The Adobe Customization Wizard X Demystified: Show Page

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The presentation below is the first in a series that covers topics relevant to IT, this one covers the basics of the Adobe Customization Wizard X. Click on the image preview to open the presentation in another window.

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You can view the full transcript and slides after the jump.



This first video will cover the basics of the Adobe Customization Wizard. The Adobe Customization Wizard is a free downloadable utility that provides a graphical interface to the Windows Installer for Acrobat ten and Adobe Reader ten. It was designed to help IT professionals take greater control of enterprise-wide deployments of Adobe Acrobat and Reader. With it you can customize the installer and application features prior to deployment. The Customization Wizard ten can customize the version ten viewers only, there are other version specific Customization Wizards for versions 8 and 9.


The Customization Wizard enables IT administrators to modify the installer via a transform file (MST file) without altering the original package (MSI file) and to customize the look and feel of Acrobat or Reader before deployment to meet the unique needs of their users.

Key features include the ability to

  • Optimize the behavior of the installer by including silent installation,
  • Making the serial number part of the installer and custom setup choices
  • Remove existing installations of older versions of Acrobat and Reader
  • Suppress the display of the EULA, registration prompts
  • Add or edit files that will be installed including customized JavaScript, plug-ins, actions and custom PDF Portfolio layouts
  • Preconfigure and lock Enhanced Security settings

I will now show you the various panels in the Customization Wizard. I’ll point out my personal recommendations based on my direct experience with customers and provide some insight to some of the more obscure settings. My recommendations may not be appropriate for everyone so you should think of them as recommendations, not rules.


When you launch the Customization Wizard, open the .MSI file associated with the viewer you are trying to customize. You will then see the Personalization Options.

The Personalization Options allow you to add your organization’s name and most importantly, a serial number. This ensures that all seats of Acrobat are using the same volume serial number that you were assigned.


The Installation Options control which application owns the PDF file type, the removal of older versions of the Adobe viewers, and the degree of interaction the end user has with the installation process. The Customization Wizard can remove previous versions of Acrobat and Reader as far back as version 6.0.

In general, I recommend running the install in the “unattended” mode. This will prevent end users from modifying the settings that you’ve worked so hard to set up, but will also give them a progress bar so that they can see that the software is being installed.

Silent mode provides no user interface and no indication that anything is happening on the system. It is usually used with desktops that are being managed centrally from an administration installation point.


The Features panel will allow you to remove groups of features in Acrobat. As an example, not everyone needs to have the LiveCycle forms designer on their desktop. The LiveCycle forms designer is an eclipse-based form authoring and programming application. You may want to remove this application to reduce the disk space required by Acrobat.

The features are separated into groups that are safe to be removed without affecting the remaining parts of the Acrobat application; it cannot be used to remove individual menu items or tool buttons. The initial state can only be changed by the end user during an interactive installation.


The Files and Folders tab can be used to distribute additional files along with the Acrobat application. If you are using custom stamps, application level javascripts or actions, this panel will help them distribute these files. Custom PDF Portfolios must be deployed through the Files and Folders tab at this time, and not the Portfolio Navigators tab. Simply drag the files from the your computer in the upper half of the UI to the folder hierarchy in the lower part of the UI. I’ll talk more about this topic in the Advanced Customization Wizard video.


The Registry tab is one of the most powerful tabs in the Customization Wizard. The easiest way to use the registry tab is to install Acrobat on the same machine as the Customization Wizard and then configure that copy of Acrobat to run the way that you want the deployed copies to run. Then simply locate the registry settings that you need to be pushed out in the local registry and copy those settings to destination computer. In the example on your screen, I’m locking the Adobe Reader into Protected Mode so that end users don’t have the option to change it. By clicking on the links associated with this video, you can get a copy of the Administrators Information Manager, which lists all registry settings that Acrobat uses. I’ll talk more about the registry in the Advanced Customization Wizard video.


The shortcuts tab allows you to determine which Acrobat components appear in the Windows start menu and on the desktop. These settings should generally match the ones that you set in the features panel and it’s probably not necessary to change them.


The Server locations tab allows you to add and remove additional server locations if you run the installation from a network server or from an administrative install point. If the application requires access to the original installer, it will look in these additional locations when necessary. If you are deploying in any other way, these settings are not important and can be ignored.


The Distiller tab allows you to preset the default PDF creation settings. If you are in a regulated industry that requires PDF/A, you can set PDF/A to be the default conversion setting so that your users are creating archival compliant PDF by default. Since most end users never change this setting, it’s a great way to stay compliant.


The Adobe PDF Printer tab will allow you control where and how PDF files are created through the Adobe PDF driver. With most PDF files being created through the PDFMakers, which in newer versions of Microsoft Office bypasses the Adobe PDF Driver, this setting isn’t so important anymore.


