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Delegate to newbies with taskpads in Active Directory

Use the Microsoft Management Console and taskpads to assign Active Directory tasks to the unskilled.

In the real world a lot of network management gets done by people who don't consider themselves network managers and have no real interest becoming one. Department receptionists are expected to add new users. The HR department wants its own person managing department shares. The CFO wants to hold her administrative assistant personally responsible for conducting accounting backups and periodically storing the backup media offsite.

Group policies let you delegate the requested authority while restricting the recipient from being able to perform tasks outside their purview. You can let the CFO's assistant run backups on the accounting servers but not the human resource servers. You can allow a receptionist to add and remove users while controlling the authority that those new users can be granted.

Group policies cannot help you overcome the inexperience of the people to whom you are asked to delegate responsibility. Using the typical management GUI, some simple tasks may require a user to navigate three or four graphical trees and remember multiple context-sensitive menu manipulations. That means the receptionist may be responsible for adding the user, but you're still responsible for answering the phone every time the receptionist can't remember how.

Microsoft Management Console (MMC) lets you create and distribute simple user interfaces customized to include icons for only those tasks a particular user needs to perform.


  1. Start with a list of those tasks you want enabled by the custom UI and locate the snap-ins that support those tasks. This example assumes the tasks you want to delegate are part of the Computer Management snap-in.
  2. Determine whether the UI should be flat or whether it would be easier for the user if you grouped similar tasks into separate panes and let the user select a pane using tabs.
  3. Open a blank console by typing mmc.exe in the start/run dialog box. You'll get two windows. The outside window is the Main window and is named something like Console1. The inside window is Console Window - the user interface you're creating.
  4. Load the Computer Management snap-ins (from the Main window's Console menu choose Add/Remove Snap-in and follow the wizard directions.)
  5. In the Console Tree pane of the Console windows, right-click on the Computer Management node you just added and choose New Taskpad View.
  6. Follow the wizard to add the tasks you want and link them to icons you choose to create the UI.
  7. Test the UI.
  8. Give the tool a name more descriptive than Console1 (Main window: Console/options) The Options dialog box also allows you to change the default icon used to invoke the tool. You'll also see an option for "Console Mode" which you want to leave at the default "User mode" to prevent the console from being modified.
  9. Distribute the resulting *.msc file.

For more on MMC, check out:

Kevin Sharp is a registered professional engineer, writer, and yoga teacher living in Tucson, Arizona. His writing interests have produced books and articles on the economic impact of technology on manufacturing and distribution organizations.

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