Office admin policies

I assume most of us here are aware of MS Office admin policies (.adm files)?

I was going to point you here but that seems to link to some intrusive spyware page that wants to ratch around my machine (without permission) to see whats installed. So here is a KB article that doesn’t seem to contain the same malware.

These (adms) enable system administrators to limit access to certain features of MS Office applications. The classic one being VBA, I’ve worked a few places where you needed to specifically request access to the VBAIDE. VBA other people write still works, you just can’t see it (unless it errors ;-)).

Thats fine – seems like a reasonable idea.

Then I got to thinking about dictator apps (where the developer spends (/wastes) loads of time and effort swimming against the tide trying to lock users out of the standard functionality of the host app). I’m no fan of these (in case you missed that), I think if you need to interfere with the host that much then a grid control would be a better start point than Excel.

It’s just dawned on me that office policies are basically a bit of a dictator application. So my previous logic should apply. Rather than start with a full version of Office and lock people out, better start with something that provides the right starting feature set and add what they need. (A bit like black lists v white lists in security.)

Is that OpenOffice? MS Works? Google Docs? Some new as yet unannounced limited MS Office? Office Live? Something else?

Everyone knows the stats – ‘everyone only uses 10% of their Office suite, but its a different 10%’. How does that breakdown?

  • 5% need to author VBA?
  • 20% need to run it?
  • 20% need complete Excel compatibility?
  • 55% would be happy with OOo or Google?

Pure guess of course, and what is the break-even point where it makes sense to support different suites due to licence savings? Is there one?
What do you think?



5 Responses to “Office admin policies”

  1. Harlan Grove Says:

    The right starting point definitely isn’t Works unless your ideal for automation is calling SendKeys from VBScript or the like. AFAIK, Works lacks an OM.

    As for what I use, if WordPad had a spelling checker I’d never need Word. I work for a company that uses Lotus Notes, making Outlook irrelevant. Since I don’t create PPT/PPS files, PowerPoint Viewer is adequate for my needs. (Has anyone ever seen a benign PPT file that included macros?). Excel and Access are all I really use (unless you want to include Microsoft Document Imaging as an Office app), and I use most of Excel’s features. However, I could do maybe 75% of what I do with Excel with OOo Calc.

  2. Jon Peltier Says:

    I dislike dictator apps. I hated using them when I was just a user of other people’s workbooks, and I hate creating them. I try to make my solutions supplement. not supplant, Excel’s capabilities. Sure, I’ll lock down parts of a workbook, hide the gory details of calculations meant to make the chart more functional, and tightly control user input, but I don’t see the need to hobble Excel in the process.

    I recall the early days of Office VBA, when the IT department wouldn’t install the VBA help files. At the time, though, it was as much about conserving disk space as limiting what we could use. Since few people used VBA, and since they didn’t prevent us from downloading the files from the MS site and installing them ourselves, it didn’t bother me so much. (This IT department was a far cry from today’s internal police departments.)

  3. Harlan Grove Says:

    Re dictator apps: depends on the average user’s potential for breaking and otherwise misusing models. If you have demonstrably unsophisticated users with a demonstrated penchant for wrecking havoc on spreadsheet models, you may NEED to prevent them from doing anything more than making a few selections from drop-down lists and clicking a few command buttons.

    If it’s not obvious, I’ve dealt with users who’ve managed to screw things up in ways I’d never have imagined. Putting this metaphorically, if all users are sociopaths, police state software design may make sense.

  4. Adam Vero Says:

    I think the numbers stack up more like 2, 10(+the 2), 45 (+the 12), 43%

    I deal with some fairly sophisticated Excel users as a trainer and consultant, and still don’t see so many needing to run VB stuff.
    But a much bigger number do some fairly advanced stuff with clever formulae (Array stuff, DSUMs, OFFSET with INDIRECT and COUNT[A]) and pivot tables for the ‘heavy lifting’

  5. Simon Says:

    Those seem like reasonable figures Adam, obviously everywhere I work uses VBA – otherwise they wouldn’t need a VBA dev. Makes it hard to do broad estimates. I can believe your emphasis on formulas though, I guess I do see a lot of complex formulas with no VBA.

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