The Security tab is the second most powerful tab in the Customization Wizard right after the registry tab. Here you can deploy Acrobat with a predefined set of Directory Servers and trusted identities. Again, you’ll want to install Acrobat on the same machine as the customization wizard and then set it up with the directory servers and trusted identities that you want. Then select the settings files that Acrobat created automatically in the Customization Wizard. You can also set and lock the enhanced security settings, control privileged locations by adding trusted hosts, folders and files and prevent end users from changing these settings. Privileged locations are exempt from enhanced security so managing these settings properly can streamline known workflows in the organization by minimizing the warning dialogs that Acrobat presents when a file tries to access the web. That’s right: Acrobat and Adobe Reader’s security dialog boxes can be completely prevented from appearing in just a few simple steps prior to deployment. I’ll talk more about managing application security both before and after deployment in the Advanced Customization Wizard video.


The Digital Signature tab allows you to control most settings for the use of digital signatures in Acrobat. If you need to use digital signatures for mission critical workflows, you will probably want to lock down most of the settings in this dialog and preconfigure the “reasons” for signing a document. If you require a specific 3rd party vendor to be used for signing, this panel is where you would specify that as well. Remember, the default signature method setting here sets the default for the application, but the document can over-ride this setting if a digital signature field specifies its own signing method. I’ll talk more about digital signatures and document security in the Advanced Customization Wizard video.


The Rights Management Servers panel is where you would preconfigure the locations of any LiveCycle Rights Management servers that may be used throughout your organization. If you are not using LiveCycle Rights Management servers you can ignore this panel.


The EULA tab will allow the you to suppress the display of the End User License Agreement when Acrobat or Reader first starts up. Please be aware that by checking this box, you are agreeing to the license agreement for the entire organization.


The Online and Acrobat.com Features panel allows you to control how and if Acrobat will try to install updates. You’ll probably want to turn this off if you manage software updates centrally. You may also be tempted to turn off other settings with the word “disable” beside them. This isn’t necessarily a good idea.

Disabling all Acrobat.com features disables all Shared Reviews in general and disables participation in workflows that were initiated by others who may have Acrobat.com enabled. You should only disable initiating these workflows if you want to discourage their use.


You may want to turn off the preference for autocompleting forms in the Comments and Forms panel if more than one person will be using a particular desktop.

Because Shared Reviews are the new default in Acrobat ten and the PDF document contains all of the intelligence required to locate the comment servers in a Shared Review workflow, the Comments and Forms panel is mostly unnecessary.


The File Attachments panel allows you to change the default settings for which files are permitted as attachments. My recommendation is that you accept the default list. These settings only affect the version of Acrobat that was deployed using your customizations; attachment permissions are not stored at the document level. This means that if you decide to allow certain file types that Acrobat does not allow by default, users outside of your organization may not be able to access those attachments.

I do recommend that you select the option to prompt the user to open unspecified files without the ability to always allow that file type. This forces the user to stop and consider the possible consequences of opening that file type each time they encounter it which provides for better security. If they got the PDF file from someone they know and they were expecting it to have attachments, it’s probably OK to open the attachment.


The Header/Footer, Watermark and Backgrounds panel allows you to deploy customized headers, footers and backgrounds. Again, you’ll want to install Acrobat on the same machine as the customization wizard and then set it up with the headers, footers and backgrounds that you want to deploy. These are in the user directory and are stored as XML files. Use meaningful file names for your headers, footers, watermarks and backgrounds. The file names are significant because it is the file name that the Acrobat UI uses to populate the list boxes for this feature.


The Redaction Panel allows you to provide pre-defined code sets for use as replacement text when redacting page content with the Redaction Tool in Acrobat Pro.


Due to a late change in the file layout that affects PDF Portfolio Navigators, that this panel should not be used. PDF Portfolio Layouts which are .NAV files should be deployed using the Files and Folders panel.


If non-Acrobat applications need to be installed along with the Acrobat application, such as 3rd party plug-ins, then you can add those additional applications here in the “Launch Other Applications” Tab.


It is extremely easy to make mistakes using the Direct Editor that can cause system corruption and application failure. My recommendation is that you do not use the direct editor. If you need to make changes to the registry of your installation of Acrobat, use the registry panel instead.

The Direct Editor is the last panel.


When you’ve completed all of your customizations, simply save the package and an MST transform file will be created. You can then deploy Acrobat with these settings.


So – that covers the basics of the Customization Wizard. Please visit the show page at blogs.adobe.com/pdfitmatters/axcw1 for links to an MST file with these recommendations already set and other valuable resources like…

  • The Enterprise Administration of the Acrobat X Family of Products page which provides technical documentation and tools for deploying and maintaining Acrobat
  • The IT Resources page which has a more comprehensive list of resources for IT including, End-user training and technical support, Licensing options and extending Acrobat products
  • And finally, the IT Matters blog which hosts the show page and contains articles and news for IT managers and Power Users by me, Joel Geraci, your Acrobat Technical Evangelist.