Office 365 with App-V

UPDATE: This issue can now be resolved by adding a registry key, see here for further details.

Office 365 uses a new installation technology named ‘Click-to-Run’ that shares it roots with App-V and the new App-X application model. In fact you will notice that they use very similar folder structures, for example:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\root\VFS\ProgramFilesX86

Also if you view the running process for Word for example in Sysinternals Process Explorer, in the bottom pane that shows the loaded dlls you will see AppVIsvSubsystems32.dll (App-V uses AppVEntSubsystems32.dll). A common scenario in App-V deployments is to have Office installed locally, then virtualise add-ins either by creating separate shortcuts to launch each Office app with each add-in, or use RunVirtual to drag them kicking and screaming into a virtual environment with the required add-ins. Most folks simply do not virtualise their core install of Office, since if you come across an add-in or other application that requires Office but has problems with App-V, you might have to roll back the whole solution and install Office natively.

This is all well and good, unless you are using a copy of Office installed from the Click-to-Run source, which is all editions of Office 365, and the retail copy of Office 2016 (volume license media is still MSI based). Perhaps because the Office applications hook the competing AppVIsvSubsystems32.dll, it does not seem to possible to launch these applications ‘in the bubble’. I ran into this issue a couple of years ago:

I advised the client at the time to remove Office 365 and install the volume license media for Office 2013, which resolved the issue. I came across this again at another client recently. However they were informed by Microsoft that the Click-To-Run media was the only option for them with their Office 365 subscription, which reduces their options down to these:

  • Virtualise Office, easy enough to do by converting the Click-To-Run source to App-V format using the Microsoft provided documentation, then pray that all of your apps that need Office also play nice with App-V.
  • Keep Office 365 installed and forget about virtualising any apps that contain Office add-ins or that need to be able to launch Office apps in their own virtual environments to work.

I’m surprised to not have seen many complaints on this, although I expect to see more as more as enterprises sign up to Office 365!