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This article is a guide for writing custom ADM files for use with System Policy Editor. System Policy Editor's interface, comprised of all of the books, check boxes, and text boxes you see when you open a computer or user of group policy, is created with a template. The system policy template, or ADM file, is a simple program that instructs System Policy Editor what books, check boxes, and other input controls to present to the administrator.
For more information about writing an ADM file for group policy, see the white paper ("Implementing Registry-Based Group Policy") at the following Microsoft Web site:
There are two default templates included when you install Windows NT. They are Common.adm and Winnt.adm. These files use the Class, Keyname, and Valuename variables to allow you to manipulate specific Windows NT policy activities on computers running Windows NT. The following is an explanation of these variables and how they can be used to create your own policy files.
CLASS (Machine or User)
The Machine or User keywords are used in the following manner:
The Machine keyword controls the entries in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE hive.
The User keyword controls the entries in the HKEY_CURRENT_USER hive.
CLASS (Machine or User): The CLASS variable specifies the handle registry key where the policy is implemented. There are two handle keys that can be modified by System Policy Editor: LOCAL_MACHINE and CURRENT_USER. CLASS MACHINE specifies a LOCAL_MACHINE policy change and CLASS USER specifies a CURRENT_USER policy change.
When you open the Winnt.adm file, the CLASS MACHINE entry appears at the beginning. Every policy after that is implemented in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and appears as a computer policy in the System Policy Editor interface. Below the CLASS MACHINE entry in the Winnt.adm file, the CLASS USER command appears. From this point forward, policies are implemented in HKEY_CURRENT_USER and appear as a user or group policy in the System Policy Editor interface.
Remaining path to change a registry value
KEYNAME: The KEYNAME variable specifies the remaining path to the location where the registry value is added or changed. For example:
EDITTEXT VALUENAME "LegalNoticeCaption" MAXLEN 255 DEFAULT !!LogonBanner_DefCaption END PART
EDITTEXT VALUENAME "LegalNoticeText" MAXLEN 255 DEFAULT !!LogonBanner_DefText END PART
The location of this change in the registry is the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE hive as specific by the CLASS variable. The key location, Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon, is specified by the KEYNAME variable.
The Value keyword is created or changed in the registry.
NUMERIC = DWORD or BINARY data change
VALUENAME: The VALUENAME variable specifies the values of the registry keys that are added or changed. In the example above, the logon banner policy requires two registry changes. The value LegalNoticeCaption is added or changed and the value LegalNoticeText is added or changed in the example above.
By default, the string value type is REG_SZ. You can override that setting by adding the keyword NUMERIC. All numeric values are typed into a policy template in a decimal format. The value is then stored in the registry as BINARY and DWORD.
Remember that the data stored in those values is determined by the administrator and whatever that person types into the text boxes in System Policy Editor.
Converting a Registry Change into ADM Keywords
The biggest challenge may be finding a useful registry change that you want to distribute. For example, take the following change that allows you to move the printer spool folder. Remember that before you point the spool to a new folder, that folder must be created. You can then make the following change to the registry:
Important This section, method, or task contains steps that tell you how to modify the registry. However, serious problems might occur if you modify the registry incorrectly. Therefore, make sure that you follow these steps carefully. For added protection, back up the registry before you modify it. Then, you can restore the registry if a problem occurs. For more information about how to back up and restore the registry, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
322756 How to back up and restore the registry in Windows
Start Registry Editor (Regedt32.exe).
Locate the DefaultSpoolDirectory value under the following key in the registry:
NOTE: The above registry key is one path; it has been wrapped for readability.
On the Edit menu, click String, type X:\Pathname (for example, D:\Printing), and then click OK.
Quit Registry Editor.
This change to the registry must be converted into a template format so that HKEY becomes CLASS (Machine or User), Key becomes KEYNAME, and Value becomes VALUENAME (followed by NUMERIC if the type is BINARY or DWORD).
Creating an ADM File
ADM files can be created with any text editor.
Create a file following the block-structure syntax of the *.adm language:
Quotation marks around terms with spaces
Block structures have a beginning and an end
Save with *.adm extension (not .txt)
To create a ADM file template:
Start NotePad or any text editor to create your template.
