Posey's Tips & Tricks

Making the Switch to Office 2013

Brien chronicles what went right and wrong during his Office 2013 migration.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a review of Office 2013 for Redmond magazine. As is the case with many of the articles that I write, there was a pressing deadline. The RTM version of Office 2013 was released mere days before the review was due. That gave me enough time to deploy a lab setup for the purposes of my review, but at the time I had not gotten the chance to deploy Office 2013 on my production desktop and use Office 2013 "for real."

A couple of days ago I finally decided to deploy Office 2013 on my production desktop. What I was really curious about however, wasn't Office itself, but rather the deployment process.

I have been working with Microsoft Office since the early 1990s. As far as I can remember, I have deployed every new version that has been released in the last 20 years (give or take a year or two).  However, all of those office deployments differed from my Office 2013 deployment in a big way.

With each prior version of Office that I deployed, I purchased the physical Office media and the accompanying licenses, inserted the media into my PC, and ran some sort of Setup wizard. This time however, I didn't have to purchase Office. I have an Office 365 subscription that includes five Office 2013 licenses. As such, I installed Office 2013 through the Office 365 portal.

I have to admit that I really wasn't quite sure what to expect when I first got started. I assumed that the process would work similarly to the way that Microsoft makes software available through TechNet subscriptions, which usually involve downloading an ISO file, burning a disk, and acquiring a product key. However, the installation process actually proved to be a lot simpler than this.  I simply logged into the Office 365 portal, clicked the Download Software link, specified my language and picked the version of Office 2013 that I wanted to install (32-bit or 64-bit). The Office 365 portal actually launched the prerequisite check and the installation process. I didn't have to worry about downloading any software or acquiring a product key. The entire installation process was completely painless.

Even though the installation process was really easy, there were a couple of things that admittedly caught me off guard. The first was the process of selecting which version of Office I wanted to install. My production desktop was previously running the 64-bit version of Office 2010. The Office 365 portal recommended installing the 32-bit version, which seemed a little bit odd, but I didn't think too much of it. I just picked the 64-bit version and continued on.

After a few seconds, I received an error message stating that I couldn't install the 64-bit version because I had a 32-bit Access database engine installed. I quickly realized that the access database engine belonged to my accounting application, which is a critical application for me. Not wanting to cause problems for my accounting software, I told Office 365 to install the 32-bit edition instead. However, I got an error message saying that I couldn't install the 32-bit version because I had the 64-bit version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, Publisher, etc. installed.

I decided to make a backup of my desktop and then manually uninstall the Access Database Engine. After doing so, I installed the 64-bit version of Office 2013. Upon completing the installation, I was relieved to discover that my accounting software had no trouble using the 64-bit Access database engine.

The other thing that surprised me was that Office 2013 was deployed as a clean install rather than an upgrade. Past versions of Microsoft Office were designed so that they could not be installed alongside a prior version of Office. The old version was always overwritten during the install. However, Office 2013 installed alongside Office 2010.

From what I have observed over the last couple of days, it seems that when Office 2013 is deployed to coexist with a previous version of Office, Office 2013 does not pick up on your Office settings. For example, when I opened Outlook 2013 for the first time, it had no trouble connecting to my Exchange mailbox, but Outlook 2013 did not have any knowledge of my junk mail rules. I had to recreate those rules.

Similarly, it appears that Office 2013 might not have imported my custom dictionary from Office 2010. I am not absolutely positive about this, but I have noticed certain words that are flagged as being misspelled, and I am fairly confident that those words existed in my custom dictionary.

In spite of a few unexpected issues, the switch to Office 2013 has been relatively painless. Of course my favorite part of the whole experience was not having to pay for an Office 2013 license!

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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