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Friday, February 7, 2014

App-V 5: Office 2013

I've been a huge adopter of Application Virtualizatation using productions like Citrix Streaming and Microsoft App-V.  However, there has always been limitations that have forced some applications to be installed locally so they can interact with other virtualized applications.  An example would be Adobe Reader -- if you  virtualize it, then your browser doesn't get the plugin and you end up with frustrated users who can't view PDFs unless they directly download them.

With the latest release of App-V (version 5.x), Microsoft has come a long way.  Office was always an application that I swore I would never virtualize.  However, it looks like the technology is finally reached the point where you can virtualize core applications like this, and still deliver a rich, full user experience.

Because of the complexity of deploying and sequencing the Office, Microsoft released the Office Deployment Toolkit.  You can use this binary to download Office 2013, then use it again to spit out an App-V package without using the sequencer.  This is a great feature, and hopefully it will catch on and more companies will start releasing similar tools.

Microsoft has a great article on this: KB2915745.  You can follow that guide, or mine, if you need assistance.  They're pretty much the same thing, but I'm going to include something I always thought was missing from Technet and MS articles -- pictures! 

I'm going to prepare my App-V package on one machine, then move it to my shared content store before I import it into my App-V Publishing server.  If you're familiar with App-V, you can adjust the paths to your preference.  My way will take a little longer, but it will help those less familiar with this process to get a better understanding of it.

The big requirement is that this process must be done on a 64bit machine, so I'm going to recommend the same.

To start out, lets make our folder structure.  I'm going to do everything in one folder to keep it organized, so I'm going to make D:\Office_2013.  Inside that folder, I'm going to create three more: ODT, Source, and AppV.  You can choose your method of folder creation.

Now we'll need to download the Office Deployment Toolkit for Click-To-Run, or ODT.  You can get it from the Microsoft Download Center, or using the following direct link: (link)  The download should be in the form of an executable.  Once you've downloaded it to a temporary location, run it.  You will be prompted to agree to the license terms ( you read them, right?) and then prompted for a location to extract the ODT.  You will want to select D:\Office_2013\ODT and hit OK.

Once the files are extracted, browse to the folder (D:\Office_2013\ODT) using Windows Explorer and you'll see two files: Setup.exe and Configuration.xml.

Here is where you can deviate a little.  Unlike most programs, setup.exe doesn't use a bunch of parameters.  It uses the XML file to tell it what to do.  You might be making a few app-v packages from this tool, so I recommend copying the configuration.xml to a more specific name so you can keep a few of them around.  In my example, I'm going to be preparing a Volume Office Pro Plus installation.  So I'm going to copy Configuration.xml to vlm_OfficeProPlus.xml.  This will help me re-compile this app-v package later if I ever need to.

Now that I have a configuration file, I need to put some data into it so the ODT knows what I want it to do.  Open your new configuration file up in notepad.  You should quickly notice that just about everything is commented out, so be default, it won't do anything.

So the first thing to do is to clean up the XML that we don't need.  I'm going to be removing the lines shown below.

When you're done, you should be left with the following xml.

Two more changes need changes need to be made.  First, we'll change the product ID.  This tells ODT what version of Office to download.  Since we're installing a volume edition of Pro Plus, we'll change the Product ID to be ProPlusVolume.

Valid choices for Product ID are O365ProPlusRetails, VisioProRetail, ProjectProRetail, ProPlusVolume, VisioProVolume, and ProjectProVolume.  This is fully documented here.

The last change is going to be the source path.  At this point in the installation, this technically is more of a destination path.  This isn't the location to download the installation from, it's actually the location to save the installation to.  In our example, it's going to be  D:\Office_2013\Source.

NOTE: OfficeClientEdition defaults to 32bit.  If you want 64bit office, you can make the change in the XML now.

Finally, our XML should look like this:

So far so good.  Now that we've got a configuration file, we'll need to download the source files for Office 2013.  We will do that using the ODT (Setup.exe) and passing it the /download parameter along with our configuration file.

Start by opening an Administrative Command Prompt.  Once it's open, browse to D:\Office_2013\ODT and run the following command:

setup.exe /download vlm_OfficeProPlus.xml

The download should begin, and you should see something similar to this:

Don't be alarmed if it takes a while.  It's going to pull down ~1GB from the internet.  When it's finished, you'll receive a message and be returned to a command prompt:

At this point, we have everything we need to spit out an .appv package that we can pull into our Publishing Server. To do that, we're going to run the ODT again, but this time use the /packager command and pass it our XML file and the location where we want to save the .appv package.

Setup.exe /packager vlm_OfficeProPlus.xml D:\Office_2013\AppV

This time, the ODT will take the files that you downloaded and assemble them into a nice .appv package.  Don't panic -- the operation doesn't start right away.  My guess is that it's scanning through the 1GB of files you downloaded so it knows what to do with them.  After a few minutes, ODT will start spitting out some nice colorful messages.

You'll eventually see a progress status:

And shortly after that, the new window will disappear.  Your original window (where you initiated the packager from), will show that the package was created successfully.

At this point, we can now move the App-V package to our content store and import it like any other application.  If you look in D:\Office_2013\Appv\AppVPackages, it should look familiar to you!  The files in this folder are the ones you should be moving to your shared content store.