want the information to be Webcast or accessed? 

For easy, frequent access, you might want to deliver your workgroup's intranet home page as an Active Desktop item, or place it on the Channel bar or a toolbar. If the information is time-critical, such as a stock ticker or inventory counter, you might want to deliver it as an Active Desktop item or channel screen saver. For information that is less time-critical, you might simply notify users of updates by sending e-mail notification, or specify regular, automatic Webcrawls to download new content.

Configuring the Channel Bar

As a workgroup administrator, you want to ensure that your workgroup has immediate access to the most relevant subscribed internal and external Active Channel Web sites. The simplest way to do this is to add these Active Channel Web sites to the default Windows 98 Channel bar deployed on each user's Active Desktop.

When you subscribe to an Active Channel Web site, the logo for that Active Channel is automatically added to the default Windows 98 Channel bar on the Active Desktop. You can also add Active Channel Web sites to the Channel bar without subscribing to them and remove any Active Channel Web sites that you do not want to appear on the Channel bar.

To add an Active Channel to the default Channel bar on the Active Desktop
  • Browse to the home or introductory page of the Active Channel Web site you want to add, and then click the Add Active Channel button. 

    – Or – 

    Drag the URL of the page you want to add onto the Channel bar or to the Favorites\Channels folder. 

To delete an Active Channel from the default Channel bar on the Active Desktop
  • In the Channel bar, right-click the Active Channel you want to delete, and then click Delete

Specifying a Custom Search Page

If you use the IEAK Profile Manager to deploy your Active Desktop configuration, you can specify the URL to a corporate or Internet search utility as the default for the Search explorer bar. This gives your workgroup immediate access to the most appropriate search engine.

For information about using the Profile Manager, see "Implementing Active Desktop and Active Channel Configurations" later in this chapter.

Using Active Channels and Web Sites as Active Desktop Items

Windows 98 lets you add any traditional or Active Channel Web page as an Active Desktop item on a user's or workgroup's Active Desktop.

Active Desktop items live alongside existing desktop shortcuts on the Windows 98 Active Desktop. An Active Desktop item lets you create dynamic links to your workgroup's favorite Web content. Active Desktop items are typically designed by Active Channel authors to provide summary information in a small amount of screen space. A user can click a hyperlink on an Active Desktop item to open a new browsing window; the user can then browse through the rest of the Web site.

Active Desktop items can be any size or shape and can display any HTML-based content. Like Active Channels, Active Desktop items update at regularly scheduled times specified by a CDF file or subscription, so their content is always up-to-date.

Practical Uses for Active Desktop Items

In a corporate intranet, you might want to add an Active Desktop item that displays your workgroup's home page, so that any changes to the home page would be displayed automatically on the user's desktop. You might add custom Active Desktop items created by Active Channel Web site authors for specific purposes or workgroups — for example, a "live" progress graph that shows the completion status of a project, or an "in" and "out" board showing each employee's in-office status.

When you add an Active Desktop item by subscribing a user to a traditional or Active Channel Web site, the URL for that Active Desktop item is automatically added to the user's Subscriptions folder. All content in the Active Desktop item is automatically cached offline in the user's cache. This makes content available for offline browsing if no Internet connection is available.

You can configure individual update schedules for each Active Desktop item you place on the Active Desktop. For example, a user's Active Desktop could display three different Active Desktop items: an inventory ticker that is updated once an hour, a workgroup home page that is updated once a day, and a newsletter that is updated once a week. Windows 98 automatically refreshes the Active Desktop item whenever the update occurs.

Note You can also use an HTML page or graphic file on your computer as an Active Desktop item, or download items for free from the Microsoft Active Desktop Gallery. For information, see "Using Graphics, HTML Pages, and Explorer Windows as Active Desktop Items" earlier in this chapter.

For information about creating and deploying custom Active Desktop items for your workgroup, see "Creating and Managing Active Channels on Your Intranet" later in this chapter.

To add a traditional or Active Channel Web page as an Active Desktop item

The simplest way to add an Active Desktop item from an Active Channel is to browse to the Active Channel and then click the Add to Active Desktop button on the channel's Web page. Otherwise, use the following procedure:

  1. Right-click on the Active Desktop to display the shortcut menu, and then click Properties

  2. Click the Web tab, and then click New

  3. Click No, and then select or browse to the traditional or Active Channel Web page that you want to display as an Active Desktop item. 

To customize the subscription for an Active Desktop item
  1. Right-click on the Active Desktop to display the shortcut menu, and then click Properties

  2. Click the Web tab, select the Active Desktop item you want to customize, and then click Properties

  3. Use the options on the Subscription, Receiving, and Schedule tabs to customize the subscription schedule, notification method, and so on. 

Using Active Channel Screen Savers

In addition to the default screen savers, you can configure Windows 98 to use a screen saver provided by a subscribed Active Channel Web site. In a corporate intranet, you might want to use a channel screen saver that displays a stock ticker, broadcast bulletins, or an inventory counter. Windows 98 rotates between subscribed channel screen savers, displaying each for 30 seconds by default.

