Fun with Microsoft Office 2016

Some background:

In my organisation I deploy software with Munki, previously with Office 2011, it was pretty easy to deploy and get a fully up to date install of Office 2011

  • Install the full volume licence installer from the VLSC site which was version 14.3.0 and around 1Gb
  • Let Munki apply the latest combo updater it has (14.5.8) and around 120Mb

And we’re done. Pretty easy and painless and about 1.1Gb of data to send to the client.

However, in Office 2016, Microsoft has sandboxed their applications, which is the right thing do™. However what this means is that any shared content the apps use such as frameworks, fonts, and proofing tools all need to be contained within each application bundle. Previously in Office 2011, the apps could get this content from a shared location such as /Library/Application Support

This means that our Office 2016 installer package is only about 1.3Gb, the installer then just copies the same files into each app bundle at install time via a postinstall script.  That results in each app being rather large as you can see here.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 4.44.27 pm

 

 

 

 

 

It also means that the Office 2016 updates that Microsoft offer for each app are huge, approx 800Mb per app.

So now if we applied our same methodology of deploying Office 2011 to Office 2016 we would end up with something like this:

  • Install the full Office 2016 VL installer (1.3GB)
  • Let Munki apply each app update ~800Mb times 5 apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook)

That means we are pushing about 5gb to the client just to install office. Thats insane.

Solution?

Well we only need the full VL installer for its special licensing package that generates the volume licence plist (/Library/Preferences/com.microsoft.office.licensingV2.plist)

Microsoft offer the latest version of the suite in a package that contains all the apps and is SKU-less, meaning no licensing (It can be licenced as 0365 or VL)

So we could just download the latest suite package which is about 1.3GB, then install that on our client machines, install the special licensing package on top to licence the suite and we’re done. We would only need to push about 1.3Gb to the client to have a fully up to date office 2016 installation. Thats much more manageable for remote sites with slow links, or even labs with lots of machines.

Any new updates to the apps would simply mean downloading the full suite package again, approx 1.3GB and pushing that to clients, still 10 times more than office 2011 combo updaters however, but much smaller than pushing each 2016 app update to the client.

Word is that Microsoft are working on Delta updates that will be much much smaller, but until then this might be a workable solution.

Where to get the latest full installer package?

The full suite package is available via the following FWLinks, its available via a CDN so choose the closest location to you for the fastest download.

Dublin:
Office 2016 for Mac suite: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID= 532572

Puerto Rico:
Office 2016 for Mac suite: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=525133

Singapore:
Office 2016 for Mac suite: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID= 532577

Wait what? How do I get that special licensing package though?

If you open the VL installer package that you got from the Microsoft VLSC site with something like Pacifist, you will see the package we are talking about

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 4.23.23 pm

This package “Office15_all_volume_licensing.pkg” is the one we are after.

To extract just this package we need to expand the Volume_Installer.pkg and then flatten the volume_licencing.pkg

So bust open the terminal and use these commands:

Unpack the installer package into a new directory on our desktop. Note: this new directory should not already exist, the pkgutil command will create it

pkgutil --expand /Volumes/Office\ 2016\ VL/Microsoft_Office_2016_Volume_Installer.pkg ~/Desktop/Office_2016_Unpacked

Now lets flatten the licensing package and save it on our desktop

pkgutil --flatten ~/Desktop/Office_2016_Unpacked/Office15_all_volume_licensing.pkg ~/Desktop/Office_2016_VL_serializer.pkg

So now we have standalone serialised package that can be deployed to any machine and it will generate the volume licence plist that office 2016 looks for.

Why not just package up and deploy the com.microsoft.office.licensingV2 plist?

In the past, a lot of people, myself included, would often just create a package of a pre-created license plist from one machine and then deploy that package to multiple machines. That was enough for Office to pickup the correct licensing and everything seemed good in the world.

However the official word from Microsoft is that this is bad ju-ju and we should stop doing this as it is unsupported and may break your Office install. Instead run the serializer package on every machine that requires it.

Microsoft plans to make the serialiser package available as a standalone package on the VLSC ISO, so this extracting and flattening process will soon be redundant. Until then this might help you out.

 

 

 

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