For those of you not familiar with the Office Customization Tool (OCT), it is your main tool for unified setup, customization, and maintenance of the Office 2007 system. It's free and comes with the volume licensed version of the 2007 Office system. It's not in the Office Resource Kit…because the 2007 Office Resource Kit is a document library and not a downloadable set of tools. But you knew that, right?! Right?

If you haven't already, you'll want to download the newest version of the OCT at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=102314.

When you save your customizations in the OCT, it produces an .MSP file.

Here are a few quick tips when working with the OCT:

·         Put your PID here! The Config.xml file isn't encrypted. If you put your PID there, it'll be stored in clear text. Not a good idea! So use the OCT for PIDs instead.

·         Pick one! If you have conflicting settings between the .MSP file you created in OCT and your Config.xml file, the Config.xml file settings will win. If you don't specify something in Config.xml, it'll take the corresponding settings in the OCT. So decide what tool you'll use for what and consistently use those tools for that purpose.

·         Keep it quiet! Accept the Microsoft Software License Terms on behalf of your users and suppress the dialogs with Display level =None, especially when doing an enterprise deployment.

·         Don't be confused! There are some settings in the OCT that may mystify - e.g., "disable auto republish". Do you select the disable checkbox to enable or the enable checkbox to disable? Think of the checkboxes instead as enable checkbox = true and disable checkbox = false. So if I want auto republish to be disabled, I'm going to select the checkbox that indicates that "disable auto republish" is a true statement (which is the enable checkbox). Additionally, the explain text on some options might not help make you make the right choices - which leads us to the next point.

·         Test everything!! Verify all your settings will deploy as expected in a pre-production/test environment before you deploy to your users.

·         You wouldn't name your dog "dog"! Name your .MSP files so you can identify them! For example, 1_Ofc-2007-Ent-APAC-v2-initial.msp could tell you that this is an Office Enterprise 2007 patch for the Asia Pacific region at your company, version 2, and for initial installs (the first one used in the Updates folder).

·         Be exact! If you have multiple .MSP files, setup will apply the first OCT MSP file in Windows sort order. Then after the install, setup will apply the remaining MSP files based on the Windows Installer patch sequencing rules. So, to get the expected results for new installs where you just want to apply one OCT MSP file, you should use the setup /adminfile command to point to the specific .MSP file you want when deploying. For example: setup.exe /adminfile \\server\share\mychanges\mycustom.msp. Alternatively, if you want to apply multiple OCT MSP files with setup, name the primary OCT MSP file so it'll be loaded first (for example, start the file name with "1_"). Keep in mind that the first MSP file in Windows sort order should have all the major setup information (PID, setup display settings, applications to install, etc.).

·         Make it work! If you have an existing installation of the 2007 Office system and you try to add some customizations using the original .MSP file, you may get unexpected results. To make it work for existing installations, create a new .MSP file with just your new customizations. Deploy this new .MSP file via your deployment tool of choice to the existing installations. This could be as simple as having your users double-click the .MSP file manually to have it applied. For new installations, update your existing .MSP file with the new customizations - but keep in mind the next bullet….

·         Keep it fresh! MSP files can get corrupted if you update them several times (like 20 to 30 times). Bad news! So best practice is to refine your customizations in a separate pre-production/test .MSP file. Once that's final and ready for prime time, create a new .MSP file to deploy with your final customizations.

·         What are my customizations?! Unfortunately, there isn't a super handy way to get a copy, print out, or report of what your customizations are but…there is a script that helps! See the article View XML content from Office Customization Tool customization files (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc179027.aspx). After running the script, you can review the resultant XML by right clicking it in Internet Explorer and choosing the Export to Excel option.

For more information about the OCT, see Office Customization Tool in the 2007 Office system (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc179097.aspx).

– Cat Watson