Office desktop apps include Windows Explorer

A major stumbling block for many during the transformation process from on premises to Microsoft 365 is the desire for Windows Explorer. It is understandable that people want to maintain the status quo and their current work processes, however want many don’t appreciate is that Windows Explorer like capability is built right into Microsoft Office desktop applications.

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If we take a look a Word as an example, and then select Open from the menu on the left, we find an array of documents displayed that were recently opened as shown above. You’ll also notice that you can view recently accessed Folders from this same interface as well. There is even a Search option at the top of the page to help you locate items in this list.

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You’ll see there is also the ability to ‘pin’ an item (file or folder) so that it will always appear as shown above.

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A little further down you will find the cloud storage locations you are connected to as shown above, which are typically associated with your Microsoft 365 environment. If I select SharePoint here, I will then see a list of my SharePoint sites on the right.

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If I then drill into a site, I will see all the Document Libraries it contains. If then drill into a Document Library I will see all the files and folders within, just like you do when using Windows Explorer.

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If I right click on something like a folder, you see from the above, that I again have the ability to Pin to Recent list. This makes it easy to navigate back to that location later. It is always a good idea to do this for those locations you need to get to regularly. 

I can move up and down the list of items as I could using Windows Explorer. This therefore, should be the familiarity that many are looking for when navigating file structures.

The file displays inside this application navigation are limited to files that can be opened or view by that application. For Word this would be things like DOC, DOCX, PDF, Text files and so on.

It would be nice if Microsoft (or anyone else) took this built-in Office desktop navigation and created a stand alone desktop application that could navigate all files at once. This would then be a direct replacement for the traditional version of Windows Explorer but for locations in Microsoft 365. How handy would that be?

As yet, I have not found an application that does this but hopefully some smart developer will look ate creating something as I reckon it would be a real winner. So, for the time being, remember that you do have a simplified version of the old familiar Windows Explorer built into Office desktop application that you can use to enhance your daily workflow with the common file types you work with in Microsoft 365.

CIAOPS Need to Know Microsoft 365 Webinar – January

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Join me for the free monthly CIAOPS Need to Know webinar and the first for 2022. Along with all the Microsoft Cloud news we’ll be taking a look at using OneNote for collaboration.

Shortly after registering you should receive an automated email from Microsoft Teams confirming your registration, including all the event details as well as a calendar invite.

You can register for the regular monthly webinar here:

January Webinar Registrations

(If you are having issues with the above link copy and paste – https://bit.ly/n2k2201 – into your browser)

The details are:

CIAOPS Need to Know Webinar – January 2022
Friday 28th of January 2021
11.00am – 12.00am Sydney Time

All sessions are recorded and posted to the CIAOPS Academy.

The CIAOPS Need to Know Webinars are free to attend but if you want to receive the recording of the session you need to sign up as a CIAOPS patron which you can do here:

http://www.ciaopspatron.com

or purchase them individually at:

http://www.ciaopsacademy.com/

Also feel free at any stage to email me directly via director@ciaops.com with your webinar topic suggestions.

I’d also appreciate you sharing information about this webinar with anyone you feel may benefit from the session and I look forward to seeing you there.

Testing for CVE-2021-40444 vulnerability

There are current concerns around:

Microsoft MSHTML Remote Code Execution Vulnerability

which is yet to have a patch made available.

I found this excellent article:

CLICK ME IF YOU CAN, OFFICE SOCIAL ENGINEERING WITH EMBEDDED OBJECTS

which provide some PowerShell scripts to create Word documents that can be used to test for the vulnerability.

I have run these scripts to create the actual Word documents and uploaded them for you here:

Office365/example at master · directorcia/Office365 (github.com)

2021-09-11_10-21-14

In both cases, when you open these documents, you should NOT be able to get CALC.EXE to execute on your system unlike what you see above and below.

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I have also added these tests to my security testing script which you can download from my GitHub repo here:

Office365/sec-test.ps1 at master · directorcia/Office365 (github.com)

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When I opened these documents in my production environment, the vulnerability was largely blocked thanks to Windows ASR which I have detailed previously:

Attack surface reduction for Windows 10

You can use the follow KQL query as I did above to view the result of this blocking if you are using something like Azure Sentinel like I am:

Another great security add on for Microsoft 365

KQL:

DeviceEvents
| where ActionType startswith ‘Asr’

Light or Dark mode?

