30 Jul.

More Fun WIth Office Click To Run Deployments

Okay, maybe fun isn’t quite the right word, but sometimes that’s really the only way to explain the attraction to dig a little deeper. After the last post where I covered how to take advantage of some of the lesser documented product IDs that work with Office Click To Run, it’s time to see how including a product ID versus ExcludeApp affect what gets deployed. Let’s start with the Lync client, because the one I had to work with most recently from a standalone deployment perspective.

Based on what I covered in the last post, we can approach the Lync deployment from two angles with C2R – we can deploy Lync retail versus deploying Office 365 Pro Plus and excluding everything but Lync. While on the surface that may seem to be suggesting the same process is taking place, that really isn’t the case at all. First of all, if we think about it from what is actually getting deployed, one of the versions of Lync will identify itself as Lync in Programs And Features, while the other identifies itself as standalone Lync. This makes sense, but let’s take a look anyway…

Lync, brought to you by Lync

Lync, brought to you by Office 365 Pro Plus

I’ll come back to discuss some of the longer term implications of one approach versus the other, but first let’s see what the properties are from within the Lync client. What you will notice is that the Lync install from Office 365 ProPlus calls this out on the second line – so there really shouldn’t be any confusion about which one you are working with.

Lync, brought to you by Lync

Lync, brought to you by Office 365

What differences are there between the two installs? Well, it’s pretty much what you would expect, the Lync only Office 365 ProPlus installation is larger than LyncRetail. The majority of the consumed space is in the DCF folder which contains the necessary bits for the Database File Compare tool.

The LyncRetail standalone install comes in at 840MB

Lync via Office 365 ProPlus comes in at 1.15GB – so there is obviously more getting installed here, and from this directly alone we can see Office telemetry elements installed by default.

What about adding additional applications in? I deliberately started with Lync because it, shall we say, doesn’t exactly conform to the backstage view that the Office desktop applications have been moving towards with Office 2007. Granted, Lync is a very different type of client to the other desktop applications, so I’m not going to be to harsh on them about this. Now let’s add Word to both of these virtual machines.

All we need to do is replace LyncRetail with WordRetail inside of a configuration xml file for the standalone installer, and we need to remove Word as an Excluded App ID in the Office 365 ProPlus configuration xml file.

While it’s easy to install Word alongside Lync, you can’t use your Office 365 credentials to activate it. Those who have tried to use their P plan credentials to activate Office 365 Pro Plus would have seen a similar problem.


The Office 365 ProPlus install acts as expected – I can activate it with my Office 365 E3 credentials, and it’s easy to see that it’s part of the overall suite, despite Lync being the only other installed application.

What’s the takeaway of all of this? Be careful when you are deploying via Click 2 Run to ensure that you are deploying the right version of the required application. If you aren’t sure what the user will need and want to pre-install the single image, use the Office OPK that I mentioned in the previous post on this topic. If you do know that the user is going to be using Office 365 Pro Plus, you can either install the whole suite, or exclude the non-required apps. You can see from the above screenshot that adding in new applications is easily done, and it’s a pretty quick process to do it.

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 27 Jul.

The Windows 8.1 Update User Experience Part 1

With each new release with Microsoft Windows, there are always a large number of new features and capabilities, but sometimes these can get can get washed out amongst the noise that usually surrounds some of the other changes. This has definitely been the case since Windows 8 was released, much of the focus has been on the changes to the interface, rather than focusing on some of the benefits these and other changes bring to users of earlier versions of Windows. With the recent release of the Windows 8.1 Update, there’s plenty to offer both Windows 8 users, as well as those who are looking at moving from earlier versions of Windows.

Let’s start with some of the undercover changes that aren’t quite as obvious. There have been huge improvements in the basics such as startup performance and security, in many ways the latest releases have taken what was good with Windows 7 and made them great. While some of these under the hood changes aren’t the glamour features that jump out straight away, over time they are the ones that you start to appreciate the most and come to depend upon day after day.

A great example of this is the ability to associate your Windows sign in with your Microsoft Account. What’s a Microsoft account? You may have known it previously as your Hotmail account, your LiveID, or for those of you who have been doing this for a while, you may know it as your Microsoft Passport account. By enabling this association between accounts, you can start to backup and synchronise a large number of settings across multiple Windows PCs including your Internet Explorer favourites, background, Start Screen layout, apps that you’ve installed, web passwords and much more.

