Category Archives: Office

Activating Office 2013 Headaches… Here’s your Aspirin!

Hey Mitch, why is it that every time I install Microsoft office 2013 for my customers I have to log in with a Microsoft Account (Formerly Live ID)?  Why can’t I just use a product key like I used to?  I always use my own Microsoft Account, and I am now the registered user for hundreds of installations of Office 2013!

imageI have been confronted by partners, customers, and end users with variants of this question for months, and I always tell them the same thing… there is NO requirement to log onto a Microsoft Account when installing Microsoft Office 2013.  Unfortunately people don’t read the fine print!

Microsoft Office 2013 was designed to work with the cloud – Office 365 is of course the answer, and gives you so much more than just the client software.  In fact, with Office 365 Microsoft is moving to a subscription-based service, rather than an up-front purchase model.  Especially in the enterprise but also in smaller businesses and the home it is easier on the pocketbook to pay monthly than up front.

Not all of you agree… Okay, that is fine; if you do not want to work with Office 365, and would rather buy the FPP and not integrate with any of the on-line services (including licensing and activation!) then it is simple… in the Activate Office screen under the big NEXT button there is a little option to ‘Enter a product key instead.’  I admit it, the font size makes it easy to miss, but it is indeed there (note the highlighted section in the screen capture).

Now here’s the fun part… at least from a Deployment standpoint.  There is a better way of installing Microsoft Office that does not require you to type in a product key every time: create a .MSP file with the Microsoft Office Customization Tool.  It is only available with the Pro versions of Microsoft Office, and even at that only with media attached to a volume license.  However if you have that, your life will be much easier:

  1. image Attach the media to your PC (either by inserting the DVD or by mounting the .ISO file).
  2. Open a Command Prompt.
  3. Navigate to the root directory of the media (as pictured it is D:\)
  4. type setup /admin
  5. This will open the Microsoft Office Customization Tool

    You will be prompted to select the product that you want to customize (in this case Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013 (64-bit)), or to open an existing customization file.  Click OK.

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While this tool gives you a lot of options that you can configure (and I encourage you to explore!) I will focus on two specific options.

Installation location and organization name

I like the fact that the OCT allows me to enter my organization name (as well as the default installation path).  If I am installing Office on a small number of computers then it really doesn’t bother me to type in the organization name, but if I have to install it on dozens (or thousands) then this really helps me out.

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Licensing and user interface

If I am going to the trouble (okay, it’s not that much trouble) of customization, then I might as well do it right.  Let’s click in the Navigation Pane to Licensing and user interface.

If you have a Key Management Server (KMS) in your organization then you should let it manage your licenses, but most smaller organizations won’t have this, so we are going to select the radio button Enter another product key to enter our Multiple Activation Key (MAK).  In the appropriate box you can enter your key, which will be 25-characters.  You will also have to check the box ‘I accept the terms in the License Agreement’ if you don’t want your end users having to do it.

Speaking of end users, the same screen lets you change the Display level of the installation… so they can see it happening, or not.  I like to set the level to None, but send a Completion notice so they will be advised when the installation is complete.

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**NOTE: The product key used herein is obviously not a legitimate one.  The OCT does verify that your Product Key is valid, else it will not let you navigate from this screen.

imageOnce you have completed all of the customizations you like (as I said, please do not feel restricted by these!) you have to save your customization file.  In the File menu click Save As…

Navigate to where you plan to save it and enter a file name, and press Save.  You are almost ready!

Now that you have created your .MSP file, all you have to do is place it in the updates directory of your installation media.  If you are using an .ISO file then you can simply mount the file and copy it in.  If you are deploying from a USB key or network share then you can simply copy the file.  If you are still deploying from CDs then I am afraid you are going to have to create a new disc… and suffer the ridicule of people who think that CDs are so last decade :)

Conclusion

Microsoft goes to great efforts with every new product release to make it easier on end users and IT Pros alike to deploy and use their technologies.  While the cloud connection is great (and some of us love being able to activate our applications by entering our Microsoft or Organizational Account!) it is not the only game in town, and so the old ways are still available to you.  You just may have to dig a little deeper, look a little harder… or ask someone like me! :)

Office for Fruit Phones!

