Microsoft Office 2016 deployment: the old versus the new way
On September 22nd, Microsoft’s latest Office version, 2016 was released. Starting with the MSDN subscribers, followed by the the rest of the world in beginning of October for those who have a so called volume license (VL). At the VL license portal of Microsoft as well as MSDN Office 2016 is downloadable as a iso-file, containing de installation files of Mcrosoft Office’s most recent version. Both downloaded files look the same, but there is a big difference in how they are being installed.
This blog describes de biggest difference between both files and how they can be deployed within a desktop environment.
Currently there are two types of Office 2016 installation: the volume licensed version and the Office 365 version of Microsoft Office 2016. De VL version can be downloaded at the VL portal and the 365-versioncan be downloaded for example at MDSN and is also available for the Office 265 subscribers.
At first sight both downloaded iso files look the same, but as soon as they are extracted a big difference will be shown. The VL version presents a folder structure like shown in the picture below:
A setup.exe with a whole bunch of folders with different office components in it. It’s the same folder structure as previous Office versions.
The Office 365 2016 version folder structure looks like this:
A couple of folders containing dat and cab files. The way in which these Office 365 2016 is beining installed, is by means of a so called Click-to-run installation.
The regular installation can be changed en configured using the Office Customization Tool. This tool is available from the Office installer itself and can be run Using the command setup.exe /admin. The ‘Selcet Product’ appears. A new Office msp file can be created or an existing one can be opened.
With this tool a couple of steps can be done to add some company and license information, files, registry keys to make a msp file that can be applied by on the command line by setup.exe /adminfile “path to msp file”. Also it is possible to add a configuration file where are some settings with mainly language settings.
In this Office 365 2016 iso file there’s still a setup.exe that can be started. This setup.exe file is a click to run-file. A click to run file is a file that’s based on streaming and virtualisation technology to (at this time only) Office products and their updates can be installed. This technolgy is based on streaming and virtualisation possibilities based on Microsoft App-V.
Click-to-run is an alternative for traditional Microsoft Windows Installer (MSI/MSP) method of installing and update Microsoft Office. The biggest advantage of click-to-run installations is that they are always up-to-date and contain most recnte updates and security patches when they are being download and installed. Besides that, the Office applications are being installed in an isolated environment on the desktop leaving already installed applications untouched, still able to communicate with each other. It is still possible though, that some plug-ins do not function as expected.
During the making of a customized installation based on Office 365 2016, there unfortunately is no Office Customization Tool available. Using setup.exe with whatever parameter results in a full Office 2016 installation. In most cases not desirable.
The way to configure a click-to-run installation of Office 365 2016 is by using the Office 2016 Deployment Tool: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=49117
After downloading and installing this tool, there are a couple of command line parameters available. The provided setup.exe of this tool enables you to download Office, in case needed, but can also be used to install Office from an existing network folder where the installation files reside.
With the Deployment Tool can, besides the downloading and installing also Microsoft App-V packages be made of this Office installation. These App-V packages can be used, but might need some modification to fulfill company’s App-V requirements.
Parameters that can be used with these tool are shown below:
The configuration file, as shown in the picture above, in fact is a configuration.xml file where can be specified where the installation files reside, what Office version needs to be installed (32 versus 64 bits), what office components need to be installed and if there has to be log file with its location.
The file configuration.xml can be created with a text editor, but also the preconfigured configuration.xml can be used and modified. A third possibility is creation of this configuration.xml on a website called http://officedev.github.io/Office-IT-Pro-Deployment-Scripts/XmlEditor.html
As can be seen in the picture above, on the left side Office 365 2016 has been chosen. Settings like AutoActivate, ForcedAppShutddown en SharedComputerLicensing are set. On the right side can be seen that for example Access is one of the Office components that doesn’t need to be installed and that Dutch is a language that is also being installed. A big part of the Office installation can be done using this tool. Adding registry settings, files or some configuration can be done using group policies or a user workspace management tool like Microsoft UE-V of RES One Workspace.
When al settings are done on this website pressing ‘Export’ makes at xml file that can be saved to be used on a command line with a tool of choice, like Microsoft SCCM 2016, RES One Automation or another tool.
At this time there are two Office installation types: a msi Office-installation or a click-to-run installation, depending on you Microsoft subscription. The expectation is that more and more click-to-run installation will appear, replacing the old ways of installing and patching and updating software, as Microsoft focus will be more and more on delivering services. To still get some control of this type of installations, tools like the Deployment Tool are being used.
My expectation is that also other vendors will choose the same way of providing there updates which should make updating a lot easier than with some product today.