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If you asked any Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager administrator around the world “what are the ‘Right-Click Tools’?”, I doubt you could find even one that couldn’t answer that. The confusing part of this is that there really isn’t just one “Right-Click Tools” for Configuration Manager”. It started with one, the “SCCM Right-Click Tools”, several versions ago, by Rick Houchins. Today, there are quite a few alternative utilities, each inspired by Rick’s work, and taking slightly different approaches. I will review some of the others in Part 2 of this article and beyond.
Before I dive in, I should show you a screen capture of what the right-click context menu looks like without any extensions installed…
Default Collections Right-click Menu
If you haven’t seen Configuration Manager 2012 yet, you might notice that the right-click menu (for resource objects) has grown significantly. But there’s still things missing that many administrators have become accustomed to, which is why these “right-click tools” still exist and still garner a strong following.
SCCM Right-Click Tools by Rick Houchins
The “SCCM Right-Click Tools” are undoubtedly the grand-daddy of the “right-click tools” world for Configuration Manager. They’ve been around a long time, and improvements keep coming. The latest version (as of this article) is 1.21 (download is available here), but there are some updates to that as well, which are linked from the same page.
The first step is to download the installation package, which is available as a .ZIP file. Once downloaded, open and extract the files into a new folder. You should close the Configuration Manager Administration console, if you have it open. Right-click and launch the “Install.exe” using “Run as Administrator”, to begin the installation process. Then click “Configuration Manager RCT Install” from the console Start screen, and follow the prompts to install the tools as it suits your needs.
Installation Welcome screen
Choose ConfigMgr Version to Install Tools
Choose Workstation or Server installation type
Configuring Site Properties
CPU Platform Type (32 or 64 bit)
After you finish installing, the next step is to install any available updates.
Update: This tool appears to be no longer available.
Download each update and extract the .ZIP contents to a new folder. Then run each in the order of lowest version number to highest (to ensure proper installation order), and be sure to use “Run as Administrator” when installing each.
Exploring the Installation
Most seasoned Systems Administrators that I’ve known want to know what goes on under the hood on their systems. Now that you installed the tools and updates, let’s look at what changes it made to your computer. Basically, the installation creates some folders, and copies in some files (if the installation creates any Registry keys I haven’t been able to find them). So, where are these folders and files?
The first clue can be found by inspecting an environment variable named “SMS_ADMIN_UI_PATH”, which is created when the Configuration Manager Administration Console is installed. On most site servers and workstations that have the console installed, the variable will point to the installation path, such as “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Configuration Manager\AdminConsole\bin\i386”, but it depends on the installation options, and could be in another location. Regardless, the console extensions can be found under the “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Configuration Manager\AdminConsole” folder (two-levels above the path in the variable above), under the sub-folder “XmlStorage\Extensions\Actions”.
This is where the XML files are found which describe each of the menu extensions you see when you right-click on an object within the console. Each is grouped by its Global Unique Identifier, or GUID. You will also find the CA.hta form and a Tools.exe file. The HTA is the form library you interact with when invoking each of the Collection Actions features.
The rest of the Client Actions and Client Tools scripts and HTA forms are found under the “XmlStorage\2012Tools” folder. Many of the files found in this folder are the same names as older versions of the Right-Click Tools, but most have been updated to work with Configuration Manager 2012. If you have a little time and are fairly good at writing script code, you can customize the menus and add your own features as well.
Client Tools Scripts and Forms
The installation process is really not that complicated, even though I’ve explored more detail than is probably necessary for most readers. Basically, it provides a few menu extension files, some folders and a collection of scripts and utilities to do the heavy-lifting.
In Part 2 of this article, I will explore the features provided by SCCM Right-Click Tools and how they can save you time and effort managing your Configuration Manager environment.