5430_2_Excel_EN_300x532_jpg-550x0Microsoft has released today the Office Suite for iOS… which means that iPhone and users can now start using the same tools on their devices that they do on their PCs… and best of all, it is absolutely free to Office 365 subscribers!

Check out the official release article at http://blogs.office.com/b/office-news/archive/2013/06/14/office-mobile-for-the-iphone-is-now-available-for-office-365-subscribers.aspx.

Now for the bad news… it is only available for US subscribers.  Yes, my fellow Canadians, if you are using iPhones you are going to have to wait… it will be available in several markets and languages soon, but unless you are a US user you should still look to your cell phone provider to upgrade you to a Windows Phone 8 device :)

This is getting interesting…

Last year I was asked to participate in the Canadian launch tour for Microsoft Office 365.  At first I was hesitant, but I am really glad that I did.  I got to meet and speak to a lot of interesting people across the country who do not usually come out to my sessions on Windows Server, Virtualization, and System Center 2012.

After my presentation and demos in Toronto my friend and local (well… Guelph) SMB-guru Sharon Bennett came to speak to me in the Microsoft booth, and told me that she was surprised by a lot of the features I was able to demonstrate with the new software and SAAS (Software As A Service) offerings from Microsoft.  We had a good discussion during which she confided that she had been a loyal GMail user for years, but based on my demos she was going to try out Office 365.

Like most of you, I get a lot of ‘interesting’ titles in my Inbox, although my spam filter does a great job of keeping most of them out of sight.  So when I saw one this morning with the title ‘50 Shades of Grey’ I was surprised.  When I saw that Sharon’s name was attached to it I decided to investigate… and sure enough, it was a legitimate article from my favorite SMB Blogger :)

E-Mail Affairs: My  Version of ‘”50 Shades of Grey” is a very interesting read about a relationship that many of us have – this almost sordid affair with our e-mail provider; how we are expected to be fiercely loyal, but how when we veer from that path it can be exciting and such.  As with real-life affairs it can even lead to an eventual break-up.

I am always happy to read Sharon’s writings, and hope one day to be able to attend one of her sessions.  If you are interested in SMB IT from a fresh and fun perspective I suggest you give her a read!

Get onto my Cloud… a Colossal Contest!

In the past I have had a few contests that have had pretty good response – I have given away some decent prizes, and I know a lot of people have really enjoyed it.

Now, in honour of this blog’s 100,000th hit (Achieved October 30!) I am launching a new contest in conjunction with the Microsoft Office team… it’s so big, I have to create a new e-mail account to regulate the traffic!

I have spoken about Office 365 before, and have been a faithful user since it launched (and BPOS before that).  I have shown it to hundred if not thousands of people, and it is not a tough sell to show them that it is simply the best productivity solution available, combining the power of Microsoft Office Pro Plus with the cloud-based Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and Lync, all for a low monthly fee which means no upfront costs and no ongoing support costs!

Office 365 ProPlus is the new Office delivered fast to all your Windows devices – including Windows RT! Office 365 ProPlus includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, and Lync. You will be able to preview Office 365 ProPlus applications and manage up to 25 users with a preview account… at no cost, for up to 30 days. 

When your preview is up you can either discontinue using it or, if you liked it, convert your preview subscription to a full subscription quite easily!

Office 365 Pro Plus has some great features, including:

  • clip_image002Fast streaming installation on up to 5 computers per user
  • Runs side-by-side with your existing Office programs
  • Integrates with in-house email and collaboration solutions
  • Your settings stay with you when you move to a different computer
  • Flexible deployment – use the cloud or your own infrastructure
Register for the Guided Evaluation

Register to access technical product resources—such as forums, solution accelerators, whitepapers, and webcasts—at the Office 365 ProPlus Preview Resource Page.

