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Deploying Pinned Websites

Windows® Internet Explorer® 9 takes websites out of the browser box and makes them more like applications in Window 7. You can pin websites to the Windows 7 taskbar for quick access. You pin a website simply by dragging its tab to the taskbar. Some websites can also extend the icon’s Jump List. For more information about adding and removing pinned sites, see Pin a Website to your Taskbar.

The ability to pin websites to the Windows 7 taskbar can help make end users in businesses more productive. As an IT professional, for example, you can pin intranet websites to the taskbar to make them immediately available to users. In this article, you learn how to deploy pinned websites by using Lite Touch Installation in the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2010.

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are not permitted to customize the browser by pinning websites to the taskbar. OEMs that install Internet Explorer 9 as part of a Windows product, under an OEM license agreement with Microsoft, should use the OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK) Addendum for Internet Explorer 9 as their guide for customizations that are allowed for Internet Explorer 9 preinstalled on computers.

Deploying pinned websites in MDT 2010

Pinning websites only works with Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 9, so this article requires that you have a fully stocked MDT 2010 deployment share that contains Windows 7. You can add Internet Explorer 9 to the deployment share as an application, or you can slipstream Internet Explorer 9 into the Windows 7 image:

Deploying pinned websites in MDT 2010 is a three-step process:

  1. Create a .website file for each website that you want to deploy. When you pin a website to the taskbar, Windows 7 creates a .website file that describes how the icon should look and feel.

  2. Copy the .website files to the Start menu on each target computer for all users. This article uses the legacy $OEM$ folders as a quick and easy way to copy files during deployment to target computers. Alternatively, you could write a script that copies the files, and add that script to the task sequence. Using the $OEM$ folders is much simpler and requires no script code.

  3. Edit the task sequence of your Unattend.xml answer files to pin the websites to the taskbar. In particular, you want to add each .website file to the TaskbarLinks item in Unattend.xml during oobeSystem phase. You can add up to three .website files to the TaskbarLinks item.

Figure 1 shows a successful Windows 7 deployment using MDT 2010. Notice that the taskbar already includes the Bing™ and MSN® icons pinned to the taskbar. These websites are immediately available to end users, although they must click each icon to populate its Jump List. You can also pin intranet websites and SharePoint sites. These pinned websites will be available to every user who logs on to the computer.

Websites pinned to Windows 7 taskbar

Figure 1. Websites pinned during a Windows 7 deployment by using MDT 2010.

Step 1: Creating .website files

The first step is to create a .website file for each website that you want to pin to the Windows 7 taskbar during deployment. A .website file is like a shortcut, except it’s a plain text file that describes not only the website’s URL but also how the icon looks.

To create each .website file:

  1. Open the website in Internet Explorer 9.

  2. Drag the website’s tab and drop it on the Windows 7 taskbar.

  3. Open the following folder in Windows Explorer, and copy the .website files to your desktop:

    %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned\TaskBar

To follow the examples in this article, you will want to pin the Bing (http://www.bing.com/) and MSN (http://www.msn.com/) websites to the taskbar. Then, copy the Bing.website and MSN.com.website to your desktop. You’ll add these files to your deployment share in the next step.

Step 2: Copying .website files to the Start menu

After you’ve copied the .website files to the desktop, you must enable the deployment share to copy them to the Start menu on each target computer. You can create a script that copies the files to target computers’ Start menus, and add that script to the task sequence. For more information on using a script to customize your deployment share, see the MDT 2010.

An easier way that requires no script code is to use the legacy $OEM$ folder. The MDT 2010 documentation describes this folder in detail. MDT 2010 automatically copies the contents of the $OEM$ folder to target computers during installation. Everything in the subfolder named $$ goes in the target computer’s %SYSTEMROOT% folder, and everything in the subfolder named $1 goes in the %SYSTEMDRIVE$ folder. For more information, see Customizing and Automating Installations.

Here, you’ll take advantage of the $1 folder to copy the .website files to the Start menu for all users (%SYSTEMDRIVE%\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu).

To copy .website files to the Start menu

  1. Open the MDT 2010 deployment share in Windows Explorer.

  2. In the $OEM$ folder, create the path $1\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu \Websites. If the $OEM$ folder does not exist, create it at the root of the deployment share.

  3. Copy the .website files you created earlier (Bing.website and MSN.com.website) from the desktop to $OEM$\$1\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Websites in the deployment share, as shown in Figure 2.

The .website files remain on the Start menu after deployment.

Copying .website files to the Start menu

Figure 2. Copying .website files to the Start menu for all users.

Step 3: Pinning .website files to the Taskbar

With the .website files ready to copy to the Start menu on target computers for all users, the last step is to edit the Unattend.xml answer files to pin those .website files to the taskbar. You will need to complete the following steps for each task sequence during which you want to pin these websites to the taskbar:

  1. In the Deployment Workbench of MDT 2010, open the deployment share containing the task sequence during which you want to deploy pinned websites, and click Task Sequences.

  2. In the right pane of the Deployment Workbench, right-click the task sequence, and click Properties.

  3. On the OS Info tab, click Edit Unattend.xml to open the Unattend.xml file in Windows System Image Manager (Windows SIM).

  4. Add TaskbarLinks to the oobeSystem phase of the Unattend.xml file. In the Windows Image pane, under Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup, right-click TaskbarLinks, and then click Add Setting to Pass 7 oobeSystem.

  5. In the TaskbarLinks Properties pane, add the path of the .website files that you created earlier. You can only add three links to the TaskbarLinks item. Additionally, remember to use a path relative to the target computer and not the deployment share. For example, add the following (shown in Figure 3):

    • %ALLUSERSPROFILE%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Websites\Bing.website

    • %ALLUSERSPROFILE%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Websites\MSN.com.website

  6. On the File menu, click Save Answer File, and close Windows SIM.

  7. To close the task sequence, click OK.

Adding TaskbarLinks to an Unattend.xml file.

Figure 3. Adding TaskbarLinks to an Unattend.xml file.

Updating intranet websites for pinning

The MDT 2010 deployment share and task sequences are now ready to pin websites to the taskbar during deployment. This pinning feature can include intranet sites important in your organization.

You can make your intranet websites act more like applications by extending them to fully support the Windows 7 taskbar. This includes creating custom Jump Lists, thumbnail previews, and notifications. For more information about extending your intranet websites, see:

Also, for more ideas, see Pinned Sites on Internet Explorer Gallery.

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