Office 2016 Preference Management Changes

Starting with Office version 15.33 you’ll have the ability to manage some suite-wide preferences via profile management. Previously, these settings were configurable via defaults commands but weren’t CFPrefs enabled to allow for profile management of the settings. Thanks to the hard work of Paul Bowden and Erik Schwiebert at Microsoft, along with the collaboration and feedback of Mac admins in the macadmins.org slack instance, this request of preference management has been made possible. And this is just the beginning. Now with the foundation for preference management in code this will allow for more management options in future versions.

When an Office 15.33 app is launched for the first time, the existing preferences in ~/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/com.microsoft.officeprefs.plist will be migrated over to the new preference domain automatically. At that time a key will be set signaling that the migration has occurred.

Paul has put together a new site (http://www.office4mac.com) that showcases a video course educating users and admins of the management changes. Look for more videos to come. This video shows examples of the preference changes, how to manage them, and implementing them through a management system. It’s definitely worth the watch.

For me, the meat and potatoes of these changes are the keys and values that are manageable in the com.microsoft.office domain. Here is an example management profile of all the keys that can be managed.

suite-wide preferences.png

OfficeActivationEmailAddress adds a “Belongs to” value in the About box to list who owns the software.

DefaultsToLocalOpenSave – by default Office offers to open and save documents to OneDrive, however due to data security policies that may not be acceptable and confuse users. This key will set the default open and save dialog boxes of all Office apps to the standard System views.

VisualBasicMacroExecutionState has 3 values that relate to the “GUI settings” in Preferences->Security & Privacty in app:

DisabledWithWarnings – “Disable all macros with notification” (Default)

DisableWithoutWarnings – “Disable all macros without notification”

EnabledWithoutWarnings – “Enable all macros (not recommended; potentially dangerous code can run)”

I don’t recommend managing the HaveMergedOldPrefs key as that is set organically. If you set it to TRUE then the old pref won’t be migrated automatically on first run. If you manage it as FALSE then it will try and migrate on every launch.

The two debug keys msoridEnableLogging and msoridDefaultMinimumSeverity should only be set when debugging an issue and I don’t see a need to manage them centrally. Leaving them enabled isn’t recommended.

Seeing these preference options move to a manageable location is a big plus for us admins, not only for the specifics of these settings, but also in the willingness of Microsoft to make these changes based on admin feedback. This can only mean more good things in the future.

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