Optionally, a user can move the mouse and click objects on a channel screen saver without immediately dismissing the screen saver. Clicking a hyperlink on a screen saver opens a new browsing window and closes the screen saver. Clicking anything that is not an image, link, or object closes the screen saver. The user can also click the Close and Properties buttons in the screen saver toolbar to change the behavior of that screen saver.

For information about creating and deploying custom Active Channel screen savers for your workgroup, see "Creating and Managing Active Channels on Your Intranet" later in this chapter.

To select a channel screen saver
  1. Right-click on the Active Desktop to display the shortcut menu, and then click Properties

  2. Click the Screen Saver tab, and then in the Screen Saver box click Channel Screen Saver

Setting an Online Support Page

If you use the IEAK Profile Manager to deploy your Active Desktop configuration, you can specify the URL to an online support page that users access by clicking Online Support on the Internet Explorer browsing software Help menu. This gives your users fast access to your technical support group's Web page.

For information about using the Profile Manager, see "Implementing Active Desktop and Active Channel Configurations" later in this chapter.

Configuring Subscriptions

You can optimize the targeted Webcasting of information to specific users or workgroups by effectively configuring their subscriptions to traditional Web sites and Active Channel Web sites, whether on your company's intranet or on the World Wide Web.

Considerations for Configuring Subscriptions

Before you begin configuring subscriptions, you should consider the following:

How do you want users to be notified of updates to a subscribed site? When the content of a subscribed Web site or Active Channel Web site changes, subscriptions can notify users by e-mail, or automatically download the changed content the next time the user connects to the intranet or World Wide Web. The user can then browse the changed content offline.

When and how often do you want users to receive downloads of updated content from subscribed sites? For Active Channel Web sites and Active Desktop items, the frequency and scheduling of downloads is specified by the CDF file created by the channel's author, but you can override those settings. For traditional internal and external Web sites, the default schedule for downloading is between 12:00 A.M. and 12:30 A.M. in the user's local time zone, but you can create custom schedules based on the needs of your users or the capacity of your network servers.

Note Before changing the download frequency or schedule for a subscribed Active Channel Web site or Active Desktop item on your company's intranet, you should consult with the appropriate Active Channel Web site authors or network administrators. They may have created optimal download schedules to minimize server loads and network traffic.

Procedures for Configuring Subscriptions to Web Sites

Use the following procedures to configure subscriptions to traditional Web sites on your corporate intranet or on the World Wide Web.

To subscribe to a Web site
  1. In the Internet Explorer browsing software, browse to the Web site to which you want to subscribe your users or workgroup. 

  2. On the Favorites menu, click Add to Favorites

    In the Name box on the Add Favorite dialog box, type the friendly name of the Web site as you want it to appear in the user's Favorites list, and then select the appropriate subscription option:

    • Select Yes, but only tell me when this page is updated if you want users to be notified when content on the subscribed Web site changes. 

    • Select Yes, notify me of updates and download the page for offline viewing if you want users to be notified and receive downloaded content when content on the subscribed Web site changes. 

      For either of these options, if you want your users to be notified of changes by e-mail, click the Customize button in the Add Favorite dialog box to start the Subscription Wizard. The wizard steps you through the process of specifying an e-mail address and server name, and allows you to modify the default subscription schedule. 

To change subscription options for a subscribed Web site
  1. In the Internet Explorer browsing software, on the Favorites menu, click Manage Subscriptions

  2. Right-click the subscription that you want to change, and then on the shortcut menu, click Properties

  3. Use the options on the Receiving tab to change how notifications of updates are sent. 

  4. Use the options on the Schedule tab to change the frequency and schedule for downloading changed content from the subscribed Web site. 

Procedures for Configuring Subscriptions to Active Channel Web Sites
To subscribe to an Active Channel Web site
  1. In the Internet Explorer browsing software, browse to the Active Channel Web site to which you want to subscribe your users or workgroup. 

  2. Click the Add Active Channel button on the Active Channel Web site's home or introductory page. 

    In the Add Active Channel Content dialog box, select an option for subscribing

    • If you want to be notified of updates to the site's content but do not want to automatically download the updated content when you connect to the site, click Only tell me when updates occur

    • If you want to be notified and automatically download updates when you connect to the site, click Notify me of updates and download the channel for offline viewing

      For either of these options, if you want your users to be notified of changes by e-mail, click the Customize button in the Add Favorite dialog box to start the Subscription Wizard. The wizard steps you through the process of specifying an e-mail address and server name, and allows you to modify the default subscription schedule specified by the CDF file for the Active Channel. 

To change subscription options for a subscribed Active Channel Web site
  1. In the Internet Explorer browsing software, on the Favorites menu, click Manage Subscriptions

  2. Right-click the subscription that you want to change, and then on the shortcut menu, click Properties

  3. Use the options on the Receiving tab to change how notifications of updates are sent. 

  4. Use the options on the Schedule tab to change the frequency and schedule for downloading changed content from the subscribed Active Channel Web site. 

Organizing Favorites

When a Web site is configured as a Favorite, a user can be notified of changed content on the Web site by e-mail. In addition, when the user rests the mouse pointer over the Favorite icon for that Web site, a pop-up description appears that provides information about that Web site or about the nature of the update to that Web site.

