Archive for category Microsoft Office

Attend the Microsoft BUILD Austin Event on May 29th, 2015

There’s a lot of change that’s coming out for developers and IT pros that work on Microsoft technologies.  You can find more information about the available sessions at the Microsoft BUILD 2015 site, including the recordings of the keynote addresses from the live national presentation.  Just a sampler would include Windows 10 with huge consumer and Enterprise changes, UI design and development improvements, Azure, Visual Studio 2015, and a lot of other related topics.  Here’s an overview of what will be covered in Austin:

Friday, May 29, 2015 – 9:00AM

Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater
310 Willie Nelson Blvd
Austin, TX USA 78701

This event series brings the Build experience to cities around the globe.

As a developer, you can expect:

  • Best of Build announcements and insights
  • Deep dive in the Windows 10 developer platform for app and web developers
  • Coding sessions and exciting demos across devices
  • Partner showcases
  • Open Q&A and face-to-face time with Microsoft engineers
  • Each Event is Free

Build Tour Event Agenda

8:00 – close Registration
8:00 – 9:00 Breakfast
9:00 – 10:30 Keynote
10:30 – 10:45 Break
10:45 – 11:45 Session #1 Universal Windows Platform
11:45 – 12:45 Lunch
12:45 – 13:00 Challenge
13:00 – 14:00 Session #2 Microsoft Edge & Web Apps
14:00 – 15:00 Session #3 Lightning Talks
15:00 – 15:30 Break
15:30 – 16:45 Panel Q/A
16:45 – 17:00 Closing remarks

Best of all, there’s a good chance that the all-day event is coming free to a place near you.  While I won’t be presenting any specific sessions in the Austin BUILD Event.  I will be available on-site all day to answer questions during breaks.

Be sure to register, if you plan to attend this free event (it’s at the amazing ACL at the Moody Theater downtown).  If you’re unable to attend, you can still find the sessions you’re interested online at the Channel 9 BUILD 2015 site.

Office 365 / Office 2013 “Office is Busy” Error Message

In general, I’ve been very happy with my Office 365 Small Business Premium subscription, and I use many of the Office 2013 applications all day, every day.  I have especially liked the ability to quickly and easily install Office 365 licenses on other computers, and the seamless way in which they’re automatically configured with the most important settings.

Recently, however, I’ve started seeing the following error message when I try to launch any of the Office 2013 programs:

Office is Busy

We’re sorry, [application name].exe can’t be used right now because Office is busy.  We’re either updating or helping you add or remove some programs.

You can try using [application name].exe again after we’re done.  It shouldn’t take long.


Contrary to the information, the error message appears to remain indefinitely.  A search of the Microsoft Community Office Forums shows that I’m not alone.

In some cases, the problem occurs even when I have other Office applications open.  For example, if I’m actively using Outlook any try to launch Word or Excel, I’ll get the above error.  From then on, all of the applications fail to launch or work properly.

In some cases, rebooting the computer (something that I do rarely) has resolved the issue, but in others, it has not.  Fortunately, there’s a fairly quick method that seems to work to resolve the problem: In the Control Panel “Uninstall a program” applet, you can highlight your Office 2013 installation (the exact name will vary by your subscription type) and click Change.  You’ll see the following two options:image

For me, the Quick Repair option has worked on each of the dozen or so times that I have had to run it in the last few days.  You can get more information in the support article titled Repair Office programs.  The process takes several minutes, and then results with the following:


It does appear that all of the Office 2013 updates remain installed and do not need to be downloaded again. 

Unfortunately, the advice on the forums is, at best, an annoying workaround.  I’m not sure what is causing this problem (which never occurred prior to a couple of days ago), but I’ll follow up with Microsoft and see if I can get some information.  If I do get more details, I’ll post them here.

A Quicker, Faster Workaround

Update (04/05/2013): One piece of information from the Microsoft Community Office Forum seems to have simplified the troubleshooting process: For me, simply stopping or restarting the “Microsoft Office Service” has resolved the problem every time it has occurred.  You can do this using the Services applet in Control Panel or by using the command line:

NET STOP “Microsoft Office Service”

I put the above line in a batch file, and I run it whenever the issue occurs.   It only takes a few seconds, so it’s a much better workaround until there’s an official solution.

Real World Internet Speed Test: Office 365

All too often, people tend to measure whatever is easiest to measure rather than what matters most.  Examples range from health (body weight, nutrition, etc.) to technical fields such as IT. 

Easy Answers

When I am attempting to “test’ the bandwidth of a system or network connection, I often find myself using on of the common free online tests like  It usually runs quickly and requires no configuration.  But what do the results really mean?  Below is an example of a recent test result.

