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Office 365 ProPlus

The Garage Series for Office 365: Updates to Office 365 ProPlus for admins and first look at upcoming shared computer support

This week Jeremy is joined again by Curtis Sawin to demonstrate the latest admin features in Office 365 ProPlus and Click-to-Run. If you’ve wanted to install the entire Office suite without InfoPath or Access apps, its now possible and they’ll walk you through the new admin processes to do so. They also go under the hood to show how the Click-to-Run software update process works and even give a first look of the upcoming Shared Computer Activation capability.

This week’s show is particularly exciting for me. I’ll be the first to admit I have a real appreciation for deployment, configuration and management tools that get software out to hundreds or thousands of PCs using automation. In season 1 of the Garage Series we dedicated many episodes to the aspects of getting Office 365 ProPlus and its new Click-to-Run package type deployed via enterprise software distribution tools or within desktop images and deployment task sequences.

This week, I’m excited to say that many of the core admin requests for changes to the Click-to-Run model have been implemented. Click-to-Run can now exclude Office applications, new Group Policy controls have been added to better manage software updates, the update process itself is more streamlined and if you’ve been wanting to deploy Office 365 ProPlus using Remote Desktop Services (RDS) that is even coming later this year.

De-Select unwanted Office apps

Depending on the software or services you have in place, many organizations want to disable certain components of the Office suite. The common ones I hear are Access and InfoPath, sometimes the Exchange team in a company controls the version of Outlook on the desktop, an in-place communications system might make it difficult to use Lync, etc. In the traditional Office MSI packages, you could use the Office Customization Tool or a configuration file to control which apps your users received and now using the new Office Deployment Tool for Click-to-Run and May 2014 or newer builds of Office, you can do this now as well.

After downloading the Office Deployment Tool, you can edit the default configuration.xml file to exclude the apps you don’t want using the “ExcludeApp ID” control as shown below. The naming conventions tend to follow the executable names closely or are slightly abbreviated in the case of names like MSACCESS vs. Access as seen below:

odtexcludeapps

If you install an Office Click-to-Run build using the configuration.xml example above, it will install the entire suite minus Access, InfoPath and OneDrive for Business. You could use similar configuration files to install as few as one Office application as well. If you’re wondering if the Office Deployment Tool will work to install other Office products in addition to Office 365 ProPlus, yes it works for all Click-to-Run versions of Office. The MSI versions are only available for Volume License versions of Office Professional Plus 2013 and Office Standard 2013, every other Office 2013 version uses Click-to-Run.

Remote Desktop Services and shared computer support for Office 365 ProPlus

Today, we are announcing that support is on the way for organizations using Remote Desktop Services (RDS) or shared computers. Shared Computer Activation for Office 365 ProPlus is targeted to release in the second half of 2014 and will support Office 365 ProPlus installation on Windows Server 2008 R2 or newer with the RDS enabled. It will also work in cases where users share computers with unique Windows user profiles.

If you use RDS (aka “Terminal Services” before the name was changed in 2008) or have shared workstations, it can be difficult to use the current Office 365 ProPlus subscription activation model. With RDS, there are technical blocks preventing you from installing or running Office 365 ProPlus on a Windows Server with the RDS role enabled. For shared physical or virtual clients, because subscription activation assumes and assigns a PC/Mac to a primary user it can become challenging to manage as users enter or leave an organization.

Shared Computer Activation will be enabled during the installation of Office 365 ProPlus using the Office Deployment Tool. Once enabled, Office installs without being activated. When a user signs in to a computer with Office installed via Share Computer Activation, Office will check to see if the user has been provisioned for Office 365 ProPlus and temporarily activate Office 365 ProPlus until that user logs out. If a second user signs in to the same computer, the activation does not persist from the first user and process is repeated. This is effectively how Office on Demand activation works today, but using Shared Computer Activation the Office installation is permanent and can be updated. Because this uses the same activation logic as Office on Demand, it does not count against a user’s five total installations of Office 365 ProPlus or Office for Mac. Stay tuned for more news about this in coming months, and check out the demo on the show.

Group Policy updates

A few week ago, we also updated Group Policy ADMX templates for Office 2013 with the often requested commands to control even more of the settings defined using the Office Deployment Tool’s configuration file. Now you can use Group Policy to manage the following settings:

  • Update Path
  • Target Version
  • Update Deadline
  • Hide Update Notifications

You’ll want to check out Jalal’s post in the Office Deployment Support Team Blog for more information, but all of these will be welcomed additions to the configuration control set for the desktop admins out there.

Improved software updating

Another request we hear often from enterprise admins of Office Click-to-Run builds is that the update traffic over the network can be more than expected. Click-to-Run has always calculated a delta between what is running locally on the PC versus the package you are trying to update to. In fact, we did an entire show on this about a year ago. With the February 25 and newer builds of Office, we improved much of the software update logic to enable resuming downloading of software updates if connection was lost during the download – instead of restarting the update download, power state checks to enable software updating when running only on battery and we’ve continually been working on reducing update package size. You’ll even see more news coming soon for the work we’re doing to reduce the size of software updates.

Responding to customer needs

The exciting thing about all of these new capabilities is that with the agile engineering and cloud-first model, we can respond to customer requests in a much faster way than in the past. You’ll see even more news about optimization of software update sizes, user mode streaming and Shared Computer Activation in the coming months. Of course to see much of this in action – including the underlying processes for applying software updates, I’d encourage you to check out the show.

See you next time,

Jeremy Chapman

More resources

Office Deployment Tool for Click-to-Run

Office Deployment Support Team Blog

Garage Series Video Channel

Garage Series Season 1 Blog Archive

Follow @OfficeGarage on Twitter

Office 365 Garage Series Apps for Windows Phone and Windows 8

                       

About the Garage Series hosts

By day, Jeremy Chapman works at Microsoft, responsible for optimizing the future of Office client and service delivery as the senior deployment lead. Jeremy’s background in application compatibility, building deployment automation tools and infrastructure reference architectures has been fundamental to the prioritization of new Office enterprise features such as the latest Click-to-Run install. By night, he is a car modding fanatic and serial linguist. Curtis Sawin has a long history in application management, software distribution and Office 365 implementation with early adopters. In his spare time, he is a competitive long distance swimmer and outdoorsman.

 

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4 comments
  1. Shared computer/RDS/Citrix server activation of Office 365 Pro Plus… I can almost see the Mexican wave and fist-pump across the world as IT Pro’s read this.

    • Thanks Darrell. I think the app selection will cause a similar reaction for a lot of IT pros.

  2. Regarding de-selected applications. Can they easily be reinstalled again on a later time?
    Is it possible to force the user to install an update, lets say at least a month after the PC have downloaded it?

    • Yes, you can update the list of available apps by rerunning setup with a new configuration.xml file. It will still perform the delta comparison, then add or remove components per your exclude app list. It means you could start for example with Lync, then add Outlook, then after you’ve validated your Excel files/macros work, roll out Excel and so on. If you combine this phased rollout with similar uninstall action on the already-installed Office version, it is a pretty powerful way to roll out new versions of Office apps, especially in larger organizations.

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