  1. Review Office 365 ProPlus Preview system requirements
  2. Register for evaluation
  3. Sign up for an Office 365 ProPlus Preview account and install evaluation software for a limited-time trial
  4. Provision up to 25 evaluators within your organization using the Office 365 ProPlus administration interface
  5. Direct your evaluators to log in to their new Office 365 ProPlus Preview accounts
  6. Receive three (3) emails with resources to guide you and notification of the next release
  7. Use blogs and forums to share tips

Now here’s the contest:

  1. Click on this link and download the bits!
  2. Wait for the confirmation e-mail that you will receive when the download is complete.
  3. Forward that confirmation e-mail to Office365@garvis.ca .
  4. Install it and use it!!! That’s it… you are entered to win one of two great prize packages from Microsoft and Jabra!

    PRIZES:

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GRAND PRIZE:

A Microsoft XBox Kinect bundle, including a Kinect device plus THREE hot XBox Kinect games!

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SECOND PRIZE:

A Jabra SPEAK 410 Lync / speakerphone / speaker!

 

 

**Odds of winning depend on the number of entries.  The only restriction to winners is that they cannot be full time employees of SWMI Consulting Group (sorry Theresa!).

Office 2013 Social Connectors

I was really excited when Microsoft released its Social Connectors for Microsoft Office Outlook 2010 (Outlook Social Connectors Make it Easier to Keep Track).  In Office 2013 they have, in my opinion, made them even better.

For reasons that defy logic my main contact list (the one I have been maintaining since 1996) has 2,882 contacts in it… many of whom, I am sure, could be deleted without causing any issue or notice.  Some of those contacts, however, are people that I will one day need to speak to again… even though by looking at their e-mail address (or even name) I have no idea who they are right now.

I get a lot of e-mail from a lot of people.  Not that infrequently I get an e-mail from someone who I should know… but don’t.  If an e-mail looks important, but I don’t know who it is from, I will do a bit of research.  Before I delete the e-mail (I never delete it, I just mark it as read which means it is gone forever unless I actively go searching) I go to LinkedIn and see if the person sending the e-mail is a contact of mine.  Next I go to Facebook and see if they are a ‘friend’.  You would be surprised how much you can tell about a person you are not sure you have ever met just from these two sources.

Of course, with 1,000 ‘friends’ on Facebook and 1,200 contact on LinkedIn, that may or may not help… but it is a start.

Now here’s the thing… there is a lot of crossover between my two networks.  I find it hard enough to believe that I know 1,200 people, but 2,200 people would be really hard to believe.  So let’s assume that the people that I deal with are more accurate with their LinkedIn profile than with their Facebook (Or might have a picture of a butterfly on Facebook and a professional headshot on LinkedIn.  So new in Outlook 2013 is the ability to prioritize your networks… ‘Show this network information when available, instead of information from other networks’.  If nothing else it limits the number of people whose pictures in my Outlook are of butterflies.

I still love the fact that when I have a meeting or conference call planned I can see in advance who I am meeting with.  In this case I know Damir, but I sat in on a call on Wednesday with 125 other people, and it was nice to be able to see the faces that went along with the names.  This goes equally well when someone sends me an e-mail… I have the option of seeing who I am communicating with, if I so choose.  Of course you can minimize this or even turn it off if you want – it is all up to you.

 

Outlook Social Connectors have been making my life a bit easier for three years, and they will continue to do so into the future.  I am glad that Microsoft is still innovating and finding new ways to stay fresh.  I would have liked to have seen a Twitter connector included in 2013, but that would have only been for updates, and so many people are cross-posting their tweets to Facebook so it doesn’t really matter.

Office 2013: First cool new feature for me!

Like so many geeks I have been patiently waiting for the beta release of Microsoft Office 2013.  I downloaded and installed it this week, and have been liking it.  I will start posting about new features as I discover them, and here is the first such post.

Like many people I live in Outlook… or at least in my Exchange calendars, which when I am on the PC means Outlook (see my article from February 3rd, 2010 on Connecting to Multiple Exchange Servers within Microsoft Office Outlook 2010).  That means that any time they add clarity and relevant information to Outlook I am happy.

I have been on the road this week so I have not had a lot of opportunity to play with the new Outlook, with the exception of checking my mail.  This morning however I went into the calendar for the first time (I love the look and feel… as you can see I have five calendars open simultaneously, and being able to manage them all the way I want to is important… four of them on one side together, and my SWMI calendar separate on the right in this case). 

