Have you ever had to roll out a large deployment of Office, with custom settings (for example, you wanted all the features except one, such as if you don’t use Lync or InfoPath or OneNote in your environment), but weren’t sure how to do so easily?
In the past, system administrators would do a variety of options – either manually install Office, customizing each setting individually (which can range from quite tiring to impossible when you have a lot of machines), or sending out instructions to users and hoping they follow them correctly, or just pushing out the deployment through GPO or some other means and installing the full Suite, even though half the programs aren’t used.
There are a few ways that you can avoid these headaches. One is by manually editing the “config.xml” file, but that requires some knowledge of the switches and tags. Honestly, isn’t there a better option?
As it turns out, there is: the Microsoft Office Customization Tool.
The Office Customization Tool (OCT) is only available in volume-license versions of Office, but on the other hand, that’s where you really need it. It’s fairly easy to use, as well.
First, you should have your Office installation files on a network share (for the purposes of this tutorial, we’re going to use Office ProPlus 2013, but the OCT packaged with 2010 is nearly identical). Then you just run this simple command:
Replacing everything between the quotations with the network location of your Office installation files, of course. (Please note that the quotations are necessary if you have a space in the file string, like we do here between ‘office’ and ‘2013’.)
Office will start the Customization Tool, and ask if you want to create a new one or open an existing (which is helpful if you realize you need to edit a previously-created customization file). It will also ask you to choose a product, which in our case, there is only one stored in that network share: The 64-bit version of Professional Plus 2013.
Once you tell it to create a new OCT, it will open the Tool. There are a ton of options, and I highly suggest you read through them – the OCT is quite flexible! You can find the full details on the options on Microsoft TechNet here, while I outline some of the more basic ones below.
For the purposes of this tutorial, I was tasked with creating a custom install file for Office 2013. Management had decided to roll out Office 2013, but due to infrastructure concerns with Outlook and Exchange, elected to keep the Outlook 2010 that was currently installed on user’s machines. Also, in order to save space, management requested that we uninstall Access 2010 from user machines, but do not install Access 2013, as Access is not used in the organization.
So the end result I wanted was Office 2013 installed except for Outlook and Access 2013. I wanted to make sure that Outlook 2010 stayed installed on user machines, and wanted to uninstall Access 2010. I also wanted to have minimum user interaction for ease of installation, and so I wanted to have the license key, organizational name, and installation path specified.
In order to satisfy these requirements, I made changes in the following categories:
Install location and organization name
For this one, I was fine with the default installation path, and I entered my company name “Microsoft Gold Partner” – you would, of course, enter your own organization here.
Licensing and user interface
For here, I chose “Enter another product key” and typed my volume license key to be used on the installation. I also accepted the terms of the license agreement on behalf of my users, and changed the display level to “Basic” and chose to show a completion notice.
This will show just the basic Welcome screen and displays a progress bar and completion notice. It won’t prompt the user for any other information (if you haven’t entered the license key and accepted the license terms, it will prompt for those things, however). The other options are “Full”, which is completely interactive, and “None”, which runs completely silently. More detail on these options can be found here.
Remove previous installations
By default, this is set to remove earlier versions of any program installed through the OCT, and to leave current versions of any program not installed. So if you install, for example, Word 2013 using the OCT, it will automatically uninstall Word 2010 or 2007.
However, remember how we wanted to remove Access 2010, but not install Access 2013? So we need to edit this a bit.
I chose the second option of “Remove the following earlier versions of Microsoft Office programs”, and that allowed me to edit each one individually. They start out as all at Remove All, which will force the removal regardless if a new version is being installed or not. That takes care of the requirement for Access 2010.
Ah, but remember how we were leaving Outlook 2010 on the user machines? Here’s where it gets tricky. If I had left it as default setup behavior, it would have left Outlook 2010 installed, as (in the next step below), I have chose to not install Outlook 2013. However, since we changed the option to “Remove the following earlier versions of Microsoft Office programs”, it automatically set everything to “Remove All”. That’s why in the above screenshot I have changed Outlook to be “Remove None”. You do this by highlighting the program and then clicking on the “Details” button below the list.
Set feature installation states
This is the most important one here. In this screen you actually chose which products to install by clicking on each and choosing from the list of options. As you can see here, I have chose to not install either Access 2013 or Outlook 2013.
And that’s all there is to it! Save your OCT file in the “updates” folder of the network location the Office installation files are (using the above example, “\\server1\share\Office 2013\updates”). Then, when you are ready to roll this out, all the users have to do is run “setup.exe” (using the above example, “\\server1\share\Office 2013\setup.exe”).