OneDrive Sync
Use Microsoft’s free OneDrive service to Synchronise your customisations across multiple Windows 8.1 devices with your Microsoft account.

Many of the new features that are included with Windows 8.1 Update are for both the business user but can also be used by consumers, it’s common for many to use the same device for business and pleasure. If you do have a Windows tablet or a laptop with touch, you will quickly learn to appreciate how useful pinching and zooming can be in Internet Explorer. This works in the same way as we are accustomed to from our smartphones, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble taking advantage of this capability. The modern version of OneNote which is available from the Windows Store is a great way to see how touch can enhance business applications that you have been using for quite a while.

What this means for us as users is that we can easily access our documents and settings if we use multiple Windows PCs, whether they be laptops, desktops or tablets, and have a much more tightly synchronised experience across them. It even makes the process of setting up a new PC much easier, as you can sign in with your Microsoft Account and choose to synchronise settings from your first sign in, saving you lots of time that would normally be spent making the PC behave the way that you want.

An area where there has been a great deal of attention focused on Windows 8 and the follow on releases is the change in the user interface, which really is the first major overhaul since Windows 95. This means that we do need to learn a few things that are new, but we all live in a world where we are working with many different interfaces across our phones and tablets. For the rest of this post I will focus on some of the user interface changes that have  taken place, as well as how some of the interface elements you know and love have moved forward into Windows 8.1.

The biggest change overall is the introduction of the Start Screen as a replacement for the aging Start Menu, which has been designed to work better in a world where touch enabled devices are becoming the norm. This doesn’t mean that those of us using a keyboard and mouse have been left behind, as we have the ability to interact and change this experience by right mouse clicking, as well using drag and drop in ways which we have grown accustomed to. In many ways we can think of the Start Screen as a simplified launcher, and then rely on the enhanced search capabilities to find those applications we don’t use all that often.

Default Start Screen
The Start Screen needs to be customised to suit your needs, you can add and remove Live Tiles until you are satisfied.

For many people, their first experience with a Windows 8 based system was seeing the new Start Screen, which hadn’t been customised for their requirements. This can feel a bit overwhelming to begin with, as it is a major change to previous versions of Windows. However, once you start working with the interface, and discover the ease with which you can customise it to suit your needs. This is something you can change over time as different applications become higher and lower priorities, and ends up providing something much simpler than the Start Menu had become. If you take a look at the top right hand corner you will see that there is an easily accessible power icon, as well as the ability to search your PC as well.

Customised Start Screen
My customised Start Screen with much less clutter, and easy access to my most important apps, the desktop, and search.

Windows 8.1 Update includes doesn’t just include shortcuts to the inbuilt search capabilities, but it also provides an easier way of navigating to the power button shortcuts, easily available when you are using a keyboard and mouse. For those of you a bit more adventurous, right mouse clicking on the Start button will also bring up a shortcut with power options, as well as a few more options that are more suited to the more technical users.

Shutdown From Start
Right mouse click on the Start button to expose additional capabilities, including a more familiar way to shut down and restart

It’s important to mention that you can choose to boot straight to the Windows desktop where you can pin your favourite time tested applications, as well as get easy access to modern apps when you need them. This blending of old and new means that we can leverage whichever app works best for what we need to get done, something which took huge leaps forward in the Windows 8.1 Update. This highlights one of the greatest strengths of Windows, which is the huge base of business and personal applications we have been relying on for years, and we don’t have to sacrifice these as we move forward.

Boot To Desktop
The fourth checkbox enables boot to desktop, a welcome return!

Like any new experience, there is going to be an adjustment period to some of the things that have changed, but within a short while you should find that you have found a few new features that make your tasks easier, and will have customised Windows 8.1 to deliver the experience that you need. There are more changes that will help you to adjust to Windows 8.1,,and I will target those in part two of  this series.

This content has been created in partnership with Microsoft Australia

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 27 Jul.

Reducing Bandwidth Requirements For Office 365 Small Business Premium Deployments

One of the documented differences with the included version of the desktop application in Office 365 Small Business Premium versus Office 365 Pro Plus is that you don’t have the same ability to download once and distribute to many clients, and by many, let’s say 25 users, because that’s the maximum on the P Plans. However, just because the documentation says something, doesn’t mean that we can’t do a bit of digging behind the scenes and see what can be discovered, exposed and exploited. In today’s post I’ll cover how you can do a single download of the Office 365 desktop applications and use your deployment method of choice to get the bits to the clients, such as Active Directory application deployment. For now it’s important to take note that the version of Office that we are installing here is not Office 365 Pro Plus, it is Office 365 Small Business Premium, and you will see this confirmed later in the post.