Create an .ADM file following the rules outlined above. For example:
CATEGORY "How To Test"
POLICY "Change Spool Directory"
KEYNAME "System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Print\Printers" PART "Spool Directory" EDITTEXT VALUENAME "DefaultSpoolDirectory" END PART
Spacing does not matter. If a name has a space in it, it must be surrounded by quotation marks. As a good practice, surround all labels, keynames, and valuenames with quotation marks. Remember to save the file with a .ADM extension.
Loading the Template into System Policy Editor
Start the System Policy Editor tool. Click Start, point to Programs, point to Administrative Tools, and then click System Policy Editor. An empty window is displayed. If any icons are displayed, click Close on the File menu. You must quit the program as you cannot load another .ADM file while any policy files (or the registry) are open for editing or viewing purposes.
On the Options menu, click Policy Template to display the Policy Template Options window. Notice the two .ADM files discussed earlier are already loaded.
Click Add, go to the location of the file to be loaded, click the file, click Open, and then click OK.
On the File menu, click New Policy to display the System Policy Editor window.
Double-click Default Computer because the .ADM file uses the CLASS MACHINE variable and keyword, which is for the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE registry hive.
The How To Test entry that was created earlier is now displayed. You can now set this entry with a system policy that affects whatever computers you choose.
Terms and Abbreviations
System Policy Editor (SPE): The tool needed to load the .pol file and apply .adm files.
ADM files: The templates used to change current registry settings.
!!Strings: The text variables in the .adm file.
CATEGORY: The "Books" of Policy Groupings.
POLICY: Used to create the check box entry needed to alter registry values.
PART: Used for the Input Control of the required policy.
The Winnt.adm file creates the interface used in the example above. The following list explains the keywords that create the interface.
!!STRINGS: The are several lines that begin with "!!". The "!!" denotes a string variable and is followed by the variables name, !!stringname. The strings are defined at the bottom of the policy template. If you scroll to the bottom of the file, you see a section similar to the following:
[strings] System = Windows NT System Login_Policies = Logon LogonBanner_DefText = User created text
The variable !!SYSTEM in the body of the template maps to Windows NT System, which is visible in the interface. Having a section of strings allows the descriptions to be replaced easily. This is particularly useful when you translate the files into other languages. Otherwise, you may just want to embed the text in the body of the template.
CATEGORY: This defines a grouping of similar policies. The CATEGORY keyword creates an expandable and collapsible book in the SPE interface, and CATEGORIES can nest within each other. CATEGORY is used solely for organizational purposes, and you can create as many or as few categories as you require.
POLICY: This keyword creates the check box entry which, if selected, creates an instruction for a registry change. If cleared, it creates an instruction for a different registry change (usually a deletion). If the check box is unavailable, it does not create an instruction in the policy file.
PARTs: Some registry changes are accomplished by implementing or clearing a policy. Other registry changes are more complex. For example, to create a logon banner (the policy), an administrator must indicate what goes in the title bar of the window and what goes in the body of the window. These additional pieces of information are gathered by the PARTs variable.
PART: This creates an input control in the lower part of the policy dialog box. A large variety of control windows can be created with this.
CATEGORY, POLICY, and PART create the backbone of the SPE interface. Each is a container. CATEGORY can contain categories and policies. POLICIES can contain parts. Because this is a structured programming language, when you begin one structure or container, you also need to end it.
END - END CATEGORY, END POLICY, and END PART: An END command is required to designate the end of each of the respective structures. You do not need to name the category that is ending. It is determined based on the nesting level. Starting and ending each container properly provides for the correct nested structures.
Types of PARTs: There are numerous types of PARTs, which allows you to be creative in designing system policies. For example, the logon banner caption and text are both text boxes. This input control is created with the keyword EDITTEXT, which itself is modified with the optional keywords MAXLEN (to designate the maximum length of input), and DEFAULT (to create a default, suggested data for the administrator's input). So the SPE interface is created with CATEGORIES, POLICIES, and PARTS. An administrator indicates preferences by implementing or clearing policies, and sometimes typing information into input controls called PARTs.