What is Office 365, really?

In my day-to-day dealings with people and organizations, there is a common confusion on the term “Office 365.” And that confusion is fed by a few common myths that I have heard repeated by some very smart people in those organizations. So, first, let me dismiss the myths…

  • The first one is that Office 365 is online, in the browser applications only… NO! Office 365 is NOT just Excel Online, Word Online, PowerPoint Online, Outlook Online, and OneNote Online.
  • And the second myth is that the desktop applications are getting deprecated… NO! Microsoft is NOT doing away with the installed desktop applications on Windows and Mac in favor of web based versions.

So let’s get to the question:

If Microsoft is not replacing Office with web versions, then what the heck is all this Office 365 and cloud stuff then?

Primarily, Office 365 is the name of the subscription. You no longer buy the Office applications on disks and install them, then buy the next version, etc. With the subscription you always get the newest version (and much more). As you will read from the link above, there are lots of FAQ’s and other information that explain how this works.

So Excel Online, ET AL. is PART of the Office 365 subscription based platform. Office 365 still includes the traditional Microsoft Office desktop applications on the PC/Windows or the Mac. And they are not going anywhere. When you hear that your organization is moving to Office 365 it does not mean you will ONLY be accessing Office from a web browser.

Office 365 is really Office anywhere, on any device. For example, Office 365 also includes applications on iPhone, iPad, and Android. And it is not just the traditional applications. There are incredible tools such as Forms, Sway, Teams, and for developers the Graph API. It also shifts workloads like Exchange Server for mail and SharePoint server for document management from local IT servers to servers run by Microsoft in the cloud.

So when you hear Office 365, DO NOT THINK GOOGLE DOCS. wlEmoticon-smile.png The online versions of Office are only there to provide an additional avenues to access Office from anywhere, on any device. Per the Office 365 website:

Works across multiple devices

Get the fully installed Office apps on multiple PCs, Macs, tablets, and mobile devices (including Windows, iOS, and Android).

They are not as fully featured and as such you really need to consider when you might use them over using the traditional Microsoft Office desktop applications. Per this site (my emphasis added):

Office for the web (formerly Office Web Apps) opens Word, Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint documents in your web browser. Office for the web makes it easier to work and share Office files from anywhere with an internet connection, from almost any device. Microsoft Office 365 customers with Word, Excel, OneNote, or PowerPoint can view, create, and edit files on the go. …

The following tables compare Office for the web feature capabilities to feature-rich Microsoft Office desktop apps.

So, if you like your Excel just the way it is, installed on your scientific workstation with a bazillion gigabytes of RAM, you can still run it there if you move to Office 365. What you get with the traditional Office applications is more frequent, seamless and automatic updates from the web. Per the Office 365 website:

Monthly Updates

Get the latest features and capabilities with fully installed and always up-to-date versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint for Windows or Mac, OneNote (features vary), Teams, and Access and Publisher (PC only).

Hopefully, this has helped clear up and dispel the myths. And when you go back to the smart person that has told you otherwise, and continues to insist and tell you otherwise, please send them here. wlEmoticon-hotsmile.png

XP/2003 Deadline Looms

If you are still on Windows XP and Office 2003, if you have not already started your migration, you should start ASAP. The end of support for BOTH is this April. Here is a great link that explains all the reasons you should start today: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/enterprise/endofsupport.aspx.

I have heard from a number of folks that are “stuck” in XP/2003 land. Namely, because they have a large number of Office based solutions, Excel VBA add-ins, XLL’s, UDF’s, macros and Access 2003 databases that must be migrated and no idea how to begin to remediate them. There is help out there and a number of partners and even service offerings from Microsoft that can help you.

If you have a solution in Office 2003 that you need help to remediate, please contact me. Send me a private tweet or send me an InMail on LinkedIn.

Outlook Calendaring Issues with BPOS (Office 365)

The other day I got a Microsoft BPOS/Outlook issue (NOTE: BPOS is now called Office 365). Certain, heavy calendar users were experiencing a lot of issues. Here were the primary items:

  • Lag when switching between Delegated calendars/ inboxes etc.
  • Appointments not updating correctly.
  • Message interface error when switching between calendars
  • New event on calendar, no details shown
  • Duplicate entries on Calendar
  • Unable to determine who’s calendar you are viewing when using “calendar in Mail” view. The name was not listed on the tab.

Most of the problems occur because Outlook is not configured to work over a slower than usual connection. BPOS uses a login client that then connects to the “cloud” servers run by Microsoft. When running Exchange server on premises, you can rely on your 100MB network connection and not worry about bottlenecks occurring for certain heavy network operations. However, when using the advanced calendaring features of Outlook, it can put a strain on your ISP connection (upload/download is usually far less than 100MB). The core of the solution is outlined in this support article:


What you need to do is turn on the option to Cache Others Mail. This is not enabled by default and you should NOT set this for all users, JUST your heavy shared calendar users (like Administrative Assistants):

  1. Exit Outlook 2007.
  2. Start Registry Editor: Click Start, click Run, type regedit in the Open box, and then click OK.
  3. Locate and then click to select the following registry key:  HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Outlook\Cached Mode, or you can use: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Outlook\Cached Mode
  4. Right-click CacheOthersMail, and then click Modify.
  5. Type 1 in the Value data box, and then click OK.
  6. On the File menu, click Exit to exit Registry Editor.
  7. Next, disable headers. To do this, follow these steps:
  8. On the File menu, and then click Cached Exchange Mode.
  9. Click to clear the following options:
    • Download Headers and then Full Item
    • Download Headers
    • On Slow Connections Download Only Headers

Additionally, the following article is a set of best practices for managing calendars. Some of the issues, like duplicates or cancellations not being accepted are likely due to appointments being modified, changed or the original e-mail request being moved, etc. The following article is an excellent resource to make sure appointments are handled properly to avoid issues:


This article describes the following scenarios in which Calendar items may be removed from the Calendar:

  • Multiple users receive meeting requests for a mailbox owner.
  • You delete a meeting request on one computer after you accept the same meeting request on another computer.
  • You cancel or delete a meeting without sending an update.
  • You frequently change recurring meetings.

This article also describes the following scenarios in which the Calendar items may become out of date:

  • You forward a meeting request.
  • You use Outlook Web Access to accept a meeting.
  • You do not click "Send Update" when you change a meeting that you organize.
  • You do not process a meeting request in the Inbox.

Finally, this article recommends the following best practices for working with meeting information:

  • Convert an existing appointment to a meeting request.
  • Do not forward meeting requests if you are not the meeting organizer.
  • Limit the number of delegates who have access to your Calendar.
  • Schedule end dates on recurring meetings.
  • Turn on Calendar logging for executives and for other frequent users.

Additional issues you may be having can be resolved by installing the latest set of patches called Cumulative Updates for Outlook and Office core (mso). The following website has a link to all of these patches:

Update Center for Microsoft Office, Office Servers, and Related Products