No? Are you sure? I’m not convinced… let’s take a look at what client push deployment means, according to the Office team.

That paints a pretty gloomy picture, but it was when I started looking through the Microsoft Office Single Image v15.2 Service Pack 1 OPK that I saw something that piqued my interest. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this download it is for OEMs to do a preinstall of Office onto new PCs, usually during audit mode, before sysprep is run and the user receives a system ready to run OOBE – the Out Of Box Experience. The list of what can be activated from the single image installer is extensive – the OEM doesn’t know at the time what version of Office the customer is going to purchase, or even which one they may already be licensed for.

For those of us who have used the Office Deployment Tool will notice that that if we ignore the setup part of the file name, we can see 0365proplusretail, projectproretail, visioproretail and sdpretail, which match the product IDs that can be used within the configuration.xml tool.

So this raises the question, can those other product IDs, excluding setup, be used, and the answer is a resounding yes. Now that we have the product IDs, I was able to search for them and it uncovered this support article from Microsoft – Product IDs that are supported by the Office Deployment Tool for Click-to-Run. Let’s take a look at the relevant section…

You can see that this could lead to some confusion, as the information that is presented isn’t particularly clear. Is this deliberate or just a mistake? Who knows, but at least we’ve got a starting point to use the latest monthly download as the base, rather than the SP1 build of Office.

Before I found this information I encouraged the use of the Single Image master to at least get a base Office SP1 installation onto a PC that needed Office 365 Small Business Premium, because even with updates, it was still going to be less than 1.1GB of downloading from the Internet per PC, the question is how much would it actually save us? For the following examples I chose the Office 365 Professional Plus install, I’ll get to the Office 365 Small Business Premium installation shortly. So if we think of this as saving over 500MB of bandwidth per PC, this could make quite an impact on the deployment process for customers with very slow connections.

A couple of things to point out here – first of all the build number that is listed, 15.0.4569.1506 – is not a listed build in the support article Microsoft Office 2013 Click-To-Run Virtualization The second is that as of July there are around 475MB worth of updates required. This still means that we can use this as the base install source from a network location and still come out way ahead in terms of download requirements versus the 1.1GB that would be needed if installed directly from the Office 365 portal.

The difference with this build is that it is the officially recognised SP1 build for Office 365 Pro Plus – 15.0.4569.1507 – a minor number increment, but the download required to update it to the July build is only 447MB. In the larger scheme of things, a 30MB difference isn’t huge, but it is enough to make you wonder how much of a difference there is between these builds for people who choose not to update them for whatever reason.

Moving back to the topic at hand – deploying Office 365 Small Business Premium from a standard Office Deployment Toolkit download. The first I performed against a download from when the service pack shipped.

You can see here that the build number ends in 1507, highlighting that it is the recognised SP1 build, and that I have included the customised xml file in the screenshot so you can see where I placed the Product ID.

A couple of things to note with this screenshot – this is an installation from a different directory that was the July 2014 build. I’ve again included the customised XML file, as well as the command line that was used with the ODT to do the deployment. Despite the confusing and contradictory messaging from Microsoft, the Product ID works as expected, and it also opens up a couple of interesting possibilities which I will cover in the next article.

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 30 Jun.

Best Of Both Worlds Training July 2014

This month I’m delivering the Best Of Both Worlds training for Microsoft’s OEM team, covering Windows Server and Office 365 integration opportunities.


Best Of Both Worlds July 2014

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 30 Jun.

Catch me at WPC2014 for a Windows Intune and Office 365 session

If you are going to be at WPC this year, swing by this session if you want an autograph, to shake my hand, or to yell random things at me.

Intune – The Future Opportunity for Your Office 365 Managed Service

Speaker(s): Aileen Hannah, Mark O’Shea

Increasingly, businesses are looking to IT partners to “take the problem away.” The public cloud makes it so much easier for partners to do just that by offering comprehensive managed services without having to invest a fortune up front to build out the required infrastructure. If you’re already offering Office 365, come along and learn about the opportunities for using Windows Intune to manage customer PCs, devices, users and their apps efficiently and effectively.

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 30 Jun.