You can simplify your workgroup's access to the most frequently visited Web sites by effectively organizing their Favorites. You can place a Web site at the top level of the Favorites folder for faster access, or you can create subfolders to group Favorites. For example, you might want to group similar intranet Web sites into one folder and similar external Web sites into another, or you might want to create subfolders for each workgroup or division in your company.

Note You can also customize the Favorites folder under Wizard Settings in the IEAK Profile Manager. For more information, see "About the IEAK Profile Manager" later in this chapter.

To organize Favorites
  1. In the Internet Explorer browsing software, click the Favorites menu, and then click Organize Favorites

  2. Use the options in the Organize Favorites dialog box to move, rename, or delete Favorites, or to create, move, rename, or delete subfolders containing related Favorites. 

Tip You can reorder the Favorites menu by clicking any item and dragging it to a new location.

Implementing Active Desktop and Active Channel Configurations

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This section explains how to use the Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK) Profile Manager to deploy your custom Active Channel and Active Desktop configurations. It also describes some of the additional features of the Profile Manager that you might want to use, such as automatic browser configuration and software distribution channels.

About the IEAK Profile Manager

The IEAK Profile Manager is a tool that network or workgroup administrators can use to create custom Active Desktop and Active Channel configurations and deploy them to users.

What You Can Do with the Profile Manager

Once you have created custom Active Desktop and Active Channel configurations on your computer as described in the previous sections of this chapter, you can use the IEAK Profile Manager to import those custom configurations and deploy them.

You can also use the Profile Manager to:

  • Specify system policies and restrictions, such as whether users can close toolbars or modify their Start menus, and set additional options such as proxy settings. 

  • Customize additional components of the Internet Explorer browsing software, such as Outlook Express and Microsoft NetMeeting. 

  • Package these and additional applications that you want to distribute to users or workgroups into files that can be downloaded, distributed on floppy disk or compact disc, or installed by Active Setup. 

  • Deploy updates to Active Desktop and Active Channel configurations when a user starts the Internet Explorer browsing software, or at scheduled intervals, using automatic browser configuration. 

  • Set up and maintain software distribution channels, which you can use to distribute new applications or software updates. 

How the Profile Manager Works

The Profile Manager lets you manage two categories of settings: Wizard Settings and System Policies & Restrictions.

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You click a category of settings (such as Desktop, in the Web Desktop folder) in the left pane, and then specify the individual options for that category (such as allowing users to alter their Active Desktops). For some categories, you can import custom Active Desktop configurations from your computer.

You then use the Profile Manager to create an auto-configuration file named usergroup.ins, where usergroup is the name of your workgroup. This file also contains information from policy template (ADM) files and INF files representing the Profile Manager settings, and any custom ADM files you may have imported.

The Profile Manager also creates companion cabinet (CAB) files used to configure users' computers. These files contain the installation information INF, INS, and ADM files and application updates or components that are automatically unpacked on users' computers. Windows 98 uses these unpacked INF files to change system policies and update desktop configurations.

Deploying Configurations

Once the Profile Manager has created the necessary files for your custom configurations, you can deploy them to users in the following ways:

  • Whenever the Internet Explorer browsing software is restarted or updated. 

  • According to a schedule specified using automatic browser configuration. 

  • Using download sites on your corporate intranet. 

  • On compact discs or floppy disks. 

If you have established software distribution channels, software updates will be deployed according to the channel specifications.

The Microsoft Internet Explorer Resource Kit provides extensive details, procedures, and technical discussions about planning, creating, and deploying custom configurations, creating software distribution channels, and much more. The Microsoft Internet Explorer Resource Kit (ISBN 1-57231-842-2) is available from Microsoft Press, or you can download a copy from the Internet Explorer Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/ie/corp/ . To download the Internet Explorer 4.0 Administration Kit, visit the IEAK Web site at http://ieak.microsoft.com/ . 

For information about creating Active Channels and software distribution channels on your corporate intranet, see "Creating and Managing Active Channels on Your Intranet" later in this chapter.

Creating Active Desktop and Active Channel Configurations

Once you have created a custom Active Desktop and Active Channel configuration that you want to deploy to a specific workgroup, you can import those settings into the IEAK Profile Manager.

The IEAK Profile Manager can be installed on your computer from the Netadmin\Profmgr directory on the Microsoft Windows 98 Resource Kit compact disc.

To start the IEAK Profile Manager
  1. Click Start, point to Programs, point to Windows 98 Resource Kit, and then click Tools Management Console

  2. In the left pane, click the Tool Categories folder, and then click the Deployment Tools folder. 

  3. In the right pane, click Profmgr.exe

Creating a Profile

You begin by creating or opening an INS file for your workgroup. Once you have created a new INS file, or opened an existing INS file, you can import your custom configuration and specify additional browsing software and security settings.

The Internet Explorer 4.0 Administration Kit includes several template INS files that can help you create your own INS files. Open one of these templates, located in the \IEAK\Reskit folder, save it under your workgroup's name, and then customize the settings.

