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Editor’s note: Paul Barr is Lead Program Manager for Click to Run, and joins Office Next to discuss this important technology. Earlier in the blog we’d outlined some aspects of Click to Run and Office on demand, today we’ll expand on the topic in depth.
If you’ve downloaded the new Office Customer Preview, then you probably noticed that your installation experience is quite a bit different than in any previous version of Office. These changes aren’t just cosmetic, they’re part of our strategy to bring the rich Office applications that you know and love into the future as an integrated part of our Software + Services offering. In this post I want to talk about why we think it’s important to invest in client delivery, what we did, how we did it, and what it means to you in your everyday interactions with the new Office.
User expectations for software have changed dramatically over the last 5 years. The emergence of rich web-based applications and services, as well as new application models on modern devices have caused a shift in how users expect to interact with their software. Getting a new app on your phone is a fast and painless experience, and so is accessing rich web applications from your internet browser.
We believe that Office applications that are built to take advantage of the unique capabilities of your chosen hardware have tremendous value (whether that’s a desktop PC, a notebook computer, a tablet, or a mobile device). Our goal with Click-to-Run in the new Office is to make finding, installing, and using the Office applications as fast, easy, and secure as possible.
Office has come a long way from its start in the early 90’s. During that time we’ve seen evolutions in both media and installation technologies. It used to be enough for Office to ship on a couple of floppy disks and copy some binaries to the file system. But as content became richer, applications more powerful, and integration with other software key to users’ productivity, Office needed to evolve. And that meant a bigger and more sophisticated installation. From the basic file copy method, we moved to ACME installations that allowed flexibility for automating the installation. After that came Windows Installer in Office 2000, which could handle sophisticated component co-existence and offered better uninstall and repair support. In Office 2007 and 2010 we supported multi-MSI installs with our “Catalyst” install technology to better support multi- language and multi-product scenarios.
Office 97 was the last version of the Office suite to ship on floppy disks (45 of them!) and we soon moved to CD-ROM. After that it was the DVD. But during this time, the internet was quickly emerging as a primary vehicle for obtaining software, and none of our existing install technologies were proving to be a great experience for users on the internet.
Going to a physical store is quickly becoming a big barrier for getting new software. Not only that, but we don’t think our customers should even have to think about “getting software”. They just want the right tools, for the right device, when they need it to get their tasks done. Click-to-Run and Office on Demand are about making that happen.
In Office 2010 we made investments to improve downloading Office from the internet. While traditional Windows Installer packages remained the primary distribution vehicle, Click-to-Run v1.0 was available for a limited number of consumer SKUs in some markets. This was our first attempt at building a technology that was designed for installing big applications over the internet, and we learned a lot:
C2R v1.0 was successful in proving the need for a new installation technology, but there was plenty of room for improvement.
That brings us to…
Our goal with Click-to-Run v2.0 was to make the applications feel like a seamless and integrated part of the new Office service experience. We strove to make installing software a non-event in our customers’ workflows for getting things done. Based on our learning from v1.0 we knew we had to:
With these goals in mind, and great support from our App-V partner team at the NERD development center in Cambridge, we set out building Click-to-Run v2.0, which is re-architected from the ground up to deliver on our shared vision.
Let’s take a look at the Click-to-Run installation experience and talk about what’s happening in each step.
First is the “Provisioning experience”. Provisioning is just a fancy word for any website that you use to start a Click-to-Run installation. In the Office 2013 Customer Preview you are signing up for an Office 365 Home Premium Subscription that allows you to install up to 5 copies of Office on machines you own. In the future there will be several Microsoft and even partner websites that customers will be able to install Click-to-Run Office from. We have built Click-to-Run to be compatible with many different provisioning experiences.
There’s a couple of interesting things going on with this website that are worth calling out. First, you can see the link below the “Install” button for “Language and install options”. This is where you will find additional options like native 64-bit installations and additional languages. Note that 32-bit is always the recommended default for compatibility reasons, even on 64-bit Operating Systems, and it’s important to remember that you can only ever install one or the other of 32 or 64-bit Office products on a single machine. You cannot mix 32 and 64-bit products, even across versions (i.e. Office 2007 and Office 2013). This is true for all Office installations (C2R and MSI), and is due to limitations in how the applications integrate between themselves.
Next, this website is communicating with the Click-to-Run Setup Service and the Office Licensing Service to give you a customized experience that doesn’t require you to copy down a 25-digit license key (remember those?) to get up and running. That all happens seamlessly in the background!
Finally, in future releases, this website will actually start early pre-caching of Office client bits before you even click the “Install” button, resulting in an almost instantaneous start of Office applications depending on your network connection.
Once you select the “Install” link, you’ll be prompted to either “Run”, or “Save” an executable file to start the installation. Your experience may vary by what browser you are running, but here’s IE10:
This file, which we call a “bootstrapper”, is a small executable (~500KB) that is both product and language specific. We recommend that you Run it directly from the browser, but you can also save it locally to your computer and Run it later. Don’t wait too long though because this file contains some specific licensing information that is unique to your account, and we can’t automatically activate your Office product if it expires. Don’t worry too much if that happens, installation will still succeed and you’ll just be prompted to activate later on if that’s the case.
Next you’ll see our Click-to-Run streaming splash screen:
What’s actually happening here is we’re downloading just the parts of Office that we need to run the “First Run Experience” (FRE for short), and the “Hero” application. The Hero application is the first Office application users will run when they install Office. For the Customer Preview, that application is PowerPoint.
