Microsoft has cancelled the Outlook Configuration Analysis Tool (OCAT) and replaced it with the Office Configuration Analysis Tool (OffCAT), which can be downloaded from the Microsoft web site. Like OCAT, OffCAT is developed by the Microsoft support organization and is based on the learning from the resolution of the most common support problems that are reported by customers. The development team broadcasts news on Twitter @MS_OffCAT.
OCAT, which lasted just over a year, provides a useful method to detect problems with an Outlook installation on a PC. OffCAT incorporates OCAT’s functionality and expands it to deal with the most common Microsoft Office applications (Access, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel). Other Office applications like Visio and OneNote are not supported at this time. If you continue to use OCAT and download updates for that application, you will be prompted to replace it with OffCAT.
Installing OffCAT is easy using the downloaded .msi file. Like OCAT, OffCAT uses the Exchange Best Practice Analyzer framework to present its options and display its findings. A command line version of OffCAT is also available (OffCATcmd.exe) to allow administrators to include scans in procedures that process multiple user PCs.
OffCAT supports Office 2013 applications, including the click-to-run variant of Office 2013, which can run alongside previous versions. Legacy versions of Office (2010, 2007, and 2003) are also supported. You cannot scan multiple programs at one time, so the first order of business is to select what application you want to check. Given OffCAT’s ancestry, it’s not surprising that more rules exist for Outlook than for any other application. However, the OffCAT developers intend to enhance and expand the rule set for all the applications over time.
Running OffCAT is easy. Start the program and let it check for updates (and download the new configuration files if they exist), select the Office product you want to check, start a new scan, and let OffCAT do its thing (OffCAT will tell you how long it thinks the scan will take), and then create a report from the data recovered by the scan.
An improvement made over OCAT is that OffCAT presents its report with the “Full Issues” as the default view. OCAT uses the “Informational Items” view and it is easy to miss some of the more important points that the configuration analysis might uncover if you miss the “All Issues” tab and think that only informational items have been discovered.
Another useful tip is to use the “Tree Reports” option to see how OffCAT derives its information when it extracts data from the PC. For example, OffCAT told me that an Outlook add-in was disabled. I was able to find out which one by examining the information listed in the tree report.
I tend to run the latest and greatest software (some might call this living on the bleeding edge of technology), so it was interesting that OffCAT told me that more recent files existed for Outlook 2013. As it happened, these were the most recent cumulative update of hot fixes released for Office 2013, none of which I needed, but even so it was good to know that newer files exist.
Experienced administrators might not have the need to run a tool like OffCAT very often. However, when the time comes to debug a frustrating problem suffered by a user and the normal troubleshooting steps don't work it's good to have a tool that will perform a systematic analysis of a PC's configuration. OffCAT might not find the problem, but it's a lot easier for OffCAT to review every single registry setting and other tweak for Office on a PC than having to do it yourself. Less boring too!
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