Editor's Note: Deploy the new Office without giving up control

The new Office is Office 2013 (traditional .msi) and Office 365 ProPlus. Office 365 ProPlus and the Click-to-Run installation has the full application experiences, is fully-customizable, and available without a connection to the Internet. Office works like previous versions with support for Office add-ins, files, and all on-premises services for email and collaboration. This article describes what is different about the new Office 365 ProPlus.

By Jeremy Chapman

Whether you are the end user or in IT, the prospect of receiving a new version of Office can be challenging. The end user wants to make sure their files and email just continue to work; they may have custom add-ins or ribbons in Office.

IT worries about user disruption and spends a lot of time testing and figuring out how to redeliver user customizations to avoid any interruptions. IT can spend several months making sure everything works, but will still never be sure if every file and control is functional. Users are the best testers and subject matter experts for their files. Now we can deliver the new Office without removing the older Office version and mitigate any risks of disrupting end users’ work.

Side-by-side installs

Side-by-side installation is not the only solution for ensuring application compatibility, but it does help expedite how quickly you can deliver Office. With the new Office we enabled a multi-level approach to help with file and add-in compatibility:

  1. The new Office is built to just work with existing add-ins and files. It supports the Office extensibility models of previous versions and continues to work with older Office proprietary file formats (.doc, .xls , .ppt, etc.). It even loads user customizations to ribbon and add-ins from older Office installations automatically.
  2. New Office telemetry features help identity frequently-used files and expose issues and fixes for new Office and older Office versions 2003-2010.
  3. Side-by-side helps users and IT transition to the new Office at their pace. They can always go to the older version of Office in the unlikely event they find issues with their files or add-ins. Once users are comfortable with the new Office, their IT admins can remove the older version.

It is still a best practice to not have multiple versions of any application on a system performing the same tasks. Side-by-side is a powerful way to help get Office out to end users quickly and save time with upfront compatibility testing. The result is faster deployment with better testing post-installation. Users should be trained to use the newer version and IT needs to determine the best way to phase out older Office clients.

Five installs per user

With Office 365 ProPlus each user can have up to five concurrent installs across their PCs and Macs. It means that users can install on their managed or personal computers. That gives them the ability to access Office experiences on all of their computers. For IT administrators, it still means they can control whether personal or home devices have access to managed files and services or not. This is a benefit to end users by giving them access to Office on the personal computers they use and to give IT control over their software assets. For example, when a user leaves the organization and is de-provisioned by IT, their installations on personally-owned devices also get de-provisioned and fall into reduced functionality mode. This enables the bring-your-own-PC model and lets you keep the software assets in your accounting.

Personalized settings roam between devices

The new Office lets users move between the devices they use. For example, you might first create a document at work on a desktop PC. Then you want to resume working on that document on your tablet or laptop and maybe later on your phone. This is possible with Office 365 ProPlus using roaming settings. We roam links to files, not the files themselves – so all security and access models are preserved for IT. We’ll also take you back to the page you were working on in Word or the last slide in PowerPoint. We also roam custom dictionaries and your themes and personalization in Office apps. So once you sign in, Office knows you and tailors itself to your use.

Automated Software Distribution

Most organizations install software – and especially Office – on behalf of their end users with tools like System Center Configuration Manager, Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, Group Policy login scripts or third party software distribution tools. Office 365 ProPlus supports deployment with on premises tools like these. You can continue using your normal Office deployment approaches, but expect much faster installation times and even leverage optional Internet-assisted installation approaches for remote users.

Manageable background updates

Moving to Office 365 ProPlus does not mean that you have to give up control over software updates. You can continue to test and validate software updates before they are deployed to end users or you can choose to apply automatic updates from the Office 365 service. We have streamlined update management so you will typically see one available update per month instead of sometimes up to 20 updates that might come from a traditional MSI-based installation. Publish updates centrally to a shared folder or HTTP path or use software distribution tools to manage software updating.

Group Policy and Telemetry support

Office 365 ProPlus enables fine-tuned configuration management with Active Directory Group Policy from Windows Server. Managed PCs can leverage more than 3,000 unique configuration and security settings. New Telemetry features in Office also allow you to centrally-monitor Office performance, installed solutions or any Office issues logged. A central dashboard lets you see the health of the entire organization to let you quickly find issues and see exactly who is impacted. You can even use telemetry to block unwanted add-ins and Office extensions from loading. Runtime monitoring with Office Telemetry is exclusive to the new Office client.

Learn more

This TechNet feature package includes many resources for Office 2013 and Office 365 ProPlus. In particular, don’t miss the documentation for Deployment options for Office 365 ProPlus, interactive guided labs on the Ignite training, and the downloadable evaluation for the Office 2013 .msi client.

Jeremy Chapman

Jeremy Chapman*, Senior Product Manager at Microsoft, is responsible for automation tools and processes for Office deployment, which includes cloud services integration, architecture, design specifications, strategic planning, development, readiness, and promotion of Microsoft's deployment tools. Prior to working with the Office product management group, he had similar responsibilities for Windows deployment.*