Specifying Wizard Settings

The left pane of the Profile Manager contains two categories: Wizard Settings and System Policies & Restrictions. Click an item under Wizard Settings, and the right pane displays the options you can configure for that item. Table 6.1 describes the items you can use to configure the Active Desktop and Active Channel elements described in this chapter.

Table 6.1 Wizard Settings for Active Desktop and Active Channels 

Item

Use to

Support Page

Specify the URL of your workgroup's or company's online support page, which opens in the browsing window when users click Online Help on the browsing window's Help menu.

Favorites

Specify your workgroup's favorite Web sites, which will be listed in the Favorites menu. You can import the default Favorites you created for your current Active Desktop and Active Channel configuration, or you can type any URL.

Desktop Wallpaper

Specify the path of a custom desktop wallpaper file.

Start and Search Page

Specify the home page for your workgroup when users click Home. You can use the default home page of your current Active Desktop configuration, or you can type any URL.
You can also set the search page that you want the users in your workgroup to see when they open the Search explorer bar. You can use the default Search explorer bar of your current Active Desktop configuration, or you can type any URL.

Import Channels

Add or delete channels from the Channel bar and customize Subscriptions. You can import the Channel bar and Subscription configurations from your current Active Desktop configuration.

Import Software Updates

Import the Software Distribution Channels settings from your current configuration.

Specify Active Desktop Items

Import the Active Desktop items from your current configuration.

My Computer and Control Panel Webview Customization

Specify HTML files to display as Web views of My Computer and Control Panel.

Automatic Browser Configuration

Enable automatic browser configuration and specify URLs for auto-configure (INS) and auto-proxy (JS or PAC) files.

For information about configuring items for the Internet Explorer browsing software, such as Browser Title, or other components, such as Outlook Express, see Chapter 20, "Internet Tools and Accessories" and Chapter 22, "Electronic Mail with Outlook Express."

For detailed descriptions of these items, other items not described here, or information about using the Profile Manager, refer to the Profile Manager online Help system or the Microsoft Internet Explorer Resource Kit.

Specifying System Policies and Restrictions

The System Policies & Restrictions category contains folders of related items. Click a folder, and then click an item in the folder. The right pane displays the options you can configure for that item. Table 6.2 describes the items, organized by folder, that you can use to configure the Active Desktop and Active Channel elements described in this chapter.

Table 6.2 System Policies & Restrictions for Active Desktop and Active Channels 

Folder

Item

Use to

Internet Restrictions

General

Restrict users from changing home page settings.

 

Channels Settings

Restrict users from changing channel subscription, download schedules, and notification options.

Internet Settings

Advanced Settings

Enable or disable scheduled subscription updates, or launch channels in full-screen mode.

Web Desktop

Desktop

Restrict users from altering their Active Desktop configurations, wallpaper, Active Desktop items, and toolbars.

 

Start Menu

Restrict users from altering the Start menu and Taskbar.

Subscriptions

Subscriptions

Restrict the amount of information downloaded from Subscriptions, the number of Subscriptions, Subscription update schedules, and Webcrawl levels.

The Profile Manager lets you specify many other Wizard Settings and System Policies & Restrictions than those described in this section. For more information about those options, refer to the Profile Manager online Help system, or see the Microsoft Internet Explorer Resource Kit. The Microsoft Internet Explorer Resource Kit can be purchased as a book and is also available online from the Internet Explorer Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/ie/corp/ . 

Deploying Active Desktop and Active Channel Configurations

After you have specified and saved the configuration options in the Profile Manager, the Profile Manager creates INS, INF, and ADM files, and packages those files (and any custom components you may have created) into CAB files. The CAB files can then be deployed to your users in a variety of ways. For information and guidance on designing and implementing your deployment strategy, see the Microsoft Internet Explorer Resource Kit. 

Using Automatic Browser Configuration

You can also use the Profile Manager to set up automatic browser configuration. With automatic browser configuration, the Internet Explorer browsing software automatically checks the user's or workgroup's INS files, downloads any changes, and updates the configuration. You can specify scheduled intervals for these updates, or you can configure the Internet Explorer browsing software to check the INS files for updates every time the browser is launched.

For more information about automatic browser configuration, refer to the Profile Manager online Help system or the Microsoft Internet Explorer Resource Kit.

Using Software Distribution Channels

You can use software distribution channels to distribute new or updated application components to your users or workgroups. A software distribution channel is a type of Active Channel that uses an Open Software Distribution (OSD) file. The users' computers check the OSD file at scheduled intervals or at startup and automatically download and install any new or changed software components.

For information about creating software distribution channels on your company's intranet, see "Creating a Software Distribution Channel" later in this chapter.

For more information about implementing software distribution channels, refer to the Profile Manager online Help system or the Microsoft Internet Explorer Resource Kit.

Creating and Managing Active Channels on Your Intranet

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This section is intended primarily for intranet Web site authors and administrators. It presents an overview of the new channel technology in Windows 98 and describes how to create and manage Active Channel Web sites on your corporate intranet.