But what does this really mean in the real world?  First off, the automatic server selection process favors the server that is “closest” (from a network architecture standpoint) to me.  Generally, the results will give me the best possible speed and path and can be considered a theoretical maximum.  But, I rarely connect to resources on my ISP’s core network.  Rather, almost everything I do requires routing outside of the ISP’s boundaries.  That’s where arrangements like Internet Peering and Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) can make a huge difference.  In this case, the easiest answer is clearly not the best one…

Better Answers

What I really want to know is how well I can connect to “real” online applications and services, ranging from Netflix to Office 365.  I want my Xbox Live connection to have a low latency, and I want to make sure that performance doesn’t vary dramatically during the day.  That’s where more specific tests become important.  Many online content and application providers have their own tests.  You can often find them by doing a basic web search. 

Example: Testing Office 365 Performance

Performance and reliability are among the foremost concerns for most IT professionals that are consider moving some applications and services to the cloud (that is, network infrastructure that they do not completely control).  This often introduces numerous variables, but technical (bandwidth, latency, routing, quality of service) and not-so-technical (quality of support personnel, investments in the network, priority of each customer, etc.)  Even the best implementations can fail if the end-user experience is poor based on limited bandwidth or high latency. 

As an example of a more “Real World” (and therefore relevant) test, I want to highlight Microsoft Online Services’ Performance Test.  This set of online tests takes into account bandwidth, latency, routing, and related parameters to give you a good idea of how well your experience with Microsoft’s Online services will be (from a performance standpoint, at least).  Below is a portion of the “Speed” test result:


This clearly shows that I’m not getting my maximum stated bandwidth (~32Mbps down / 3.0Mbps up), but the performance definitely looks good enough for basic usage. 

The tests also measure other important statistics, such as packet loss, round-trip time, packets per second, and related characteristics.  All of this yielded the following summary:


Of course, performance is likely to vary at different dates and times (I happened to perform this test on a Sunday afternoon).  If you want some additional detail on the tests, see the blog post titled Moving your customers to BPOS or Office 365? Check their BANDWIDTH!.  And, feel free to try the test yourself if you’re considering moving yourself and/or your  users to Microsoft Office Online.

Microsoft Office Labs’ Ribbon Hero

Perhaps one of the most challenging issues with complex applications is in teaching users to take advantage of their many features.  Modern software like the Microsoft Office suite provide an overwhelming number of options and features that can be used to make work easier.  However, the most requested “new” features that are received by the Microsoft Office development team are already in the product.  Yes, they’ve likely been there for a long time, but users just haven’t found them.

In many of the apps I’ve written, users are often unaware of keyboard shortcuts, simpler ways to move between fields in web/Windows forms, and efficient methods for entering data.  I often cringe when I see people spend hours trying to manually perform tasks that are easily automated using application features.  Still, many application users will go to great lengths to avoid having to learn anything new (even if it will pay off in the long run).  But what about those who actually want to learn how to best use specific pieces of software?

Enter The Microsoft Office Labs Ribbon Hero.  Here’s a brief description of how it works:

Ribbon Hero is a game for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel 2007 and 2010, designed to help you boost your Office skills and knowledge. Play games (aka "challenges"), score points, and compete with your friends while improving your productivity with Office.  As a concept test, this add-in is not supported, but is an opportunity for you to try out an idea we are working on and let us know what you think.  For additional challenges and the opportunity to earn more points, download Office 2010 Beta.

The idea is somewhat unconventional, but this demo video provides a great example of how you can use it to make yourself a better Microsoft Office user.

While learning is often its own reward, the game also allows you to automatically share and compare your score with others using Facebook.  Here’s a screenshot from within Microsoft Word.


Of course it’s unsupported code.  So, don’t plan to open up a Severity 1 case with Microsoft Product Support Services if you think you didn’t get all the points you deserve. 🙂

Overall, I think the Ribbon Hero project is a fun and useful way to stretch users’ abilities with one of the world’s most popular productivity suites.  I’m planning to rack up a pretty high score.  Who’s up the challenge?

Office 2010 Beta Now Available to MSDN / TechNet Subscribers

imageWhile I spend a lot of time writing and speaking about enterprise technology (such as server virtualization), like most techies, I do it using Microsoft Office.  I’m a big fan of Microsoft Office 2007, and I’m always eager to try new beta version of the product suite.  Thanks to the MSDN Subscriber Download’s RSS feed, I found out that the official first beta of Office 2010 is now available for download.  If you have a subscription, you can access the downloads from the following sites:

Just search for “Office 2010”, and you should see the relevant downloads.  Be sure to generate keys for activation of the beta, as well.  I’m not sure about the exact plans for making the downloads available publicly, but Microsoft will hopefully make the beta easily accessible to a wide range of potential testers later this week.

For more information on what’s new, see the official Microsoft Office 2010 product site.  As far as at the client applications themselves, the changes seem to be largely incremental (all apps now have the Ribbon UI).  I’m pondering upgrading my primary computer to the newest beta and will likely post some more details here if I do.  Particularly, I’ll focus on backwards-compatibility and file format upgrade issues (such as upgrading my Outlook PST files to work with Outlook 2010).  Happy downloading!