Customize Tools menu in Server Manager

Customize Tools menu in Server Manager

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What if you could consolidate all of your tools in a central location, and not have to leave Server Manager to perform administrative tasks? The new Tools menu in Server Manager offers just that capability!

Tools menu as seen when Server Manager is opened for the first time

 

The Tools menu supports folder structure, and by default, includes basic system and administrative tools. As you install roles and features on the local server, the menu grows to accommodate installed management tools.

Let’s find out how the menu is populated. We’ll also discuss how to customize the Tools menu to display your favorite tools or PowerShell scripts! 

The Tools menu in Server Manager is essentially an alternative path to the Administrative Tools folder under System and Security in Control Panel. The Administrative Tools folder offers a list of shortcuts or .lnk files to available management tools, such as snap-ins or Properties dialog boxes. Server Manager reads these .lnk files to populate the Tools menu, and copies the folder structure of the Administrative Tools folder. By default, tools in the Administrative Tools folder are arranged in a flat list, sorted by type and by name. In Server Manager’s Tools menu, items are sorted only by name, not by type.  

To personalize the Tools menu, put shortcuts to your favorite/frequently-used tools in the Administrative Tools folder. You can also organize your shortcuts in folders, which results in cascading menus in the Tools menu. Let’s look at an example where you create shortcuts for two PowerShell scripts, and then place them in a custom folder in the Admin Tools folder.

1.      Have your tools ready

In this case we’ll create shortcuts for two PowerShell scripts:  Script1 and Script2. These scripts are on the C drive in a folder named PSScripts.

Note: We recommend that only the shortcuts, and not the original executable file or tool, should reside in the administrative tools menu.

2.      Create the folder in which you want to store the shortcut to the tool

This is optional. You could just copy the shortcut to the Administrative Tools folder and not in a subfolder. 

Because of the restrictive user rights assigned to the Administrative Tools folder, you are not allowed to create a new folder directly in the Administrative Tools folder; you must create a new folder elsewhere, then copy the new folder to Administrative Tools. For example, create a folder called MyTools in another folder, such as on the Desktop, and then copy MyTools to the Administrative Tools folder in Control Panel -> System and Security -> Administrative Tools.

Note: You need to be a member of the Administrators group on the computer, unless explicitly allowed otherwise, to make changes to this folder.

 3.      Create shortcuts to your tools

Create shortcuts to the two PowerShell scripts in the PSScripts folder on the C drive, and then move the shortcuts to the folder MyTools that you created in Step 2. Now if you open the Tools menu in Server Manager, you can access the scripts from there!

 

 4.      Setting permissions on custom tools

By default, the tools found in the Administrative Tools folder can be read by everyone. There might be times when you don’t want anyone else messing around with your scripts and tools. You just want them available for yourself, so you restrict access to these tools like any other file or folder.

There are two ways to restrict access to your personal tools or scripts:

a)     Edit permissions on the file

You can restrict access to the tools that show up in the Tools menu by editing the permissions. These permissions should be set on the original executable file or tool and not the shortcut in the Administrative Tools folder.  

Let’s take the example of Script1 in the PSScripts folder on drive C. Say you don’t want to allow access to a local user of the computer, User1. It is ok for this user to see the scripts in the Tools menu, but he should not be able to access or read the contents of the file. On the Security tab of the script’s Properties dialog box, for User1, clear check boxes for Read & execute, Read, and Write permissions. These permissions are inherited by the script’s shortcut in the Administrative Tools folder. 

When User1 opens the Tools menu in Server Manager, he can see Script1 in the menu, but gets an Access is denied error if he tries to open the file. 

User1 can read Script2, because we didn’t edit the permissions for this file.

 

b)     Edit permissions on the folder

You can also edit permissions on your custom folder in the Administrative Tools folder that contains the shortcuts to your custom tools. For example, if you deny Read & execute permissions for User1 on the MyTools folder (from the example illustrated in Step 2), then User1 will not see the folder in the Tools menu at all.

Note: If you edit access permissions for a user while he/she is using Server Manager (or Server Manager is open), then your changes will not be shown in the Tools menu until that user restarts Server Manager.

Hidden files and folders in Administrative Tools folder are always displayed in the Tools menu in the Server Manager. Do not use this option to hide your custom tools from other users. Instead edit permissions for the folder in the Administrative Tools folder or for the original executable file or tool to restrict access.

Remember:  Deny permission always overwrites an Allow permission.

                For more information about sharing and ACLs, see File and Folder Permissions on Microsoft TechNet. 


 

Organization of contents in Administrative Tools menu

By default, tools that ship with Windows (system, administrative and roles & features management tools) are not arranged in folders in the Administrative tools folder. Consequently, the Tools menu in Server Manager displays a flat list of available tools. It is recommended that you organize your custom tools in folders to prevent a giant list that’s difficult to use and control.  

We recommend that you do not reorganize system and administrative tools, or especially the management tools associated with roles and features installed on the local server. Moving the management tools prevents successful uninstallation of role/feature management tools – when you uninstall a role or a feature, a dead link to the tool remains in the Administrative Tools folder under your custom folder and consequently under the Tools menu. Later, if you reinstall the role, the old link is activated and you also get a duplicate link to the same tool in the list.  

Please keep in mind that the Tools menu is available to all the authorized users on the machine. Any changes in the organization of the content will be consistent across all the users.

 

Different types of shortcut links for PowerShell scripts

We often create custom shortcuts to run scripts with PowerShell or PowerShell ISE. This could be a script which personalizes our console before we begin using it, or more generally, any script at all.

For those who are not familiar with this, you can create a custom shortcut by making a shortcut to, say PowerShell ISE in this case, -file <path to your .ps1>. You can do this by either creating a shortcut to powershell_ise.exe and then going back and editing the shortcut to add "-file <path to .ps1>" or by doing it all in one step in the Create Shortcut wizard. For example, the Target of the shortcut would look like this -

%windir%\system32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell_ise.exe C:\Temp\foo.ps1

Similarly, you can create a custom shortcut for PowerShell to open and run the script in PowerShell.

You could also create shortcuts for the script itself and change the default program for the file type .ps1 to an editor other than Notepad, such as PowerShell ISE, to open and run the script.

1.      Open Control Panel and navigate to Programs à Default Programs à Set Associations

2.      Select the extension .ps1 from the list and click on Change program..

3.      Look for PowerShell ISE in the Open with dialog and Click on Ok 

Note: We recommned that you do not set the default program for .ps1 files to PowerShell.exe. It poses a security risk as it makes it easier for a malicious PS1 script to be invoked without the user’s knowledge.

To wrap things up, the new Tools menu in Server Manager is entirely customizable and a one stop shop for system, administrative, management and your favorite tools! You can also take advantage of custom shortcuts. This makes using the scripts from the Tools menu more convenient. You could either open these scripts in PowerShell or you could capitalize on the rich scripting environment offered by PowerShell ISE.

 

Kriti Jindal

Program Manager

Windows Server 2012

 

 

 

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  • Are there other ways to customize Server Manager?

  • Customize Tools menu in Server Manager
    thank you

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