Overview of Active Channels on an Intranet

An Active Channel Web site is simply a Web site that is enabled to take advantage of the new channel, or "push," technologies introduced in Windows 98. By effectively configuring your intranet Web sites as Active Channel Web sites, you can target the Webcasting of information, applications, content, bulletins, and updates to specific users or workgroups in your company. By effectively utilizing Active Channel technology, as well as HTML-based forms, Dynamic HTML, ActiveX controls, Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) applications, and Java applets, you can vastly improve how your workgroup or company disseminates information and applications. Figure 6.5 illustrates Active Channels on an intranet.

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Figure 6.5 Active Channels on an intranet 

You can transform any existing intranet Web site into an Active Channel Web site by creating a Channel Definition Format (CDF) file. The CDF file specifies:

  • What content should be delivered to subscribed users. 

  • How that content is to be used (for example, as a channel item, or "page" in the channel, a screen saver, or as an Active Desktop item) and how updates are to be delivered (for example, by sending e-mail notification or by downloading the content directly to the user's computer). 

  • When and how often the user's computer should connect to the site to receive notification of updates or download updated content. 

In the Channel bar, the Internet Explorer browsing software uses the CDF file to create a visual structure of the pages outlined in the Active Channel Web site. When a user clicks on the channel icon in the Channel bar, the channel expands to display a visual map of the pages in the Active Channel Web site. Pop-up descriptions display abstract text that describes the contents or nature of each site, page, or update.

You can create multiple CDF files for a single Active Channel Web site to target customized content for specific users or workgroups. For example, if your Web site contains information on different software products, you can create separate CDF files for each product to deliver information on that product only to the specific users or workgroups using or developing that software.

Note Create a separate CDF file for each Active Channel Web site, Active Desktop item, or channel screen saver. If your CDF file describes both an Active Channel Web site and an Active Desktop item, the information about the Active Desktop item will be ignored.

Delivering Active Channel Content as an Active Desktop Item

Active Desktop items live alongside existing desktop shortcuts on the Windows 98 Active Desktop. An Active Desktop item lets you create dynamic links to your workgroup's favorite Web content. Active Desktop items are typically designed to provide summary information in a small amount of screen space. A user can click a hyperlink on an Active Desktop item to open a new browsing window; the user can then browse through the rest of your Active Channel Web site.

Active Desktop items can be any size or shape and can display any HTML-based content. Like Active Channels, Active Desktop items update at regularly scheduled times specified by the CDF file, so their content is always up-to-date.

All content in an Active Desktop item is automatically cached offline in the user's cache. This makes content available for offline browsing if no Internet connection is available.

You should create individual CDF files and update schedules for each Active Desktop item that you create. For example, a user's Active Desktop could display three different Active Desktop items: an inventory ticker that is updated once an hour, a workgroup home page that is updated once a day, and a newsletter that is updated once a week. The Internet Explorer browsing software automatically refreshes the Active Desktop item whenever the update occurs.

You can download Active Desktop items from Microsoft's Active Desktop Gallery Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/ie/ie40/gallery/ . For information about creating your own Active Desktop items, and for sample CDF code, visit the Internet Explorer Technologies page of Microsoft's Site Builder Network Web site at http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/shellcc/platform/shell/programmersguide/shell_adv/activedesktop.asp .

Delivering Active Channel Content as a Screen Saver

You can also deliver Active Channel content to users in the form of screen savers. With an Active Channel screen saver, a user can move the mouse and click objects on the screen saver without closing the screen saver. Clicking a link on a screen saver opens a new browser window and dismisses the screen saver.

Considerations for Creating and Maintaining Active Channels on Your Intranet

Channel technology in Windows 98 gives intranet site authors and administrators greater control in Webcasting content across the corporate intranet. However, it also leads to questions about what, when, and how to Webcast information so as to minimize server loads and target specific users.

What intranet sites should be configured as Active Channels? 

Intranet site authors and administrators must work closely with workgroup and network administrators to determine which internal Web sites should be configured as Active Channels, and how and when these Active Channels should Webcast information across the corporate intranet. Web authors can then configure the appropriate sites as Active Channels by creating CDF files manually, or automatically using the Microsoft FrontPage 98 Channel Definition Wizard.

How do you want to deliver content and updates? 

Do you want to notify users or workgroups by e-mail, or do you want to download updated content automatically according to the schedule you specify? Do you want to deliver content in the form of Active Channel Web pages, Active Desktop items, or channel screen savers? What abstracts do you want to appear as pop-up descriptions? What graphics do you want to use for the channel logo on the Channel bar and the channel icons displayed in the expanded Channel bar map of your site?

Will your Active Channel Web pages work when browsed offline? 

If you want your Active Channel Web pages to work in offline browsing mode, you must make sure that all of the elements on your pages work offline. Many Java applets and ActiveX controls do not work offline.

How will Webcasting affect server loads? 

One of the most crucial considerations for intranet site authors and administrators is the scheduling of Webcasting to minimize server loads. The CDF file for each Active Channel specifies when and how often updates from that Active Channel will be downloaded from the server to each subscribed user. By randomizing download schedules and efficiently distributing Active Channel content across network servers, you can minimize server loads and network traffic.

How can users be specifically targeted to receive Active Channel content? 

You can utilize HTTP cookies, Active Server pages (ASP files), and the return of cached data from subscribed users' log files to target specific information and customized CDF files.