One of the perennial high powered technology debates is whether Light or Dark mode is better. This ranks alongside similar torch and pitch fork ‘discussion’ events  like iOS or Android, PC or Mac and tabs or spaces. Luckily, just about everything these days, including Microsoft 365, supports a choice of modes.

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Now I’ve dabbled with switching to dark mode over the years but recently I’ve decided to go all in for at least 30 days. This means I’ve switched EVERYTHING to dark mode. Every app, every device. Dark mode everywhere.

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So, I’ve switched my Office apps (OneNote above), browsers (Edge and Brave) as well as Microsoft 365 and Azure into dark mode.

A few days in, I gotta admit, that it takes some getting used to. The border of desktop windows is much harder to find along with the dialog windows header. I notice far more reflection from what’s behind me when using my Surface PC, which is somewhat distracting, and the local post office had issues scanning an email QR code on my iPad until I changed it back to light mode. However, I’m sticking it out for the full 30 days to see but I’m not a convert as yet by any means.

I think that dark mode works a lot better if you are a coding type who spends hours and hours every day looking at lines of code. That is not the case for productivity workers who are regularly swapping between applications. This, in my opinion, is much harder when using dark mode.

Let’s see what the 30 day trial brings. I do appreciate the benefits but whether these are noticeable to me, only time will tell.

Setting text language in Office Online

Some people don’t wish to use the default English (U.S.) as their preferred language for Office Online when they create new documents there. Interestingly, you can change the option but it doesn’t seem to work for all languages. Here’s how to change the setting, but it has limitations.

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In my case, my production tenant is set up in Australia. The language I use everywhere is English (Australia). You would think that this applies to any new document created using Office Online. Not so, it seems. If I create a new Word document using the web interface as shown above, I get:

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but if you look in the lower left you see:

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If you click on the language text you get:

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Here I can select English (Australia) as my language. Now my document reports:

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All good right? Sure, until you create a new document using Office Online. You are then back to original language. In my case  English (U.S.) not English (Australia)! I don’t want to be changing the language manually for every new document I create with Office Online. How do I therefore make my preferred language ‘stick’ with Office Online?

As far I can tell, to make a different language ‘stick’ for a user when they use Office Online they will need to do the following:

1. Login to the Microsoft 365 portal (https://portal.office.com) with their own credentials.

2.  Select their Account Manager icon in the top right of the portal window like so:

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3. From the menu that appears select My Office profile like so:

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4. Select the Update profile button the Delve page like so:

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5. On the Update your profile page, locate and select How can I change language and region settings? as shown:

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6. This reveal a new line that includes a hyperlink on the word “here” as shown below, which you need to select. Note the additional instructions it also gives you – click the ellipse (…) and then choose Language and Region.

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7. As the previous instructions detailed, on the Edit Details page select the ellipse (…) like so:

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8. From the items that are displayed, select Language and Region as previously directed:

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9. Select the option to Show Advanced Language Settings as shown:

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10. Select the Pick a new language for both of the selection boxes displayed like so:

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11. It is at this point that not all options are accepted it turns out. In my case if I select English (Australia), the Office Online documents continue to open with English (U.S.). As it turns out, the best I can do in my case is set the language to English (United Kingdom) and then select the Add button like so:

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If you want another language, you’ll probably have to try a few to see whether they ‘stick’.

12.  My end result looks like:

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You’ll also need to either remove the existing language (as I have done, so English (U.S.) no longer appears) or change the priority of the language added, via the up/down arrows on the right of the language, and place it at the top of list to make it the default.

13. Scroll to the bottom of the page and make sure you select Save all and close to update your preferences:

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14. Lastly, you’ll need to wait about 15 minutes or so it seems for this to take effect.

If you now open a new Office Online document, you should now see the selected language as default like so:

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Phew, that’s a lot of work isn’t it? It may not be English (Australia) but it is now much closer to that than what it used to be. Remember, that each individual who wants their language changed for Office Online will need to complete these steps.

Next challenge, how to script it with PowerShell for bulk deployment? Not sure I want to go down that rabbit hole. We’ll see. Let me know if you’d find value in a script to make these changes across your tenant.

Microsoft 365 Automation presentation

These are the slides from my recent presentation on the automation options available in Microsoft 365.

