Excel, just Excel, and nothing else
Although I’ve known Oracle EPM (and Hyperion and before that Arbor all the way back to Comshare) for far longer than I care to think about, my installation skills have not improved with time or practice. I am not a fan of installing Hyperion client software on my PC. Actually, I’m not a fan of installing any kind of infrastructure as many if not all of you know. I am especially not a fan of installing Hyperion client software aka Smart View or MaxL or epmautomate or anything else that has the words “Oracle EPM” as a prefix. Why is that, Cameron?
I don’t like installing (I really don’t like installing server software, cf. my appreciation of the Cloud) software of any kind unless I absolutely must because of crud. I have many other things to do with my life such as work, write this blog and other gloriously unpaid community activities, and try to have some form of a life. Given that I often only get two out of the three at the same time, taking on another “hobby” that consists of diagnosing why my super-duper laptop no long works as it did before is not high on my list of things to do.
Windows crud isn’t the only downside to installing a given EPM client suite and then uninstalling it when the next upgrade comes along and then installing that next release and then it doesn’t work and then reverting back to the original release and then maybe in despair uninstalling that again and then installing the latest release ad infinitum. As the preceding run on sentence suggests, moving across releases can be tricky. Painful. Frustrating. Gawdawful. You get the idea.
Remember, your PC (laptop nowadays but desktop too) is where you earn your crust. If it’s hors de combat because you buggered up an install you will spend a painful and inordinate amount of time trying to fix it.
How do you test new releases of Windows and Office and Oracle EPM? Your IT department (or, if you’re a consultant at a boutique consulting company then most likely you, Gentle Consultant Reader) in theory does this testing but they do it on their own time and don’t really understand all of the nuances involved. Do they give you multiple laptops so you can do the testing without interruption to your other work? No? If they do dispense that kind of largesse, they undoubtedly do so in other ways and if so would you please contact me ‘cos I want to work at a company with those kinds of deep pockets. Alas for all of us, that probably isn’t the case and you’re back at the infinite loop of install/test/uninstall/install/test/uninstall. Ugh.
I have a way around all of that: virtualization.
I’m a fan of virtualization. No, not virtual reality (FFS, if you have to retreat to that, perhaps you ought to work on improving the real world?), but computer virtualization. Big deal you say (you do say that, don’t you?), virtualization of servers is old hat. Even Oracle have reluctantly relented in the face of customers virtualizing their entire EPM environment.
No, what I’m talking about is virtualizing your client.
What does this buy you?
Merely an environment that you completely control. Want to run Windows 7 (my personal preference on many levels – I think it is as perfect of an OS as Windows can be) on your Win 10 laptop? Or the other way round? Or do all of this on your Mac? Or both Windows 7 and 10? 220.127.116.11.500 and 18.104.22.168 and PBCS? 32-bit vs. 64 bit Office? Office 2010 or 2013 or 2016? And separate multiple client VPN environments (this last one is aimed at consultants)? All at the same time? All you need is a virtualization tool, legitimate licenses, and enough hardware to run it on.
I am a huge, huge, huge fan of VMWorkstation. It’s fast, simple to configure (and we all know that Yr. Most Hmbl. & Obt. Svt. needs all the help he can get in that regard), and relatively inexpensive @ $250. Setting up a VM is a doddle and cloning and copying the VMs are simple tasks. There’s also the option of giving away VMs (I am putting aside licensing issues but doing things the right way isn’t impossible) and running them on VM Player or even converting a VMWorkstation image to VMWare Fusion.
If you are a true blue Oracle user, there is also the free as in beer VirtualBox. Free is good. I started with VMWorkstation back in the days of Hyperion Software and just haven’t been bothered to switch. I have however used VirtualBox alongside VMWorkstation without issue.
My use case
I wanted to run Office 2016 on Windows 10. I have avoided Win 10 as long as I possibly could but as I’m seeing it at more and more of my clients and also because I want to – sort of – keep up to date with my fellow geeks so I have to at least take a look at it. A VM is a marvelous place to do this – I can walk the VM back if I blow things up – I will – and to experiment with setting up my Office 2016 install. When I did this the first time round I think I had to redo it five times. Ugh .
I’ve run Office 2016 on a Windows 7 VM but I was annoyed that I ended up with the rest of Office on that VM. I want to keep the actual VM size as small as possible (I have two SSDs on my laptop but even at 1 ½ terabytes space is not unlimited and server OS VMs can take a lot of room). Also, I am not going to run OneNote, don’t need a copy of Outlook on a VM (and besides, I use Thunderbird on my real box), and in general just want what I want as I’ve been able to do with older releases of Office.
Running Windows 10
Keeping in mind my lack of interest in infrastructure even at a client OS level, I needed to find a version of Windows 10 that does not update itself seemingly every other week. Seriously, I don’t have time for that and all of the features that Windows 10 has like Cortana, Edge, the Store, etc. don’t do anything for me. What to do?
NB – I understand that there are advantages to doing things Microsoft’s way but it simply isn’t for me which, if you think about it, is sort of the unifying theme of this blog post. I am a bit bolshie.
Windows LTSB to the rescue
Windows Long Term Servicing Branch is akin to the measured upgrades that the Windows world saw before Windows 10. Longing for the good old days? Here are two good explanations of what it means. Windows LTSB is part of Windows Enterprise so you’re not going to be able to buy this at your local office supply store. As I noted before, it’s not that difficult to legitimately get a license for this. I am not encouraging you to go to some dodgy website and download a key. Beyond the moral and legal ramifications of that, consider that you have likely just infected your computer with a who-knows-what virus, trojan, etc., etc., etc. You Have Been Warned.