Considerations for Web Authors Creating Active Desktop Items or Screen Savers

Following are some considerations for Active Channel Web authors implementing Active Desktop items or channel screen savers:

The Active Desktop item or screen saver must work offline. Because many users will view Active Channel contents offline, an Active Desktop item or channel screen saver should display some reasonable content in the absence of an Internet or intranet connection. Any files the Active Desktop item uses should be cached on the user's computer. This can be particularly tricky for Java applets, because image objects typically sit in separate GIF or JPEG files on a Web server.

You can cache any object referenced by an Active Desktop item or channel screen saver. For example, if a component is built from an HTML document inside a floating frame, you can set the Active Desktop item or channel screen saver subscription to download any images, sounds, objects, or applets automatically, and to download any number of HTML links n levels deep. You can also specify individual subscriptions for any data files or objects that an Active Desktop item or channel screen saver might reference.

Note Java applets and ActiveX controls must be signed so they can access content from the offline cache. For further information on signing Java applets or ActiveX controls, see http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/shellcc/platform/Shell/activedesktop.asp or http://www.microsoft.com/java/ .

Avoid using navigation controls. Active Desktop items and channel screen savers have no navigation controls available for the user to move backward and forward. By default, clicking a link inside an Active Desktop item or channel screen saver creates a new browser window. You should not create in-place navigation controls in Active Desktop items or channel screen savers.

Size Active Desktop items carefully. An Active Desktop item needs to share the Active Desktop with any other icons or Active Desktop items the user or administrator has configured. You should create Active Desktop items as small as necessary to display their desired content. This gives Active Desktop users and administrators maximum flexibility in configuring Active Desktops. A good benchmark is to make sure that the Active Desktop item takes up no more than one-sixth the area of the screen.

Allow for component resizing and moving. Active Desktop items can be resized and moved. The Internet Explorer browsing software will set the size of the 2D HTML layer that contains the component, and will then try to reflow all HTML content within this space. You should design Active Desktop items with resizing in mind.

Creating Channel Definition Format Files

You create a Channel Definition Format (CDF) file manually using Windows Notepad, WordPad, or your favorite text editor. The CDF file is an XML-based document containing text-annotated tags that define your Active Channel Web site, Active Desktop item, or channel screen saver. You save the file using a .cdf file extension.

The following section describes the most significant elements of the CDF file that you might want to use in authoring your Active Channel content. For specifications and other information about creating CDF files and Active Channels, visit the Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 Authoring Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/ie/authors/ .

Tip Microsoft FrontPage 98 includes the Channel Definition Wizard, which prompts you for the contents of your Active Channel and creates the CDF file for you. You can create an Active Channel Web site for both new Webs that you create in FrontPage 98 and existing Webs that you import into FrontPage 98. For more information, see Microsoft FrontPage 98 online Help, or visit the FrontPage 98 Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/frontpage/ .

Specifying the Channel and Channel Items

A channel consists of a main HTML document to which you may add any number of subpages, or channel items. The main HTML document can be an existing page on your Web site or a new page that you create specifically for the channel.

The channel items are the Active Channel Web pages that appear in a hierarchical list that is displayed in full screen mode, when the user clicks the channel logo in the Channel bar.

Specifying the Main Page of the Channel

The main page of the channel is identified by the CHANNEL tag, and the information about the channel's subpages is contained within the <CHANNEL> </CHANNEL> block. In the opening CHANNEL tag, you identify the URL of the channel's main page with the HREF attribute:

<CHANNEL HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/ie/ie40/">
</CHANNEL>
Specifying the Channel Title

The TITLE tag specifies a short description of the channel that is displayed in the list of channels accessed from the Favorites menu. The TITLE also appears as a ToolTip when the user passes the mouse over the channel logo in the Channel bar on the Active Desktop:

<TITLE>My Channel</TITLE>
Specifying the Channel Items

The ITEM tag defines a subpage and its information. The HREF attribute specifies the URL of the subpage. TITLE gives a short definition of the page that appears in the Channel bar listing, and ABSTRACT provides a longer description that appears as a ToolTip when the user moves the mouse over the logo in the Channel bar:

<ITEM HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/author/dhtml/">
<TITLE>Microsoft Dynamic HTML</TITLE>
<ABSTRACT>Site Builder Network articles on Dynamic HTML</ABSTRACT>
</ITEM>
Supplying the Channel Logo and Item Icons

The LOGO tag specifies an 80 x 32-pixel logo and a 16 x 16-pixel icon. The logo appears in the Channel bar, which displays all the subscribed channels. The icon appears in the Channels submenu of the Internet Explorer browsing software Favorites menu.

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The Internet Explorer browsing software uses the color in the top-left pixel as the background for the image when the user resizes the Channel bar beyond 80 pixels in width.

<LOGO HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/prog/ie4/channels/dhtml.ico" STYLE="icon" />
<LOGO HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/prog/ie4/channels/dhtml1.gif" STYLE="image" />
HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/prog/ie4/channels/dhtml2.gif" STYLE="image-wide" />

There is also a wide channel logo (194 x 32 pixels) that can be specified by the LOGO tag. This is the logo displayed when the user opens a channel in full-screen mode for viewing, in the wide Channel bar that appears on the left side of the browser window and slides in and out.

