Using Active Directory activation and other new Office 2013 tools

Among the new Office 2013 tools for IT admins are a method for volume activation, administrative template files and files for custom installations.

IT professionals should find enough Office 2013 features to keep them happy. There are not only improvements for users, but also new and updated features such as Office Web Apps Server, the Click-to-Run tool and Office Telemetry that promise to make administration more efficient.

Active Directory–based activation

Enterprises implementing Office 2013 on Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 systems now have a new method for volume activation: Active Directory-based activation (ADBA). With ADBA, IT staffers can use their existing Active Directory infrastructures to activate Office 2013 clients under a volume license.

Prior to Office 2013, IT had to rely on Multiple Activation Key (MAK) or Key Management Service (KMS) activation. These processes were generally more complex than ADBA. Little has changed with either MAK or KMS in Office 2013. With ADBA, however, IT can easily activate Office 2013 clients through their connections to the domain.

To implement ADBA, administrators must use the Volume Activation Tools utility, which walks them through the setup process. After admins supply the KMS host key, the setup process adds an activation object to the Active Directory Domain Services. The activation object uses the same Generic Volume Licenses Key (GVLK) and KMS host pair as that for regular KMS activation. When the client joins the domain, the activation object automatically activates the Office installation, granting a license to the client for 180 days.

Administrative template files and Office Customization Tool files

With the release of Office 2013, Microsoft has also released a set of Group Policy administrative template files and Office Customization Tool files specific to Office 2013 features and components. Both the Administrative Template files and Office Customization Tools files are available as a single download through the Microsoft Download Center.

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The Administrative Template files provide Group Policy settings that can be applied to Office 2013 users throughout the domain. The files include the XML-based .admx and .adml files. The .admx files contain language-neutral policy settings, and the .adml files are specific to individual languages.

The Office Customization Tool files provide updates to the files used by the tool to customize Windows Installer (MSI) and Click-to-Run Office 2013 installations. The updates include both .opax and .opal files.

The .opax files contain language-neutral resources for the Office Customization Tool. The .opal files are language-specific. The Office Customization Tool files also include several .dll (Dynamic Link Library) files to update the tool for Office 2013.

Office 2013 for the IT professional

Office 2013 features include a lot more than an updated interface. Features such as Active Directory-based activation are only part of the suite of improvements. For example, admins can now implement co-authoring capabilities without additional server setup, and they can now make Access 2013 available through SharePoint Server.

Office 2013 also includes new security features that make it easier for administrators to trust applications and documents. There is, in fact, plenty in Office 2013 to improve the lives of IT professionals.

This was first published in May 2013

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