The most important take away I believe is that we live in a world dominated by software. This fact is highlighted that:

Software is eating the world

There are plenty of reasons not to focus on software as a success path but that major reason to is simply the opportunity it provides, especially if most others believe it is all too hard.

It is important remember that software is a skill not a talent. This means it is something that can learned and improved continually over time. There is no such thing as a born developer. Some may have a higher aptitude to software development than others but that doesn’t means it isn’t something you can develop and learn.

As you ponder the worth of automation, have a look at all the simple processes you repeat continually throughout your day. Why is that? Why are these not automated? We live in a world of abundant technology. Most people carry a computer with them that is more powerful that the one that landed on the moon, yet it seems we all have less time to do the things we really enjoy. Why is that? We have allowed technology to master us, rather than using software to make it do our bidding.

The place to start with Microsoft 365 automation is on the desktop. Applications like Word, Excel, and so on contain the ability to record processes via macros and replay these quickly and easily. In fact it will actually convert these actions into code that can be further modified. Every Office application has a huge set of tools to assist with automating processes.

Although tools like SharePoint Designer have now been depreciated they are still available to use. If you are doing work with SharePoint, especially migration, it is important that you have some idea about the workflows SharePoint Designer creates and how they can be maintained.

Third party services like IFTTT and Zapier provide the ability to connect to Microsoft 365 services. One place that I use IFTTT is to save a backup of each of my blog articles directly to a OneNote file I have saved in OneDrive. I use Zapier to automate my free SharePoint email course offering.

The important consideration here is that the automation does not have to be purely focused on a technical outcome. It can be used in many places inside a business, including marketing.

The Microsoft equivalent of tools like IFTTT is known as Microsoft Flow. It allows to connect to both Microsoft 365 and third party services and map a process around these. The great thing about Flow is that it can integrated to includes on premises resources as well as be extended. More power is also available with tools like Azure Logic App and Azure Functions, which can be easily integrated into Microsoft 365.

Introduction to Microsoft Flow

Automation is also available in Microsoft Teams by utilising either the built in bots or even going far as to build your own. You will also find that Teams has a Flow bot that you can incorporated. This shows you the power of the power of the Microsoft solution via the integration of tools throughout the stack. Delivering automation for a business through a services like Teams makes a lot of sense as many of your users are already here most of the time.

The automation tool that most IT Professionals should be focusing on without doubt is PowerShell. Unfortunately, this seems to be the one that garners the most resistance and there is no doubt that getting started with PowerShell can be challenging. However, there are options like Azure Cloud Shell that make this much easier and also allow you to access PowerShell through a browser or even a mobile app.

The way forward with PowerShell is to use it’s ability to integrate and take advantage of the Microsoft Graph. This avoids the need to load multiple cumbersome service modules. If you are looking to invest your time in PowerShell with Microsoft 365 then you should be investigating how to take advantage of the Microsoft Graph using it.

As a final point to consider, I’d recommend you take a look at the following video from Daniel Pink, especially at this point (from about 29 minutes in):

https://youtu.be/CUDqN7MNsRw?t=1662

Microsoft 365 Business adds shared computer activation (SCA) rights

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The above from is from the message center of a Microsoft 365 Business tenants confirming that Shared Computer Access (SCA) will very soon to be available in Microsoft 365 Business SKUs. This will allow those SKUs to install Office desktop software on things such as on premises servers with a Remote Desktop Services (RDS) role (aka on a Terminal Server).

To do so previous required an Enterprise (E) license. This is big news for Microsoft 365 Business and further improves the value of this SKU!

My OneNote daybook template

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A while back I detailed how I use OneNote to replace my paper diary. You can read about that here:

One of the ways I use OneNote

The main benefits of a “daybook” for me are:

1. It is searchable

2. It is backed up

3. It is available on all my devices

This concept of a “daybook” is something that I use in my Office 365 adoption process. I have users create their very own “daybook” as part of learning how to use OneNote and OneDrive.

Creating a whole OneNote diary can be time consuming and many people simply want a completed “daybook” template that they can start using immediately. If you do, then I have uploaded to my GitHub repository for you here:

https://github.com/directorcia/general/blob/master/Daybook.onepkg

Simply download the file and open it with your favourite version of OneNote.

Go forth, save the trees and OneNote.