Office 2010 Service Pack 1 – sp1 download available

Office 2010 logoLast month I wrote about the planned availability of Service Pack 1 for Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 for the end of June. And it’s here!

You can now download the whole service pack file as a self-extracting executable and simply run it to install, or you can use Windows Update, where it is listed as an Important/High Priority update (rather than critical or security) for you to manually install (after 90 days this will change to an automatic update if your system is configured for that). At the moment my 32 bit install claims this would take 409 MB via Windows Update compared with only 361 MB for the full exe package download.

Even if you only have 1 machine to do, you will save marginally on the file size if you manually download Office 2010 sp1, and then of course you will have the file to use again on any other machines that need it – if like me you are the de facto IT support for family and friends, this can be quite useful.

A few key changes relating to other products are that Outlook 2010 sp1 will fully support the now-released Office 365 online business applications suite, while SharePoint 2010 will support SQL 2011 and has improved support for users of Internet Explorer 9.

So, there’s lots of information about this important update, as well as the downloads themselves, so let’s dive straight in with a load of links to the things you probably want to get hold of straight away.
Find out more about Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 service pack 1 downloads, resources, and information »

Annoying file format warning when exporting CRM records to Excel

Pointless error message dialog box

When you export from CRM to Excel the data is derived as XML, saved with an XLS file extension and Excel is invoked to open the temporary file. Unfortunately Excel checks to see if the file being opened is actually of a type which matches the file extension and tries to be helpful. Normally this is to help overcome problems such as a comma-separated variable (CSV) file being saved as an XLS file extension, which ought to mean Excel tries to read the XLS file, fails because the contents are nothing like a real Excel binary file and gives up. Instead, Excel actually looks at the content, spots that it looks very much like a CSV and allows you to open it just as if the file extension was correct in the first place. However, this cleverness is tempered somewhat by the fact that the default setting for this is to ask the user every single time what they want to do.

As always, this is probably intended to be a helpful warning and prevent people opening files which might have insecure content, but it fails to do so because most users do not understand the implications and the longwinded message is probably not even read properly anyway. Certainly the 50th time someone sees a dialog like the one below, they just click “yes” without reading and it no longer provides any benefit whatsoever (by the way, I have done nothing to this, it displays in this ridiculously wide, un-resizable window on my machine).

Click to see larger version - CRM Excel export error message

Whenever I have managed people in IT support roles I try to eliminate fixes which involve things like “ignore that error message, just hit OK and it will work fine”. This not only numbs people to the meaning of that particular error message but to these sorts of warnings in general. Too often I have heard users explain why they did not report a problem until it was too late, saying “well, I got an error every day saying something about faulty disk or something but I just clicked OK, like John said we should with that other one…”. Find the root cause, eliminate the error, or suppress the error somehow, don’t teach people that errors don’t matter or they just ignore them. If you went to your doctor and said “it hurts my neck when I lift my arm up” you would not be impressed if she replied “then don’t lift your arms up!”, would you?
Read on to find out how to stop Excel asking unhelpful questions when you export records from CRM»

Office 2010 Group Policy setting reference

There’s a useful Office 2010 Group Policy settings reference which details 428 settings which are new versus Office 2007, 125 deprecated or removed since 2007, and 98 which write to registry locations which are not version specific (and therefore might be policies which affect older and newer versions equally). This is a useful additional companion to the main settings reference (downloaded as part of the Office 2010 admin templates as discussed in an earlier post about managing Office 2010), especially to quickly identify where you may need to make new decisions rather than just replicating your original Office 2007 group policies setting by setting.

Managing Office 2010 RTM

Office 2010 has reached RTM (“release to manufacturing”) stage, and one week from today on May 12th Office 2010 will be available to business customers through Software Assurance they already have on copies of Office, or through new volume licences. (Technet and MSDN subscribers can already download the release version, and anyone can download the Beta to begin familiarising themselves with the new features.

The main (virtual) Office 2010 launch event will include a keynote speech by Stephen Elop, President of the Microsoft Business Division at 11am EDT (that’s 4pm BST for readers in the UK).

System administrators everywhere will also be pleased to find that the associated Office 2010 management tools are available to download already to coincide with the launch, unlike the time lag before they were available for Office 2007, or for the later service packs. This nearly 16MB download is a self extracting exe which will force a UAC prompt on newer OS’s, which can be useful so you can put the files in a folder which needs elevated privileges, and the contents expand to a total of about 123MB.

