Microsoft 365 Office deployment: Configure it to your specifications

Even though installing Microsoft Office Pro Plus is usually a simple process, many organizations like to deploy Microsoft Office 365 in a specific way. For example, an organization might want to use a specific architecture or a specific language pack. While there are ways to manually provide these configuration settings during the Office installation process, Microsoft offers a free tool that can help you automate custom Microsoft Office deployments. In this article, I will show you how it works. The tool you will use to automate customized deployments of Microsoft Office is called the Create Office Customization Tool. You can access this tool through the Microsoft 365 Apps admin center. If you have never heard of the Apps admin center, it may be because as of the time that I am writing this, Microsoft has yet to add it to Microsoft 365’s list of admin centers.

Once you have signed into the Apps admin center, expand the Customization container and then select the Device Configuration tab. This tab exposes the Create Office Customization Tool, as shown in the image below.

Microsoft 365 Office deployment process

A Microsoft 365 Office tool that’s easy to use? Yes

Unlike a lot of the tools that Microsoft makes for Office 365, the Create Office Customization Tool is actually easy to use. The most important thing that you need to understand about this tool is that when you work through it, you are not actually deploying Microsoft Office, at least not at that moment. Instead, you are answering a series of questions about how Microsoft Office should be installed. Your answers to those questions are then used to populate an XML file. This XML file can then be used in conjunction with the Microsoft Office setup file to automate the Microsoft Office deployment process. Creating and using this XML file works somewhat similarly to how an Answer file is used to automate the deployment of Windows 10.

So with that said, let’s take a look at how the tool works. If you look back at the previous screen capture, you will notice that the very first option shown at the top of the screen is a file name for the XML file. I recommend using a descriptive name for the XML file because depending on the size of your organization, you could end up with several different deployment configurations, each with its own XML file. Using a descriptive name can help you to distinguish between the various files.

You might have noticed in the image above that there are several buttons to the right of the place where you enter a name for the XML file. Don’t click these buttons just yet. Instead, scroll down through the tool’s interface and begin answering the questions about how you want Microsoft Office to be installed.

At a bare minimum, you will need to choose your Microsoft 365 Office architecture (32-bit / 64-bit) and the Microsoft Office Suite that you want to deploy (such as Office Professional Plus 2019 Volume License or something similar). You also have the option of deploying supplementary Microsoft Office software such as Microsoft Visio and Microsoft Project. These components, however, are optional and require a separate license. The Create Office Customization Tool also gives you the option of deploying language packs and the Microsoft Office 365 Access runtime.

If you scroll down a little bit more, you will see a section that allows you to choose which of the Microsoft Office applications you want to install. By default, the tool will configure the XML file to install everything except for OneDrive (Groove). Typically, you will probably want to use the default selections in this section, but if you had a compelling reason to block access to one or more of the Office applications, this is a handy way of keeping those applications from being installed on user’s PCs.

Microsoft 365 Office deployment process
After you have chosen which of the Microsoft Office applications you want to be installed, click Next, and you will be taken to the Language section. As you would probably expect, the Language section allows you to choose the primary language to be used by the Microsoft Office applications and any supplementary languages. From there, you will progress through other sections, including Installation, Update and Upgrade, Licensing and Activation, General, and Application Preferences. These sections will allow you to configure other installation options, such as automatically accepting the license agreement during set up so that no one has to manually click the Accept button or entering your company name and license type so that it doesn’t have to be done later on.

As you work through the various options, the pane on the right side of the screen will dynamically update to show your configuration settings. Once you are satisfied with all of the configuration options that you have chosen, click the Done button, followed by the Download button. This will cause the tool to create and then download the XML file that you will need to customize the Microsoft Office installation.

Once you have created the custom XML file, you can use it to deploy Office. To do so, you will need to download both the XML files and the Office setup files. You will also need to make sure that Add SourcePath line within the XML file points to the location on your hard disk where you have saved the Office installation files (you can edit the XML file with Notepad or any other text editor). When you are ready to install Office, just enter the command below:

Setup.exe /configure <your XML configuration file>

You can see an example of this in the image below.

Scripting the deployment

Keep in mind that even though the screen capture above shows Office being installed manually by typing a command, you would most likely script the deployment process in the real world. If you have a tool that deploys applications to enterprise desktops, you could enter a command like the one above into the application deployment tool so Office will be installed according to your specifications.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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