I noticed something new at the top of the calendar… a cloud icon.  At first I figured it had to do with my cloud-based e-mail, but that didn’t make sense.  I quickly realized that Outlook (within the Calendar context) was showing me the local weather, along with a three-day forecast. image

Nice!  By default it detected New York City, but it did not take much work to click on the drop-down arrow and select my home town of Oakville, Ontario.

Now when I turn on the computer from my basement I will be able to see what the forecast is for the next few days… wherever I may be Smile.

I’ll be in Chicago next week… any bets that it will be windy? Winking smile

Office365 Outage: It happens… know about it.

I have been using Microsoft Office365 to manage my e-mail since the beta program, and last month purchased the full program for SWMI Consulting Group.  Office365 includes, among so much more, the mail service in a cloud (Exchange 2010).  I have had few complaints – someone else manages it for me, and I can focus on my business.

This afternoon my e-mail went down for a couple of hours.  It is easy to detect if you are looking – the indicator at the bottom of the Microsoft Outlook client changed from Connected to Microsoft Exchange to Disconnected. I tried to connect to the Outlook Web Access site, but got a 503 Error.

At the same time I noticed several of my friends and colleagues on Twitter complaining of the same sort of outage, and not sure what to do.  Fortunately I have been down this road before, and knew just what to do.

I logged onto the Office365 Portal Page (https://portal.microsoftonline.com) and clicked on Admin along the top.  Along the left there is a Support link for Service Health.  The Service Health screen gives the current status of all of the services, and the one-week history.  The screen had a lot of green checkmarks, but under E-Mail and calendar access under Today was a red flag (seen below).

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The red flag was a hyperlink, so when I clicked on it there was a three minute old notice that there was an open incident, that the status was Investigating, and the details said: ‘We are investigating a service issue and will provide updated information when it becomes available.’

I kept my eyes on this screen, and watched the progress. Over the course of the next couple of hours or so I was able to get my e-mail and my calendar.  It was fortunate, because people had told me to expect e-mails – and there were several outgoing e-mails waiting to be sent out.  Because of these communications I knew what was going on, and that it was being dealt with.  I continued along with my day.

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Defective Microsoft Access? I don’t think so! Ask the Community!

Earlier today a LinkedIn contact asked me a question about Microsoft Office Access.  I don’t know a while lot about Access, but here is why I am such a huge proponent of the IT Pro Community.

The contact is someone who I met at a community event – an event I did on Windows Vista at the Association of Independent Consultants in Mississauga, Ontario.  We haven’t seen each other since, but we exchanged cards, and I remembered who she was.  She remembered me as the Microsoft MVP, a group of awardees that Microsoft bills as ‘Independent Experts, Real World Answers.’ 

Now, I honestly don’t know a lot about Microsoft Office Access.  Once upon a time I learned how to program simple databases, but that was about it… and in 2001.  However what I do know is how to reach out to the community, so I shot out a quick call to my community peeps on Twitter that I had a question about Access.  A bunch of people replied that they could help, including a member of the Krewe… a group of crazy nuts who know how to party at TechEd, but also do a LOT of great stuff… and they know their technology!

Brian Bell currently serves on the Syndication and Outreach workgroups with the Real Estate Standards Organization, The Microsoft International Consumer Advisory Board, The Krewe of Tech-Ed, and is VERY active as a leader and volunteer with The Boy Scouts of America (along with his son, Dillon).  Outside of that, Brian enjoys boating, fishing, whitewater, the beach, Cape Fear River, anything outdoors related, and most importantly, Brian enjoys spending time with his family and friends.  You can check out his entire blog at http://ageekblog.com

So Brian and I took the conversation off-line.  I sent him the question, and he asked me to give him a few hours to get me the answer.  Sure enough, a few hours later he came back with a whopping answer!  It could never have happened without community.

