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Utility Spotlight: Microsoft Office Environment Assessment Tool

Lance Whitney

If you’re considering a migration to Microsoft Office 2010, you’ll want to take a close look at this month’s free utility—the Microsoft Office Environment Assessment Tool (OEAT). This tool checks a PC’s overall configuration to see how it will fare during an upgrade to Office 2010. Beyond reporting on memory, disk space and similar factors, the tool also scans all add-ins installed in the current version of Office and gives you details on any Microsoft or third-party applications that interact with Office.

You can grab OEAT from the Microsoft Download Center. Download and run the self-extracting Office14EnvAssessment.exe file. The installation will prompt you for where you want to store the program’s two extracted files:

  • READ_ME.htm: this has links to the Quick Start Guide and User Manual
  • OEAT.exe: the executable you trigger to run the scan

Upon launching OEAT.exe, you’ll see the utility’s main screen, as shown in Figure 1. To test the tool on your current PC, select the first option to scan your system. OEAT gives you two different scan options—a quick scan and a passive scan. What’s the difference? The quick scan checks a default list of folders and Registry keys for add-ins and only takes a few seconds to run. The passive scan monitors specific Registry keys created or modified when an application calls for an Office API. This scan runs silently in memory and takes at least an hour.

Figure 1 The Office Environment Assessment Tool main screen
Figure 1 The Office Environment Assessment Tool main screen.

For the passive scan to be truly effective, you’d want to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and various third-party applications as the scan runs so that OEAT can monitor which apps make the Office API calls. It’s a wise idea to run the quick scan first. You can always run the passive scan later to see if it catches more information.

The scan will capture the associated data and store it in two XML files, one to store the settings used in the scan and another to store the actual results. After the scan is complete, select Compile Results from the main screen and OEAT will organize the data into individual worksheets within an Excel workbook, which automatically opens in Excel, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 Office Environment Assessment Tool compiled results open automatically in Excel
Figure 2 Office Environment Assessment Tool compiled results open automatically in Excel.

The first worksheet—SummaryReport—gives you information about your PC, including hard disk space, memory and processor type. It also displays the version of Windows and Office, along with details on your antivirus software.

The second worksheet, AllInstalledAddins, shows you the Registry keys for any add-ins that interact with Office. On one of my scans, for example, OEAT displayed the keys of Office add-ins for Adobe PDF Maker, Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Nuance PaperPort scanning software. This list also covers Microsoft’s own Office add-ins.

The third worksheet, AddinsNotShippedWithOffice, shows the add-ins not included with Office. The next several worksheets (Average Disk Space, 32bit vs. 64bit, Antivirus Status and more) display pie charts to visually illustrate some of the data included in the other worksheets. The final worksheet, RawData, sums up the information from the other worksheets and adds further details, including computer name, IP address, user account, domain name and others.

This utility automatically saves the Excel workbook with the filename OEAT Report.xlsx. That file and the XML files are stored in the same folder where you extracted the OEAT.exe file and the READ_ME file. An errors.log is also generated in the event the scan fails to run properly.

Plan on This Scan

If you’re planning to deploy Office 2010 throughout your organization, you’ll want to run OEAT on all of your client PCs via an automated script. To set the script up, select the Run Wizard option from the main screen. You’ll be able to choose the different options for the scan, such as a quick scan versus a passive scan. You can opt to run the quick scan silently (the passive scan will automatically run in silent mode). You can even choose the duration for the passive scan, anywhere from one hour to 23 days.

Finally, you’ll need to specify a mapped drive or UNC path in which to save the resulting XML files generated by your client scan. Make sure your users have read, write and execute privileges to this location. Your users must also be local administrators on their PCs so that OEAT can audit the appropriate Registry keys. However, Microsoft does offer a workaround if you can’t grant your users local admin rights.

After you complete the Wizard, OEAT writes a settings.xml file to the folder from which you launched OEAT. This file stores all the options you’ve specified. You can always open this file in an XML reader to review and confirm the settings.

Your next step is to create an OEAT script to run on all your workstations via a login script, Group Policy or some other means. To view the parameters for this script, select the Command Line Help button from the OEAT main screen. The directions are short and simple. Make sure the OEAT.exe file and the settings.xml file are stored in the same network folder. Then simply use the oeat -scan string in your script.

After your users run the script, OEAT will store a separate XML file for each computer in the network location that you specified. Once all or most of the results are in, you can tell OEAT to compile them into an Excel workbook. To do this, simply open up a command prompt to the network location and type oeat -compile.

Excel displays the same data you saw when you ran the scan on a single PC, but now each worksheet contains details on multiple computers. Depending on the number of PCs in your organization, some worksheets could have tens of thousands of lines. Because the workstation name, IP address, domain name and other details are included, you should be able to sort or filter the results in Excel to better organize them.

As you review the results, you can see which Office add-ins are installed among your users. You can then research those add-ins to find out if they’ll be compatible with Office 2010. Each add-in includes its manufacturer and version number to help you in your research.

OEAT can scan the past several versions of Microsoft Office, including Office 97, Office 2000, Office XP, Office 2003, and Office 2007. Because the report is generated as an Excel spreadsheet, you’ll also need that to compile the results—preferably Excel 2007 or Excel 2010.

Lance Whitney* is a writer, IT consultant and software trainer. He’s spent countless hours tweaking Windows workstations and servers. Originally a journalist, he took a blind leap into the IT world in the early ’90s.*

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