Office Configurations Can Now Be Saved to Microsoft’s Cloud

By Kurt Mackie ||

Microsoft recently added an improvement to its Office Customization Tool for Office 365 users that lets IT pros save configuration files in Microsoft’s datacenters (the “cloud”) for later use, including access via URL links.

The enhancement permits IT pros to “create, edit and access your deployment configurations from one central location, your Office 365 tenant,” Microsoft explained in a Wednesday announcement. IT pros don’t have to remember where their configuration files are stored, and can easily retrieve and modify them.

The Office Customization Tool is part of the Office 365 Client Configuration Service Web portal ( Microsoft added that tool to the portal back in 2017. The Office Customization Tool is used for customizing Office products, specifically those that tap Microsoft’s “Click to Run” streaming update technology, such as Office ProPlus, explained Amesh Mansukhani of the Office engineering team in an Office Deployment Insiders video. Office 365 configurations get saved as XML files.

Microsoft added a new sign-in option to the Office 365 Client Configuration Service portal, which gives global admins, desktop analytics admins or security admins access to the Office Customization area in the portal, Mansukhani added. IT pros with those user privileges can access the Office Customization interface within the portal to see the Office 365 configurations that have been created. They have options to download the associated XML configuration files. They can also upload such files to Microsoft’s cloud, although they can just be uploaded one at a time, he said.

The Office Customization interface also has options for copying configuration files. A base image can be copied, and it can then be renamed and modified as needed, Mansukhani explained.

There’s also a Get Link option in the Office Customization interface that gives IT pros a direct link to the XML configuration file stored on Microsoft’s servers. Such a link is known as an “anonymous URL” in Microsoft’s lingo. It’s possible to use these links in code, but IT pros should remember to put quotes around the anonymous URL, Mansukhani advised.

For example, the anonymous URLs can be copied and pasted into the command-line interface of the Microsoft Deployment Tool to specify Office 365 configurations. When that’s done, there’s no need to specify downloading the configuration file in the code.

The ability to use anonymous URLs with the Microsoft Deployment Tool will be available later this month with an expected June update to that tool, according to Microsoft’s announcement:

Note: The current version of the Office Deployment Tool does not support the anonymous URL. The next version of the Office Deployment Tool will include this feature and we expect to release the next ODT before the end of June 2019.

The availability of the new Office Customization Tool improvement wasn’t explained. Reader comments in Microsoft’s announcement suggested that it wasn’t yet available in Australia, Brazil, Germany, India, South Korea or Europe.

Microsoft’s documentation of this Office Customization Tool enhancement is supposed to be available and located in the links below the video, according to Mansukhani. If so, the links to the documentation weren’t apparent.

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