The question was:

There is a conflict I’m dealing with trying to resolve. It relates to the use of an Access database to facilitate furniture and equipment asset information. There are claims that the database is “defective” and I know that this term may have different meanings in the software industry. I also wondered if I could discuss the scenario with you to see if you think it is something they can legally claim is defective or if the issues they encountered were “human error” which I think it is or could queries from the database just disappear or become corrupted while the file was being transferred from a USB storage device to their private mainframe. The tables are intact.

The answer from Brian Bell is:

USB Drives have been proven problematic in the JET database world…. And it is so that Microsoft Access uses Microsoft JET…..

The proper sequence AFTER writing the DB to a USB drive is to COMPLETELY close Access after the save with the USB drive still plugged in and wait about 20-30 seconds AFTER you THINK Access is closed (or go to taskman (I use the task monitor from Microsoft Sysinternals ) and make sure it has completely closed. Once completely closed, The USB drive must be “ejected” from the USB control panel and NOT unplugged until after the “it is safe to remove your device” has appeared..

Not following those guidelines specifically can cause issues and even IF that is followed correctly, problems can still occur. (Think back to our glory days when access databases almost always corrupted themselves when writing to a floppy)

If it is a multi-user environment where multiple users are trying to access the data off of the flash drive, that will also cause issues… This is because access uses Microsoft JET. SQl is required for multi-user accessing of data in a database so it is safe to assume these issues can also occur in a virtualized environment as well. This also includes if other users are attached (not using, just even attached in some way) to the database you are trying to save it will or can corrupt. You can use the UserRoster JeT tool to verify thie user count or attachment see http://support.microsoft.com/kb/285822

Opening and / or saving the dabatase in another program other than the same version of access (including the use of 3rd party apps) can cause corruption.

So,the basics which you already know.. Access is simply a tool. It’s essentially a database management system… Nuts & Bolts, it’s a container of objects that simply contains a table or multiple tables of data.

As long as the database you are using was created within Access and not another program imported into Access, there cannot be a defect as the relational objects were created by their own parent within its own container of table or tables.

While Access is not defective, there are parts that work WITH access that can be problematic.

These can include a poorly designed database table, corrupt connectors, odbc emulators or drivers /etc. Defective software.

Common problems with Access are issues surrounding its attributes.

With an Access 2007 or 2010 database the database cannot exceed 2gb minus the system object space.

The database has a max number of just over 32000 objects. It cannot have more than 1000 modules when HASmodule = true is set.

An object name can’t have more than 64 characters, no more than 14 characters in a password, no more than 255 users concurrently using the database, no more than 20 characters in a user or group name, (See bottom of email for the complete attribute table)

Exceeding any of the capability attributes can cause problematic issues with the database.

Now from your email, it looks like the database “appears” to be ok but when the data is moved (I am assuming saved as database) to a usb drive, it then appears to be corrupt?

Things to look for when things aren’t saving correctly are the obvious.. Is BitLocker running? Does the USB drive contain any encryption or other software? (Have you tried a different brand/style/size USB drive that has been newly formatted) Are the versions the same on the read PC as they are from the PC writing the file to the database?

I would also look at UAC, Group Policy and NAP settings if on a network. If on a network I would look on both the master GP server and the client PC to make sure something isn’t replicating the GP rules in the LAN or WAN.

I have seen corruption on DBs also if pulling over VNC, RDP and/or VPN.

If pulling by using a query or call, has it been triple checked? If so, try the call and remove the full call and just pull a small portion off of the same database to see if a “smaller” query returns good data…

Doyou have logging and debug on so you can see when the failure occurs exactly what is failing or can you send me the details of the error?

The bottom line is, Access is not defective however there are hundreds of things around access that can cause issues and be problematic…

If any of the attributes in the table below are exceeded, (assuming you are running access 07 or 10 , if not and you are running 03 0r 00 or 97, then the attributes are much lower the earlier in versioning you go…)

If you copy (save) the DB to the drive are you opening FROM the drive and not copying from the drive back to the computer? Depending on read/write rates for i/o that could perhaps cause an issue..

General

Attribute

Maximum

Total size for an Access 2010 database (.accdb), including all database objects and data

2 gigabytes, minus the space needed for system objects.

