Group Policy Preferences look promising:
They are (duh!) preferences, users can change the settings that were set.
but a lot more flexible and powerful:
– no need to create Group Policy Templates
– you can choose to apply them only once or to have them refreshed
– the GUI you can use to configure them is the same as the one you use to configure the settings manually in Windows
– loads of configuration settings that replace functionality that normally required logon scripts,default user profiles or even 3rd party tools like PowerFuse or equivalent:
configuration of environment variables, adding/removing files-folders-registry settings , configuring drive mappings/printer mappings , power options, start menu and more
-you can target specific items to be applied in specific circumstances, this is very powerful, take a look at the pictures of the Target Editor with a list of the criteria you can use to target individual every individual preference item:
I believe this is a good first step to a missing link in Windows management,
especially in environments that need to be standardized easily, like TS / Citrix environments this can be a real asset.
This functionality requires Group Policy Client Side extensions on the client, which are by default in Server 2008 and can be downloaded for:
Windows XP with SP2
Windows Server 2003 with SP1
You don’t require a Server 2008 Domain or Forest, you can use this in a Windows 2003 Domain,
but configuration of GP Prefs requires the GPMC included in Server 2008 or RSAT Tools for Vista SP1.
If you’re interested I’d advise reading following whitepaper: