Using the Office 2013 Microsoft Office Customization Tool and Office 2013 Group Policy Administrative Templates

Office 2013’s methods of deployment aren’t that different from Office 2010’s deployment options. The Office Customization Tool is still there and the administrative templates are there to allow customization through Group Policy. Office 2013 Pro Plus has a few more products included in it and a few more features like synchronizing with the cloud and social network. Exploring these deployment tools like their brand new is worthwhile to see what new settings and preferences you might be able to configure and control. Yesterday’s post about Office 2013’s animated cursor is a perfect example of small changes that have been made that can result in a change on the user experience side.

Just like previous instances, to get into the Office Customization Tool you run the Setup executable with the admin parameter.

When that launches, it will prompt you to “create a new Setup customization file for the following product or open an existing Setup customization file”. Since we’re just getting into the tool, I created a new one. There it shows a familiar interface and introduces itself as:

Welcome to the Microsoft Office Customization Tool
Use this tool to create a Setup customization file (MSP file) to modify your Microsoft Office installation when you deploy to users.
The Office Customization Tool requires at least Windows Installer version 4.0 to be installed on client computers in order for customizations to apply.

Using this tool, you can:

  • Choose where to install Microsoft Office
  • Specify whether to remove earlier versions
  • Set feature installation states
  • Configure default application settings
  • Add custom files, registry entries, and shortcuts
  • Specify Office security settings
  • Customize the default Outlook profile
  • Set other properties

You can add customization information but most importantly, you can enter the License key or point the application to a KMS to get the product key and activate the product. You can add or remove files and registry entries with the installation. If you did want to disable animation with your installs, you could do it here though the key is for current user.

Office 2013 Pro Plus comes with a few more tools and extra shortcuts. Products like Lync, SkyDrive Pro 2013, and other entries might confuse users, so you can either not install them or limit access to them by removing their shortcuts.

Of course, getting the deployment right is just part of the battle. Controlling Office in your environment can be done through Group Policy settings. This is of more significant importance due to some of the new features added. For example, you can use group policy to block the Office Store, disable the Weather Bar in Outlook 2013 or at least control the update frequency, control signing into Office using a Windows Live ID or a user ID assigned by your organization to access Office 365, and many more settings. You can see them all explained in detail from this Technet article.

You can download the Office 2013 Administrative Template files (.adm and .admx files) from the Microsoft Download Center for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the software.

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