NB – You do not have to use Windows LTSB to do what I’m about to show. That’s what I used and hence I’ve explained the not terribly common release to remove as much confusion as possible ‘cos when I explain things I add confusion. You’re welcome.
Running Office 2016
Speaking of confusion, as with Windows 10, Office 2016 comes in a bewildering variety of versions. If you include Macintosh there are nine different releases of the product although there is overlap in their title organization.
I daresay you will not be surprised when I tell you that I don’t have any of those releases but instead Office Professional Plus Volume License. Fear not, Gentle Reader, as I believe what I am going to show you now applies to everything but the Macintosh (and you’re alas not running Smart View there) and Office Online.
Unlike older versions of Office (per my comments above about changing as little as possible on my “real” laptop I am quite happily running Office 2010), Office 2016 does not have an MSI installer and instead has an all-or-nothing Click-To-Run (C2R) installer. The problem with C2R is that it does not allow a single application install out of the entire Office suite. That’s right, it’s all or nothing.
Having said that, there are advantages to C2R, namely monthly updates to not just patches but core functionality as well as a way to install Office from the web or a network location. To me this sounds like a enthusiast’s dream and an Oracle EPM geek’s worst nightmare.
I don’t have this version (again because of my recalcitrant and stubborn personality) but the technique I am to illustrate is actually based on Office365.
This blog has the word “hacker” in it. I think for IT staff that install Office as a matter of course the below is old hat. For those of us who aren’t in that category, this is a hack.
Windows 10 in its virgin state
No, this probably doesn’t look like your Windows 10 install. But it’s awfully close.
Btw, in addition to Windows 10 LTSB, I am also using ClassicShell. I cannot recommend it highly enough and use it on both this install and on Window Server 2012. I’m not sure what genius at Microsoft thought a tablet interface was a good fit for a server OS but “genius” is not the word that comes to mind.
That rant completed, here’s my very pre-Windows 7 style Start Menu. Note that there is no install of Office.
Take a snapshot
I had a bad feeling about this working the first time so before I went WOT on the install I thought I would take a VMWorkstation snapshot. Good thing I did.
Run the install
I’ve taken my install ISO and extracted it to the local drive. This will become important in a bit but I could have installed it from a DVD or mounted ISO image.
The Yes of Doom
Maybe all is not lost?
Surely an option will pop up allowing me to pick just Excel.
Indeed all is lost
Back to the beginning
Bugger as noted. Let’s go back to the pre-install state. See, I told you I liked VMWorkstation.
Although, “I want, doesn’t get”, it is possible to install just what is needed in Office with a modest amount of pain.
In a nutshell, you can use an XML configuration file along with a special install setup.exe to exclude unwanted components. It works but as noted is painful to suss out, a sentiment you may share as you’re now on page nine of this guide.
NB – This works for Office 2013 as well but requires a different version.
Download the tool as per the above section link and then launch officedeploymenttool_7614-3602.exe. On doing so you’ll see setup.exe (this is the replacement for the default Office 2016 setup.exe as well as the file configuration.xml.
Per the file comments, the above configuration file is for downloading and installing Office 365 Pro Plus (retail) as well as Visio Pro (retail).
However, what I want to do is: exclude everything but Excel and do it for it for the non-365 version of Office.
Although the XML isn’t hard to read, it is difficult to know what tags to use. Microsoft very nicely provide a tool to create that file. It’s almost perfect but then what in this life is?
Office 365 ProPlus Configuration XML Editor
Go to the web page and pick your options.
Exclude the tools you don’t want.
Click on Save to write the XML in the righthand pane and then export to disk.
Ta da, here’s the configuration file, shipshape and Bristol fashion. Almost.
Unfortunately the tool doesn’t support the version of Office that I have; it likely does for your version. Just in case, here’s the list of supported Product IDs:
In my case I ended up using ProPlusRetail on my first go round. That was a guess on my part although I suppose a lucky one as it was a one in nine chance on getting it right.
In any case, here’s what my configuration.xml file looks like once the Product ID is manually modified:
Installing just Excel
The hard work is done. Now it’s just a question of running the configuration.
As I noted above, I extracted the install media to a local folder – this could easily be a network share. The key thing to remember is that you’ll need to replace the default setup.exe with the one that will allow customization.
I renamed setup.exe to setup.exe_old:
Copied across the new setup.exe as well as configuration.xml files:
And then ran setup.exe in a “DOS” window using the syntax within the install folder path of Office2016:
setup.exe /configure configuration.xml
NB – This could have been run from different locations and fully pathed out but this is a one-and-done install.
After a bit of whirring and clacking:
There is no acknowledgement that Excel is being installed on its own.
And when I launch Excel
Here it is. And with Smart View too! Just kidding; I installed that afterwards:
We’re done, finally done
There we are, after just a short 20 pages in Word. If you think it took a long time to read to the bottom consider that I spent over a day figuring this out and then another half day writing it up. Some would just embrace the suck and install the whole shooting match. Stubbornness manifested as tenacity can sometimes be a positive thing. I’ll never get the time back but now I have exactly what I want.
Sometimes it’s worth it.
More than one way to deploy Office 2016
I encourage you to read the links I’ve provided and search on your own. There are all kinds of cool(ish) things you can do with the tool. It’s probably outside the purview of EPM geeks but interesting(ish) to read about.
Do I now have a VM that I can clone (VMWorkstation does an excellent job of that: creating both fully-independent images as well as linked ones that take less room – I created the VM for this post as a linked one that I will now blow away) for each and every client keeping work, files, versions, etc. separate? Yup.
Don’t be put off by the length of what I wrote. Once I figured this out the whole process from beginning to end took about 45 minutes.
Be seeing you.