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Writing Abstracts for ToolTips

The ABSTRACT element of the ITEM tag provides a pop-up description of a channel item. The Abstract Description is displayed as a ToolTip when the user rests the cursor over the item. Use this feature to describe the content of an Active Channel Web page, to notify users that an update of that page is available, or to attract users' attention and encourage them to review that content immediately.

<ITEM HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/author/dhtml/">
<TITLE>Microsoft Dynamic HTML</TITLE>
<ABSTRACT>A new update of this page is available!</ABSTRACT>
</ITEM>
Specifying Usages for Channel Items

The USAGE VALUE tag specifies how a channel item should be used:

  • Channel specifies that the item appears on the Channel bar on the Active Desktop. This is the default behavior when no USAGE element appears under an ITEM. 

  • Email specifies an item that is e-mailed to a subscribed user when the channel content is updated. 

  • DesktopComponent specifies that the item should be displayed as an Active Desktop item on the user's Active Desktop. Use an individual CDF file for each Active Desktop item that you create. If a CDF file defines a channel using the Channel value, the DesktopComponent value will be ignored. 

  • ScreenSaver specifies that the item should be displayed for 30 seconds during the rotation of Active Channel Screen Savers installed on the user's Active Desktop. Use an individual CDF file for each channel screen saver that you create. If a CDF file defines a channel using the Channel value, it can also include one ScreenSaver value. 

    The following example shows a CDF file for an Active Desktop item: 

    <ITEM HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/author/dhtml/">
    <TITLE>Microsoft Dynamic HTML</TITLE>
    <ABSTRACT>Site Builder Network articles on Dynamic HTML</ABSTRACT>
    <USAGE VALUE="DesktopComponent"></USAGE>
    </ITEM>
    
Setting Levels of Crawling

The LEVEL value of the CHANNEL HREF or ITEM HREF tag specifies the number of levels deep the client should "site crawl" your channel (HTML content indexed by the HREF attribute), channel item, or Active Desktop item. The default is zero, which specifies only to pre-cache the cover page along with its images. Frames and their frame sets, as well as pages and their images, are considered part of the same level. Clients must follow hyperlinks with URLs within the same domain as the URL of the cover page.

The following example specifies a channel site crawl one level deep:

<CHANNEL HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/ie/ie40/"
LEVEL="1">
</CHANNEL>
Setting Update Schedules to Minimize Server Load

The SCHEDULE tag defines the schedule used for updating your channel, Active Desktop item, or channel screen saver. Starting at midnight on STARTDATE, channel updating occurs once within each consecutive time interval of duration specified by the INTERVALTIME element. The EARLIESTTIME and LATESTTIME elements define the range of time within each interval in which a content update can occur.

The following example schedules a daily update sometime between noon and 6:00 P.M.:

<SCHEDULE>
<INTERVALTIME DAY="1"/>
<EARLIESTTIME HOUR="12"/>
<LATESTTIME HOUR="18"/>
</SCHEDULE>

The following example schedules a weekly update at noon each Friday:

<SCHEDULE STARTDATE="1997-07-14">
<INTERVALTIME DAY="7"/>
<EARLIESTTIME DAY="4" HOUR="12"/>
<LATESTTIME DAY="4" HOUR="12"/>
</SCHEDULE>

Active Channel Web site authors and administrators should work closely with network and workgroup administrators to schedule content downloads during periods of low network traffic. You can further minimize server loads by randomizing content update schedules, so that all subscribed users do not attempt downloads at the same time, and by distributing Active Channel Web sites between servers based on the number of hits, downloads, and server capacity.

Creating Add Active Channel and Add to Active Desktop Buttons

A user can subscribe to your Active Channel Web site or Active Desktop item by clicking a link on your channel's main page that points to the CDF file for the channel or Active Desktop item. Microsoft recommends that developers use standard GIF files for these buttons, which you can copy from the following code:

<A HREF=" http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/prog/ie4/channels/button.gif ">
<img src="http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/prog/ie4/channels/button.gif" 
width="110" height="24" border="0" alt="Subscribe to channel">
</A>

If you are using the Microsoft FrontPage 98 Channel Definition Wizard to create your Active Channel Web site, you can direct the wizard to create an Add Active Channel button and automatically place it on your home page. For more information, see Microsoft FrontPage 98 online Help.

Delivering Custom CDF Files Using HTTP Cookies

The HTTP cookie standard provides a powerful mechanism for personalizing Web content. You can create an Active Channel that uses regular HTTP cookies to dynamically generate custom CDF files based on individual user preferences. The CDF file enhances the existing cookie standard for personalized HTML by allowing personalized channels for individual users.

To create personalized channels for users or groups
  1. The first time users visit your Active Channel Web site, present them with a form asking for their preferences, as they relate to the channel. This page could be referenced by the Add Active Channel button or by a hyperlink. When the user submits the form data back to the server, the channel's CDF file can be referenced. 

  2. Store the user's preferences on the Web server hosting your Active Channel Web site, or within an HTTP cookie on the user's computer. 

