Microsoft back to their old tricks?

With Satya Nadella at the helm, Microsoft seemed to have taken a markedly different path of late, co-operating with users and other vendors instead of using their installed base to destroy standardization efforts and crush competition.

I never use or install Microsoft Outlook on Microsoft Windows machines, not just because Outlook is a very weak mail client compared to free alternatives, but because the primary target for malware authors is a Microsoft Windows PC with Outlook, Office and Internet Explorer installed on it. If you use a different browser, and don’t have Outlook installed at all, you decrease the likelihood of contracting a zero-day infection (meaning malicious software for which there is no cure yet) significantly.

But Microsoft is up to their bundling and tying shenanigans again*… I’ve just discovered you need Excel to use the Group Policy Analyzer, and you can’t install Excel from the Office 365 pack without also installing the latest version of Outlook. Bundling their low performance, high cost, standards violating email client with the Excel software beloved of clerks and accountants everywhere.

For now I install Office 365, use Excel to receive the GPO analysis, export the tables, and then uninstall Office 365.

* also other shenanigans, apparently?

UPDATE: @fuzzyfungus points out that as an enterprise license holder I can use the deployment tool to install individual office components (although only after uninstalling the suite).


Having seen a lot of Microsoft products developed over the years (including a trip to MSFT, and working under a guy who was Ex-MSFT) this smacks more of a lazy dev than an intentional anti-competitive move. Who knows for certain, though?

Microsoft can forget that not everyone runs their whole stack, and certainly that’s where a lot of their devs’ and managers’ heads are at.

Now, I haven’t checked in a while, but I think the *.xlsx format hasn’t changed much in the last 10 years, so Open Office should be able to read them. Is that not the case?


This one seems a bit weak:

Since it’s specific to Windows 10 S, which is specifically designed to be a neutered OS (basically an evolution of the much maligned Windows RT) to compete with Chrome OS. Most administrative functionality is disabled, and you can only install applications from the Windows Store. You can spend a one-time fee to unlock it to full Windows. As a power user I certainly have zero interest in S, but I can see why it may be desirable for those looking for more appliance-like devices and don’t want to worry about things like malware and crapware.

I’ve just discovered you need Excel to use the Group Policy Analyzer

Policy Analyzer isn’t a built-in tool, so while it’s lame that it can’t run without Excel, it’s not like it’s a built in tool like Event Viewer or even something truly essential (you could use gpresult.exe /h to get a similar (although less sliceable/diceable) information).

and you can’t install Excel from the Office 365 pack without also installing the latest version of Outlook.

Yeah, this is lame. I don’t use half the shit they push down on you with O365 but they insist on “all or nothing” when you install it. You could always buy an old version of Office or standalone Excel (MSI installer) which lets you get fine grained control over what bits are placed on your disk.

I haven’t used Policy Analyzer that much but I would posit that it may use Excel’s rendering engine to generate the spreadsheets.


Could be. If that’s the case, I’d for sure lump that in as lazy programmer syndrome, like I mentioned earlier in my post. 'Cuz what Windows IT admin wouldn’t have Excel installed, right?

For sure the Excel interop libraries which expose Excel functionality to .Net will fail without Office installed.


Wouldn’t surprise me in the least. I know if I were writing it, I’d have some sort of csv fallback (since that will work anywhere).

Possible to figure out what dll/dependencies it needs, and just keep that on hand, but not install the rest?

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Possible! If the guy who was in charge of the licensing layer of Office was also a lazy programmer.


I think it’s a slightly different set of tricks this time.

Less overtly abusive on the consumer end; because they can’t get away with that as much; but taking it out on the business customers they know aren’t going anywhere in the short to medium term. All the GPOs that make Win10 not suck being ‘Enterprise’ only (Sorry ‘Professional’, that apparently only means ‘allowed to bind to AD’ these days…); pushing cloud/subscription everything, capriciously breaking stuff in the vain pursuit of iPads.

I believe you can still do a fairly granular install of Office 2016(if appropriately licenced); you just need to use the deployment tool and possibly munge at some xml. Not really intended for single installs; but it won’t prevent them.

Their precious ‘windows as a service’ model is a total dog’s breakfast to administer, though. And Cortana can go to hell outside of strictly Halo related contexts.


Well, after you use Excel to generate the xlsx file, yes. But Policy Analyzer calls Excel directly in some IPCish way, it does not create the files.

Everything @fuzzyfungus just said. Everything!

Including the bit about the deployment tool, which lets me install single Office products by completely uninstalling Office 365, and reinstalling with the deployment tool. I can do that despite the PC support group’s unwillingness to help with license keys, because fsck them, their little file permission tricks do not work on me.


Yeah I expected M$ to go back to what it knows best. At this point I’m about to just put Windows in a VM and use Linux or a BSD distro as my home OS. Any drawback to this situation I think I can overcome but it’s a pain that one company effectively defines how we interface with PCs and peripherals.

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