Note You can work around this size limitation by linking to tables in other Access databases. You can link to tables in multiple database files, each of which can be as large as 2GB.

Tip For more information on reducing the size of your database, see Help prevent and correct database file problems by using Compact and Repair.

Total number of objects in a database

32,768

Number of modules (including forms and reports that have the HasModule property set to True)

1,000

Number of characters in an object name

64

Number of characters in a password

14

Number of characters in a user name or group name

20

Number of concurrent users

255

Table

Attribute

Maximum

Number of characters in a table name

64

Number of characters in a field name

64

Number of fields in a table

255

Number of open tables

2,048 including linked tables and the tables opened internally by Access

Table size

2 gigabyte minus the space needed for the system objects

Number of characters in a Text field

255

Number of characters in a Memo field

65,535 when entering data through the user interface;
1 gigabyte of character storage when entering data programmatically

Size of an OLE Object field

1 gigabyte

Number of indexes in a table

32 including indexes created internally to maintain table relationships, single-field and composite indexes.

Number of fields in an index or primary key

10

Number of characters in a validation message

255

Number of characters in a validation rule including punctuations and operators

2,048

Number of characters in a field or table description

255

Number of characters in a record (excluding Memo and OLE Object fields) when the UnicodeCompression property of the fields is set to Yes

4,000

Number of characters in a field property setting

255

Query

Attribute

Maximum

Number of enforced relationships

32 per table, minus the number of indexes that are on the table for fields or combinations of fields that are not involved in relationships*

Number of tables in a query

32*

Number of joins in a query

16*

Number of fields in a recordset

255

Recordset size

1 gigabyte

Sort limit

255 characters in one or more fields

Number of levels of nested queries

50*

Number of characters in a cell in the query design grid

1,024

Number of characters for a parameter in a parameter query

255

Number of AND operators in a WHERE or HAVING clause

99*

Number of characters in an SQL statement

Approximately 64,000*

*Maximum values might be lower if the query includes multivalued lookup fields.

Form and Report

Attribute

Maximum

Number of characters in a label

2,048

Number of characters in a text box

65,535

Form or report width

22,75 in. (57.79 cm)

Section height

22.75 in. (57.79 cm)

Height of all sections plus section headers (in Design view)

200 in. (508 cm)

Number of levels of nested forms or reports

7

Number of fields or expressions that you can sort or group on in a report

10

Number of headers and footers in a report

1 report header/footer;
1 page header/footer;
10 group headers/footers

Number of printed pages in a report

65,536

Number of controls and sections that you can add over the lifetime of the form or report

754

Number of characters in an SQL statement that serves as the Recordsource or Rowsource property of a form, report, or control (both .accdb and .adp)

32,750

Macro

Attribute

Maximum

Number of actions in a macro

999

Number of characters in a condition

255

Number of characters in a comment

255

Number of characters in an action argument

255

Project specifications

The following list of tables applies to Access 2010 and Access 2007 projects:

General

Attribute

Maximum

Number of objects in an Access project (.adp)

32,768

Number of modules (including forms and reports that have the HasModule property set to True)

1,000

Number of characters in an object name

64

Number of columns in a table

250 (Microsoft SQL Server 6.5)

1024 (Microsoft SQL Server 7.0, 2000 and 2005)

Form and Report

Attribute

Maximum

Number of characters in a label

2,048

Number of characters in a text box

65,535

Form or report width

22 in. (55.87 cm)

Section height

22 in. (55.87 cm)

Height of all sections plus section headers (in Design view)

200 in. (508 cm)

Number of levels of nested forms or reports

7

Number of fields or expressions that you can sort or group on in a report

10

Number of headers and footers in a report

1 report header/footer;
1 page header/footer;
10 group headers/footers

Number of printed pages in a report

65,536

Number of controls and sections you can add over the lifetime of the form or report

754

Number of characters in an SQL statement that serves as the Recordsource or Rowsource property of a form, report, or control (both .accdb and .adp)

32,750

Macro

Attribute

Maximum

Number of actions in a macro

999

Number of characters in a condition

255

Number of characters in a comment

255

Number of characters in an action argument

255