  3. Whenever the Internet Explorer browsing software requests a CDF file for that user, dynamically generate a special CDF file or download an existing CDF file that matches that user's profile. 

You can also use Active Server Pages (ASPs) with Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) to dynamically generate personalized CDF files. When using IIS, you must insert the following line at the top of the CDF file:

<% Response.ContentType = "application/x-cdf" %>

This ensures that the server will return the correct MIME/content type to the browser. Without this line, the browser will not perform the expected actions for CDF files. For example, the CDF file might be displayed as text in the browser window rather than launch the Subscription Wizard.

If you implement HTTP authentication in your Active Channel, make sure the Internet Explorer browsing software has the user name and password so it can update the channel content without user intervention. To accomplish this, you can force the Internet Explorer browsing software to ask the user for this information during the channel subscription setup process, by using the LOGIN element in the CDF file.

Creating a Software Distribution Channel

A software distribution channel is a mechanism for updating program files (such as Java class libraries, Java stand-alone applications, ActiveX controls, or platform native code) on a user's computer. A software distribution channel is based on a CDF file and the Open Software Description (OSD) format.

OSD lets you automatically download only the software that the user needs. By querying the users' computer about existing software and hardware, OSD can make more intelligent decisions about what the user needs and install the correct version.

You can also use OSD to simplify the computing experience by installing missing components on the fly. For example, if the user is missing a component that prevents another program from functioning, OSD can detect this and automatically download the missing component.

The IEAK Profile Manager comes with four CDF templates you can customize to create software distribution channels on your corporate intranet. For more information about using the Profile Manager to create software distribution channels, or to copy these templates, see "Templates for Software Distribution Channels" in the Profile Manager's online Help.

For more information about the Profile Manager, see "About the IEAK Profile Manager" earlier in this chapter.

Technical Notes

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This section contains technical notes on the Active Desktop and Active Channels.

The Active Desktop

The Active Desktop in Windows 98 is built from two separate layers. The transparent icon layer exposes all the user's existing desktop shortcuts, and the background HTML layer hosts all Active Desktop items. The HTML layer is described by a single, local HTML file called Desktop.htm that is created and edited automatically by Windows 98. This file contains the following:

  • HTML tags that represent each Active Desktop item. Each Active Desktop item consists of a single HTML tag with arbitrary x- and y-positions. The HTML tag for an Active Desktop item can be an image (<IMG>) tag, a floating frame (<IFRAME>) tag, or an object (<OBJECT>) tag, and is generated automatically by Windows 98. The floating frame is the most commonly used approach, because it neatly encapsulates an entire arbitrary HTML document that can contain anything the author desires. In either case, there is a single URL that points to the actual content. 

  • An ActiveX control that enables moving and resizing of the Active Desktop items and helps manage the list of items. 

  • Any other static HTML that the user wants to have in the background. By default, this is just a reference to the user's chosen wallpaper, which is exposed as the background watermark for the HTML page. 

A Sample CDF File

The following is an example of a simple CDF file for a sub-channel (a channel within a channel):

<?XML version="1.0"?>

<CHANNEL
HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/ie/ie40/">

<TITLE>Dynamic HTML Channel</TITLE>
<LOGO HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/prog/ie4/channels/dhtml.ico" STYLE="icon" />
<LOGO HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/prog/ie4/channels/dhtml.gif" STYLE="image" />

<ITEM HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/author/dhtml/">
<TITLE>Microsoft Dynamic HTML</TITLE>
<ABSTRACT>Site Builder Network articles on Dynamic HTML 
</ABSTRACT>
</ITEM>

<ITEM HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/prog/ie4/">
<TITLE>Internet Explorer 4 Technologies</TITLE>
<ABSTRACT>Site Builder Network articles on Internet Explorer 4 
</ABSTRACT>
</ITEM>
<CHANNEL HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/archives/">
<TITLE>Site Builder Networks archives</TITLE>
<ABSTRACT>Site Builder Network articles from the last 6 
months</ABSTRACT>

<ITEM HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/archives/asp/">
<TITLE>Active Server pages</TITLE>
<ABSTRACT>Site Builder Network articles on Active Server 
Pages</ABSTRACT>
</ITEM>

<ITEM HREF="http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/archives/SQL/">
<TITLE>Building a SQL backend for your Intranet</TITLE>
<ABSTRACT>Site Builder Network articles on Intranets and SQL 
databases</ABSTRACT>
</ITEM>
</CHANNEL>

</CHANNEL>

Additional Resources 

For more information about

See this resource

Internet Explorer

Microsoft Internet Explorer Resource Kit
http://www.microsoft.com/ie/corp/  
http://ieak.microsoft.com/  

FrontPage 98

http://www.microsoft.com/frontpage/  

Active Desktop Gallery

http://www.microsoft.com/ie/ie40/gallery/  

Active Desktop items

http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/shellcc/platform/shell/programmersguide/shell_adv/activedesktop.asp  

Java applets and ActiveX controls

http://www.microsoft.com/java/  
http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/shellcc/platform/shell/programmersguide/shell_adv/activedesktop.asp  

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