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Office 2007 sp2 Group Policy ADM and ADMX files and OCT available

It’s been a while since Office 2007 service pack 2 came out, but now you can get the files you need to successfully administer this, using Group Policy to apply settings from the ADM or ADMX files, or using the Office Customisation Tool (OCT)..

This Technet page has more information including some important details about making sure to reset some of your policies before replacing the ADM files, as you won’t be able to edit them afterwards:

If you have previously configured any of the Group Policy settings affected by this update, you must set those policy settings to their Not Configured state before you remove the previous 2007 Office system ADM files and load the updated version 3 ADM files. This removes the registry key information for the policy setting from the registry. This is because if an .adm file is removed, the settings that correspond to the .adm file do not appear in Group Policy Object Editor; however, the policy settings that are configured from the .adm file remain in the Registry.pol file and continue to apply to the appropriate target client or user. This also applies to any policy settings that you had previously configured that are listed in “Removed settings” later in this article.

You can download the Administrative Templates and OCT in a self-extracting exe file. Included are ADM, ADMX and ADML files in various languages (English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean and a couple of flavours of Chinese).

Also has the OPA files and a settings reference, but this other page claims that this is the definitive version of the Office 2007 GP and settings file. I can’t tell the difference – they are the same size and have the same number of rows on the list pages, and have identical MD5 checksums, so they are the same file.

I suspect this was a newer version than the old version in the old download before the newer version superseded the old version so it is now the current version. Clear as mud?

Anyway, most of the focus of these is on fixing a few broken things and targeting settings relating to Open Document format files (making it the default for saving, or blocking it being used at all, that sort of thing.)

Happy policy making!

Windows 7 RTM, Server 2008 R2 and IE8 group policy settings lists

Microsoft have updated their usual Group Policy settings lists following recent releases of new Windows versions. On one page you can now get 4 downloads to include pretty much all current versions of desktop and server OS, and v-1 (so Windows 7 and Vista, server 2008 and 2003 sp2).

Group policy settings for Windows Vista sp1, Windows 7, 2003 sp2 2008, 2008 R2

Group policy settings for Internet Explorer 8 are also available (on a different page).

Note that the latest files are all in Excel 2007 format so if you are not yet using Office 2007 or 2010TP you would need to install the Office compatibility pack to allow you to view these on a previous version of Office, or the Excel 2007 viewer (+ service pack 2 as well) to view them (but not be able to edit or save changes). Both of these downloads are free.

Hat tip to Jeremy Mosokowitz at GPAnswers.com

Windows Server 2008 Group Policy settings reference

Now that Windows Server 2008 has been released to manufacture (RTM), MS have published the usual spreadsheet reference containing all the settings which are available through Group Policy for managing Server 2008, Vista and all prior versions.

Download the Group Policy Settings Reference for Server 2008 in Excel 2007 (.xlsx) or older version (.xls) format.

Interestingly, this also includes 9 settings which are only available for Windows Vista service pack 1 (which also RTM’d last week). All of these are to do with controlling security settings for terminal services (RDP) sessions, including a setting I will find particularly useful to control whether a session can be established when the server cannot be authenticated.

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Group Policy templates and references for Office 2007

It took a while but eventually Microsoft got round to providing the Group Policy administration templates for Office 2007 in ADMX format, so they can be used properly with the Group Policy management tools in Vista and Windows server 2008. By properly, I mean using a central store and having the option to use ADML files to view and edit policies in an administrator’s preferred local language. You can get the ADM, ADMX and ADML files for Office 2007 in a single download here which is a self-extracting file that creates a folder structure containing all the relevant files.

This also has the bonus of including the Office Customisation Tool (OCT) which you can use to create an MSP file to customise a centralised network installation of Office for new installations, upgrades, or reconfiguration. You can find out more about the methods for customising Office 2007 setup files here and specifics about the OCT here. In addition the download extracts an Excel workbook “Office2007GroupPolicyAndOCTSettings.xls” that provides information about the 2007 Office release Group Policy settings and OPA settings, making it clear what can be pre-customised at the point of installation and what can only be set through policies.