Next you’ll see the First Run Experience video and other content:
After you’ve navigated through First Run (hopefully you’ve signed in to Office and selected a personal theme), you’re given the option to take a quick tour of some of the new features in Office 2013. Selecting “Take a look” will start PowerPoint with an interactive presentation.
Whether you take the tour or not, the screen you’ll see next looks like this:
This is where we show the overall download progress for Office. At this point you can use all of your Office applications, but the entire product is not yet downloaded, so don’t go offline! We prioritize the download of Office functionality in the order that we think you’ll need it.
If you try to access something that’s not downloaded yet, you’ll get some UI that looks like this. It will only happen once for that part of Office, and once you’re fully downloaded you’ll never see it again. Depending on the speed of your network connection, you may never see this UI, or you may see it multiple times if you’re on a slow connection and really exercising the apps while they’re still downloading.
When Office is done downloading, we show the “You’re good to go” dialog. This is the sign that Office is fully downloaded and installed, and that it’s safe for you to go offline, just as you would expect.
Up until you see this dialog, there will be some subtle differences in Office that are worth talking about. For instance, not all of the fonts that you get with Office will be available, and some integration functionality like “Print: Send to OneNote” won’t be there yet. This is because fonts are really big, and system integration functionality takes a long time to install, so we put stuff like that at the very end of the installation to get you running faster.
That’s the end of the Click-to-Run experience. It’s faster, smoother, and has better progress than any previous Office release. Early data says that Click-to-Run v2.0 installs actually succeed at a higher rate than Windows Installer packages, and we’re doing everything we can to make it the best installation experience ever.
That’s the end of the first run experience, but it’s not the end of the value of Click-to-Run. Here are some other areas where our new architecture makes your software world a better place:
When we first started working on Click-to-Run years ago, we kicked around a lot of crazy ideas. Stuff I won’t even repeat here for the sake of brevity, but one idea has always stuck in our heads and we’ve kept coming back to it over time. What if you could use all the powerful features of the Office applications without doing an install at all? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate “installation experience”? But what would that mean? Well… What if you could just use the applications on demand? Whatever Windows computer you were on, you could log in to a website, run Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, and when you were done, they’d go away. How could we make that happen?
It was always that last one that put this goal out of reach. Office is a large and complex set of applications, and getting them to run on a computer without installing them locally turned out to be a very tough problem indeed. But with a new architecture from our App-V partners, and investments in the applications themselves, we’ve been able to overcome this final hurdle. Using a technology we’re calling “user-mode streaming”, we’ve built Office on Demand.
Office on Demand is a unique feature enabled by the Click-to-Run architecture. It will be available to Office 2013 subscribers, and allows them to run temporary instances of the most popular Office applications on computers where they normally would not be able to install software. Office on Demand versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, Visio, and Project will be available.
Using the Office on Demand applications is easy. Just click on the “My Office” tab of the Office 2013 Customer Preview site. Choosing any of the “Create New” icons on this page will start the individual Office on Demand applications. When you close them, they go away, they do not stay installed on the computer.
Office on Demand will also be integrated in to the Office Web Applications for subscribers. If there are no Office applications installed on the computer, subscribers will be able to “Open in <application>” directly from the Office Web App and run their Office on Demand applications.
I could talk for hours about this new feature, but this post is getting pretty long, so let me just leave you with the following points:
Thanks for reading this far. We’re very excited to bring you the next generation of Office applications and services powered by Click-to-Run. We have lots left to do, and we’d love to hear your feedback. If you click on the Smiley Face during installation, then we are reading your comments.
Give the Office on Demand applications a try, and stay tuned to this blog for more information in the future.
Paul C. Barr Lead Program Manager for Click-to-Run
nice! looking forward to this!
So, can I use this technology to create installations for my internal line-of-business applications?
It's clear (at least to me) that Amanda Alvarado is clearly the brains behind this idea. ;-)
I use Office every day and I look forward to using Office on Demand.
We have tried with passion to use it but there are still serious pitfalls when integration comes into the picture...Installation side by side with Office 2010 triggers problems when opening SharePoint documents, when integrating Outlook and OneNote...
Pierre, please do use the send a smile / frown button to record your feedback so that we can look into the issues.
Rob, you can use Microsoft Application Virtualization to accomplish this, www.microsoft.com/.../app-v.aspx, www.microsoft.com/.../app-v.aspx.
Does this mean I am never going to get another pretty Office hologram DVD? :(
I'm a Mac user for Word so do I get to play too? Amanda's the most gorgeous granddaughter I have. I think she should be given a kingship for doing this. ;-)
She's probably going to kill me for saying all of this. I'm waving at ya, honey!!!!
Very good experience. I really need to try "On Demand" in another computer.
Looks good -- will it work on the iPad?
Click-to-run Office Installation: Need for Speed!
The installer is very nice, however a real frustration is that there is no option to install to a different directory. I understand you are trying to streamline the process but for experienced users or those with special needs (such as an SSD drive) please add an option for more classic installations
Following recent webcasts, sessions and articles during the past month about The new Microsoft Project
Pojawiała się nie lada gratka na osób zainteresowanych informacjami o Project 2013, Project Server
Thanks for the information. The blog answers a couple of questions I've had about 2013 and CTR.
I am surprised that you say even in a CTR environment we cannot install both 32 and 64 bit Office. I thought the whole point of CTR was to completely isolate the software. So if I had a 32 bit Local install of say Office 2010, why could I not have a 64 bit installation of Office 365 Preview (2013).
Could you comment on this in a future blog.