Office 2008 Enterprise series: Office 2008 Deployment

Installation is something that the average user doesn’t have to spend too much time thinking about. They pop in the cd/dvd, go through a few screens (most often just clicking the continue button without making any changes) and more often than not things go pretty smoothly.  However, for IT admins, installation can be a very different beast.  

As part of our investigation for each new version of Office for Mac, we talk to our “Customer Council” which is made-up of different groups of Office for Mac users, including IT admins.  Over the years, when we have asked about their experiences with the deployment of Office, the feedback has been that the current system works, but it would be nice if we would streamline things by moving to a .pkg format.

After talking about the issue in more depth, we discovered that in previous versions of Office for Mac, IT admins have needed to do all sorts of complex steps to get builds deployed out to their users.  In fact, it was common for an IT admin to extract the bits from the installation cd, move things around, alter plist files, and more.  Then they would roll it all back up into a .pkg format file before deploying it out to remote machines.  Frankly, this is a lot of hoops to jump through and we want make the experience better.

To that end, I am happy to announce that Office 2008 for Mac will use the Apple-recommended Apple Installer technology for Office 2008 installation. This means that the data that Office installs will ship on the disc in .pkg format, installs will work well with Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) and will be Applescript-able. Once installed, the user has the freedom to move the Office folder to a different location on the system and Office will run from there. I hope that this will make Office for Mac configuration/deployment easier for IT admins.   

For those reading this post who don’t know much about the Apple Installer, here is a link to Apple’s developer website where you can find more information.  This is a significant departure from how we have handled installation in the past, and I hope that this new approach will offer IT admins a streamlined, more consistent way to deploy Office on their networks.

Another area for improvement we have heard about from our Customer Council (and from Mac Office users in general) is around the issue of font installation.  A significant number of Mac Office users very carefully manage the fonts on their system, and don’t want to install the fonts that come with Office for Mac.  In the past, users didn’t have the choice about what fonts got installed with Office, but that is going to change.  

In addition to the change to the Apple Installer, we’ve provided IT admins greater ability to customize their deployment with optional font installations.  This option will be available through the custom installation portion of the Office Installer.  For the best experience with Office 2008 for Mac, we recommend that you install the fonts provided, but we do want to give IT admins/users increased control around what gets installed on their system.

These are just two examples of the changes we have made to Enterprise deployment functionality in Office 2008 for Mac.  The bottom line is that we hope that the move to the Apple Installer and the option to not install the Office fonts will make Office 2008 deployment easier for everyone, including IT admins.  In upcoming posts, you can expect information on remote home folders, Entourage Exchange account configuration and more.