You will probably also find the Office 2007 settings reference file useful. This is a comprehensive reference for all the settings in the GUI for Access, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint and Word 2007. This gives the equivalent UI path in 2003 (where there is one), the default setting, what choices can be made, what policy settings exist and which registry keys those change. A very helpful file for understanding how to customise the user experience, and deciding which parts to do through policies and which settings are better left to users (and perhaps prompting you to educate them about the usefulness of some of these).

Group Policy, Profiles, and Intellimirror – Jeremy Moskowitz

Group Policy, Profiles, and Intellimirror (third edition)

Author: Jeremy Moskowitz, MCSE, MCSA, MVP

Publisher: Sybex

Suggested Publisher Price: $49.99 US / $69.95 CDN / £34.99 UK

ISBN: 0-7821-4298-2 Softcover, 536 pages (+TOC / index)

Group Policy, profiles etc. book cover

Buy the book direct from the Author (and get it signed!) (Update: this link now goes to a page for the replacement fourth edition of this book)

Everything you need to know about Group Policy in one useful reference…and loads more besides

The Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) is a dramatic step forward in the way Group Policy is administered. This book provides all the instruction and insight you need to take full control of your Active Directory with GPMC and other Group Policy tools. You’ll also learn techniques for implementing Intellimirror, making it possible for users to work securely from any location; and you’ll find intensive troubleshooting advice, insider tips on keeping your network secure, and hundreds of clear examples that will help you accomplish all your administration goals.

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GPMC will be removed if you install Vista Service Pack 1 (follow up post)

As I discussed in a previous post, I thought that the removal of the Group Policy Management Console from Vista when installing service pack 1 was a pretty bad idea. David Overton asked if anyone cared about GPMC being pulled out of Vista with sp1, while others claim it really is a good step for a variety of reasons, and I wanted to follow up on this.

There were various articles announcing Vista sp1, including one on the official Vista team blog which managed to say lots about all the good stuff and conveniently forget some things like the removal of the very useful GPMC, which is only mentioned in the whitepaper (and later reported on by various bloggers and journalists of varying degrees of credibility).
» Read the discussion about why GPMC should or should not be removed by Vista service pack 1 »

More bad news for Vista Service pack 1

Apart from the long wait for a service pack for Vista (over a year from initial release) and the hugely bloated size of the “stand-alone” option to apply the service pack to machines without connecting them to the internet, I just learned some bad news.

David Overton posted an article about what’s coming in the first service pack for Vista. In it he links to and quotes this BetaNews article which says:

the service pack will uninstall the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) and GPEdit.msc will edit local Group Policy by default

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Group Policy best practice analyser tool available

I have not yet had a chance to try this out, but still thought it was worth giving people the heads up. The description given on the download page for the Group Policy Best Practice Analyzer for Windows Server 2003 is:

The Microsoft Group Policy Diagnostic Best Practice Analyzer (GPDBPA) for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 is designed to help you identify Group Policy configuration errors or other dependency failures that may prevent settings or features from functioning as expected.

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Office 2007 group policy – error in Outlook ADM file

If you are using the Vista Group Policy console to edit GPOs for using the downloadable ADM files Office 2007, create a policy (with or without any Outlook settings) and then try to see the report of which settings are configured, you may get an error similar to this (including the bad grammar of “is in not in”):

The .adm file path\Outlk12.adm is in not in a valid format and must be replaced. Details: A value name is expected before line 2461

The fix is described in typically long-winded but easy to follow fashion in KB926537 (although that article refers to line 3304 which is a bit odd). This basically involves moving one line of the file up so that a name appears before the values to which it refers. but it is not clear why the files are still available for download with this error in them and with no reference on the download page to this bug report and simple fix.

Managing Vista with Group Policy webinar

Over at GPanswers.com, Jeremy Moskowitz has added another webinar to the collection of webcasts by him and other experts on Group Policy, Active Directory and other windows management topics.

Page of links for GPanswers.com webinars.

This one is entitled “Managing your XP and Vista machines”.

Are you still running around to each machine to do a little tweak here or manage a little setting there? Wouldn’t it be better to be more efficient and run around less to get more done? That’s the power of Active Directory (AD) and Group Policy (GP). In this session, the GP Guru, Jeremy Moskowitz will introduce you to what’s possible with GP and introduce you to some new features that come with Vista.