Managing Windows 8.1 With Windows Intune

Today I will be delivering the third in a series of Windows 8.1 focused webinars, with the focus of this one being managing Windows 8.1 through the traditional Windows Intune client as well as managing Windows 8.1 devices through MDM.

Managing Windows 8.1 With Windows Intune

This session is partly acting as a warm up session for some of the things that will be covered in the Windows Intune session I will be delivering with Aileen Hannah from the Windows Intune team at WPC in a couple of weeks time.


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 24 Jun.

Office 365 For Consumers Gets Stickier

Over the last month much of what my working life has involved has included discussions around the benefits of Office 365 suite subscriptions for business and consumers. Today’s announcement that OneDrive is moving to 1TB per Office 365 Home Premium subscription for each of the 5 accounts, effectively giving 5TB of online storage per subscription. This number does seem crazy, and there’s the whole issue of getting all that data into the cloud, but I’m not going to complain about that burden.


So this leads to the question – with the generous installation rights per subscription, why would someone still purchase a standalone copy of Office 2013 for home use? There are a few, and they are generally getting harder to support. Let’s run through a few of them.

I only need Office installed on 1 device, therefore purchasing the appropriate version of Office 2013 is cheaper

There are two potential problems with this response, the first is that the number of single device households is shrinking. It may still be a 1 PC household, but if you add the iPads, the iPhones and the Android phones, that seems like a more accurate representation of the world around us, and Office 365 Home Premium has you covered. For those who truly do need to use it on a single device, and want a perpetual license, then Office 2013 may represent short term value, but it’s still worth investigating everything else that’s included.

My PC isn’t connected to the Internet. Ever. Seriously.

Okay, if your machine isn’t connected to the internet for the subscription validation requirements, you have a legitimate reason to use Office 2013. It will still require an initial activation though, but you can probably do that over the phone. I don’t know, I haven’t looked, and probably never will.

I don’t want/trust/need a cloud subscription

It’s always interesting to hear what about the subscription approach is off-putting to some users. Sometimes it’s because they think they need to be online all the time, sometimes it’s because they want to own a physical product. But these days a physical copy of Office is more likely to be a box with a product key and a download URL and not an install DVD.

I want to pass it down to future generations

Why on earth would you want to do that?

Office 365 Personal

I’ve kept this product out of the discussion. I think it should be kept out of most discussions unless you are trying to make it easier to justify buying Office 2013 instead.

Where To Go For More Information

Now, if you are thinking about Office 365 Home Premium and how the subscription work in a household, take a look at the following article http://office.microsoft.com/en-au/support/share-office-365-home-with-up-to-four-people-in-your-household-HA103478662.aspx.

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 23 Jun.

Webcast Resources For Migration and Deployment with Windows 8.1

Today I delivered a Windows 8.1 deployment webinar for the Microsoft Readiness team, here is the presentation.

Windows 8.1 Deployment June Webinar

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 16 Jun.

Introducing Windows 8.1 Webcast

Below you will find resources that will help you with today’s webinar, I will add the Q/A questions that arise during the session to an upcoming post.

Download the PPT Introducing the Windows 8.1 Update June 2014

The next two webinars in the Windows 8.1 Update webinar series

Stay up to date with Windows client announcements at the Windows Springboard blog

Decluttering with Start Screen Control

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 1 Jun.

Windows 8.1 Update online sessions coming in June

This month I will be delivering three Windows 8.1 online events for the readiness team, in which I will be covering various elements of Windows 8.1 capabilities, deployment and management. The demise of XP, and an ever increasing number of touch based Windows devices mean that customers need to be aware of what’s in store and how you can make that transition easier for them.

You can register for these now at the Partner Learning Centre.

Introducing the Windows 8.1 Update – Monday 16th June 1-2 P.M. EST

Learn what’s new and improved in the latest update, and how these changes help those who use a keyboard and mouse as well as those who use touch based devices.

Migration and Deployment with Windows 8.1 – Monday 23rd June 1-2 P.M. EST

With Windows XP now unsupported, its critical to move your customers to a more recent version of Windows. Get your customer’s current with Windows 8.1, and allow them to take advantage of the latest advancements in touch and mobility.

Managing Windows 8.1 with Windows Intune – Monday 30th June 1-2 P.M. EST

With the increasing adoption of Windows 8.1 as a mobile platform,  management of these devices on and off the network is becoming increasingly important. Windows Intune not only provides management capabilities for your Windows PCs and Windows Phones, but it also managed iOS and Android devices as well.

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