Office 365 ProPlus Administrator Series: Addressing Compatibility Concerns with Office 365 ProPlus

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Office 365 ProPlus Administrator Series: Addressing Compatibility Concerns with Office 365 ProPlus

Author: Jeremy_MSFT
Originally published to the Office 365 Preview blog.

Office 365 ProPlus is designed to be compatible with existing Office files, add-ins, dependent applications and other customizations. It includes new tools to help IT organizations maintain configuration, performance and health characteristics of Office programs and adopt new versions of Office quickly. New tools for Office telemetry allow administrators to quickly troubleshoot issues at the endpoint level or monitor and manage Office programs centrally in an organization. Side-by-side support allows users to have more than one version of Office installed, giving a valuable tool to assist with transitions from older versions of Office to Office 365 ProPlus. If for any reason there are dependencies on an older version of Office, users can always go back to that version.

Office Telemetry

Telemetry is new to Office and provides the primary functions of maintaining the health of Office programs in a managed IT environment and helping with migrations from previous versions of Office. Telemetry is native to Office desktop apps and can be accessed via the Office Telemetry Log, an Excel-based spreadsheet that reports Office events in a sortable and filterable way. The Office Telemetry Log will allow IT admins to quickly troubleshoot issues local to that PC. The events from the Office Telemetry Log are also optionally sent to a central location and data processing service in order to provide a consolidated view across an organization. This is important for maintaining performance and compatibility characteristics when using Office and also when assessing customizations and compatibility of previous Office versions and the files created with those versions. The intent of the new Office is to maintain compatibility at the file level across Office versions, but when inconsistencies do surface, Office telemetry is designed to alert IT admins and allow them to make proactive decisions to correct and prevent issues.

 

The Telemetry Dashboard guide explains telemetry capabilities and how it is implemented

Telemetry in Office 365 ProPlus consists of five key components:

  1. Inventory Agents
  2. Shared folders
  3. Telemetry Processor
  4. Database
  5. Telemetry Dashboard

The inventory agent is integrated as part of the new Office 365 ProPlus Preview and Office Professional Plus 2013 Preview. By default, the inventorying function is turned off, but can be enabled post installation or using Active Directory Group Policy controls. Inventory agents will also be available for Office 2003 and newer clients, but they are intended for use in migration projects and not as a part of ongoing health and performance management. The inventory agent collects information from the Office Telemetry Log and will detect customizations such as add-ins, custom code (COM and Browser Helper Objects) and Apps for Office. It also reports on product version and architecture.

 

The Office Telemetry Log collects Office events stored in Windows and displays them in Excel

When inventory agents are enabled, the IT admin also specifies a shared folder location to save the inventory agent’s output files. A data processing service then processes the output files and adds entries into a SQL Server database. Finally, the Telemetry Dashboard displays reporting views from the SQL database in Excel to provide an aggregate view of Office versions, commonly used files, errors and events, plus add-ins and related solutions.

Side-by-Side Version Support

While it has traditionally been possible to install Office side-by-side with other older versions of Office, there have been several side-effects with having this configuration. These side-effects include prompting for and performing Office installation repair when loading the older program, removal of older Outlook versions and Start Menu shortcuts in the same folder among other issues highlighted in KB2121447.

Office 365 ProPlus is designed to allow side-by-side version support with older versions of Office. As a compatibility tool, this means the user is able to keep older versions of Office installed and in the unlikely event that a user encounters a file that does not function properly in the new Office program, they can open the older Office program and open the file from within that program.

Office 365 ProPlus running alongside Office 2003 on the same system

Default file associations for Office file formats (DOC, DOCX, XLS, XLSX, PPT, PPTX, etc.) will be assigned to the last version of Office installed in Windows 7 and align with how Windows 8 assigns default file associations in the operating system. To assign default file associations to the older Office version an installation repair of the older Office version will assign default file associations to the older version. Likewise, an installation repair on Office 365 ProPlus will reassign default file extensions back to the newer version. These approaches may be automated when an IT administrator pre-installs Office 365 ProPlus and wished to retain default file associations on older version until the user is trained. See Best practices for maintaining Office 2010 or equivalent articles from previous releases for more information about required command line scripting to automate the repair command.

Existing Customizations with New Click-to-Run Installs

Office 365 ProPlus was designed to support existing extensibility models for Office programs, including Object Model APIs, Web services and protocols, VBA, Office Add-ins and document-level customizations. In fact, in side-by-side installations, Office 365 ProPlus will examine desktop application customizations existing from previous installations of Office and load those when Office 365 ProPlus programs are executed. Customizations found in %AppData%\Local\Microsoft\Office such as OFFICEUI custom ribbon extensions and CUSTOMUI files.

In the example below, I have customized Microsoft Word in Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010 with a “Touch” ribbon tab and installed a third party add-in called “DYMO Label.” After installing Office 365 ProPlus and launching Word 2013, both the “Touch” tab and “DYMO Label” add-in are available.  

 

Office Professional Plus 2010 customizations automatically applied to Office 365 ProPlus in side-by-side configuration

This functionality also extends to the Office on Demand applications. If your organization is using Office 2007 or newer, file compatibility combined with familiar ribbon controls and applied pre-existing customizations should help ease user transition to the new Office.

More Resources

There is a lot of new content both in product and on TechNet to explain Office Telemetry, check out Deploy Office Telemetry Dashboard on TechNet. There is also more information coming out on the Office Next blog about these and further topics, so stay tuned.

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