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Office Customization Tool for Click-to-Run Preview Now Available

Microsoft this week announced that it has broadened the availability of a preview of its Office Customization Tool for Click-to-Run solution.

The Office Customization Tool for Click-to-Run solution is a Web application designed to make it easier for IT pros to customize Office 365 ProPlus deployments. The tool possibly has been available in preview form for a while. A Microsoft document describing the tool, dated April, 11, 2017, indicated back then that the preview "isn't available to everyone." Now, it seems, the preview is more broadly available. It can be accessed at this page.

Microsoft's document explained that the tool is "an Azure-based cloud service that can create and update XML configuration files that are used with the Office Deployment Tool." Apparently, the Office Customization Tool for Click-to-Run is a stepped-up option for IT pros. They've previously had to use Notepad or text editors to create the configuration.xml files to specify how Office 365 ProPlus deployments should be set up.

"This somewhat tedious task, in most cases, would result in installation errors from fouled up manual entries or copy-and-paste actions into the text editor," explained Amesh Mansukhani, senior program manager for Office Engineering at Microsoft, in the announcement.

Mansukhani added that the tool provides a "rich user interface" for accessing the various Office ProPlus configuration options. Users can select interfaces for "software and language," "installation and update," and "licensing and display" to build their configuration files. The next step is to download the files that get built for use in a production environment.

Of course, IT pros still have to deploy these configuration files for the changes to take effect, and that's done using the Office Deployment Tool. This two-step process seems kind of clunky, but maybe the new tool helps avoid typing mistakes in the configuration.xml files.

The Office Customization Tool for Click-to-Run Web application will be getting some improvements. "Over the next several months we will be enhancing the tool to enable desktop admins to select many configurable user preferences that are currently being offered with the perpetual counterpart," Mansukhani promised, without going into the details. 

The "perpetual counterpart" referred to is better known as Office Professional Plus 2016, the so-called "perpetual license" version of Microsoft's productivity suite that gets deployed via .MSI installation files. Office Professional Plus 2016 doesn't get updates streamed down to clients from Microsoft's content servers. That's only an option for Office ProPlus subscribers. These updates arrive automatically for Office 365 ProPlus users via Microsoft's "Click-to-Run" streaming technology.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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