November 26, 2012

Prepare your Office 2013 Customizations for Better Deployments and User Experience

Office2013LogoInvesting time into customising the deployment of Office 2013 is essential for providing a well managed deployment and the best out-of-box user experience. If you’re deploying a Windows Installer-based installation of Office 2013, you’ll need to customise the installation using the Office Customization Tool.

User settings that might impact the default Office experience or may require special consideration in your environment, are worth investing in planning time because you’ll often have only one chance to get deployment right.

Use Preference over Policy

Most of the Office user settings can be set as either a default/preference, by customising the Office deployment, or as a policy via Group Policy. The main difference being that a preference is set only during the initial launch of an Office application, whilst a policy may be set on every logon (whether the user launches an Office application or not). This is an important distinction – a preference only needs to be set once and only requires processing at first run, whereas a policy has the potential to be processed at every logon.

Hosted desktop environments where user profiles might be managed with custom solutions might result in GPOs being processed at every logon, even though the GPO has not changed. Judicious use of preferences vs. policies should reduce Group Policy processing time and thus logon time.

I recommend carefully considering each user setting and setting it as a preference instead of a policy wherever possible. Use a policy only where settings must be enforced.

Note that if you are deploying Office 2013 with Click-to-Run (App-V), then this level of setting user defaults will not be possible.

Office Customization

Office 2013 customisation and deployment is already well covered in the documentation available on TechNet, so in this article I’ll only cover some highlights and recommendations.

To manage an Office 2013 deployment, copy the Office source files to a folder and ensure you’ve downloaded the latest updates and service packs. Extract these and copy into your Office setup folder under Updates. These will then be installed along side Office during setup.

To create an Office Setup Customization, download the  Office 2013 Administrative Template files (ADMX/ADML) and Office Customization Tool. After extracting the Office Customization Tool download, copy the Admin folder to your copy of Office 2013 setup and create a new Setup Customization File for Office 2013, by running:


The Office Customization Tool will launch:


Choose the default file types:


Set licensing options and the display level of the setup UI. These options will vary dependant on whether you’re using KMS or MAK licensing and how you’re deploying Office:


Navigate to the ‘Modify user settings’ page and set the options applicable to your environment. This is the section where the administrator can make changes to the default user experience:


When saving your customization file, you can choose to save it to the Updates folder where it will run automatically, or use SETUP.EXE to run a specific customization file.

If you save the customization file to the Updates folder, use a descriptive name for the file, but also add “1_” (without quotes) to the file name. This will ensure that the customization MSP will be applied before any other updates.

User Settings Recommendations

The following table lists a number of user settings across each of the Office 2013 applications that I recommend you take a look at. This is just a small subset of the total number of settings, but includes some of the most important ones.

The status of each setting will vary dependant on the environment. Use at your own risk.

ProductPathSettingRecommended Values
Microsoft Access 2013MiscellaneousDisable the Office Start Screen for AccessEnabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Excel 2013Excel Options - SaveDefault file formatEnabled, Excel Workbook (*.xlsx)
Microsoft Excel 2013MiscellaneousDisable the Office Start Screen for ExcelEnabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Office 2013Global Options - CustomizeAllow roaming of all user customizationsEnabled
Microsoft Office 2013Privacy - Trust CenterDisable Opt-in Wizard on first runEnabled
Microsoft Office 2013Privacy - Trust CenterEnable Customer Experirnce Improvement ProgramDisabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Office 2013Privacy - Trust CenterAutomatically receive small updates to improve reliabilityDisabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Office 2013Privacy - Trust CenterSend Office FeedbackDisabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Office 2013Privacy - Trust CenterAllow including screenshot with Office FeedbackDisabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Office 2013Subscription ActivationDo not show 'Manage Account' link for subscription licensesEnabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Office 2013Subscription ActivationAutomatically activate Office with federated organization credentialsDisabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Office 2013ServicesDisable Roaming Office User SettingsEnabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Office 2013Services - FaxDisable Internet Fax featureEnabled
Microsoft Office 2013Downloading Framework ComponentsHide missing component download linksEnabled
Microsoft Office 2013Microsoft Office Picture ManagerDisable File Types association dialog box on first launchEnabled
Microsoft Office 2013MiscellaneousShow SkyDrive Sign InDisabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Office 2013MiscellaneousBlock signing into OfficeEnabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Office 2013MiscellaneousDisable the Office Start screen for all Office applicationsEnabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Office 2013MiscellaneousDisable Office BackgroundsEnabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Office 2013MiscellaneousSuppress recommended settings dialogEnabled
Microsoft Office 2013First RunDisable First Run MovieEnabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Office 2013First RunDisable First Run on application bootEnabled | Not Configured
Microsoft OneNote 2013OneNote Options - OtherAdd OneNote icon to the notification areaDisabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Outlook 2013Outlook Social ConnectorTurn off Outlook Social ConnectorEnabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Outlook 2013Outlook Social ConnectorDo not show social network info-barsEnabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Outlook 2013Outlook Options - Preferences - Calendar Options - Sharing ServicePrevent publishing to Office.comEnabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Outlook 2013Outlook Options - Other - AutoArchiveAutoArchive SettingsDisabled
Microsoft PowerPoint 2013PowerPoint Options - SaveDefault file formatEnabled, PowerPoint Presentation (*.pptx)
Microsoft PowerPoint 2013MiscellaneousDisable the Office Start Screen for PowerPointEnabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Project 2013MiscellaneousDisable the Office Start Screen for ProjectEnabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Publisher 2013MiscellaneousDisable the Office Start Screen for PublisherEnabled | Not Configured
Microsoft Visio 2013Visio Options - Save - Save DocumentsSave Visio files asEnabled, Visio Document
Microsoft Visio 2013Visio Options - Advanced - General OptionsPut all settings in Windows registryEnabled
Microsoft Word 2013Word Options - SaveDefault file formatEnabled, Word Document (*.docx)
Microsoft Word 2013MiscellaneousDisable the Office Start Screen for WordEnabled | Not Configured