Azure AD

Exchange Online Migration Clears ‘Recent’ Document Lists from Word and Excel

I struggle to fit these issues into a short but descriptive headline sometimes :)

This issue is a little strange. If you didn’t know any better (like me), you’d expect the location of a user’s mailbox to have no impact whatsoever on the function of ‘Recent’ document history inside of Microsoft Excel and Word, but it actually does.

I found this out the hard way of course, when a couple of staff mentioned their recent lists had disappeared and it co-coincided with their Exchange on-prem to Exchange online migration.

After some digging, I came across this Reddit post: 
Users losing Recent Documents lists in Office 2016 due to upgrade to ADFS. It’s the same problem with a slightly different root cause, and goes into a much deeper technical explanation than what I’ll do here.

The short of it is that the Office applications detect what sort of login you’re using – if it’s Active Directory (AD) or Azure Active Directory (AAD). When that state changes, it uses a different registry path for a few things, including those recent documents.

Without knowing for sure but based on my testing, it must be doing some check to see if the associated account’s mailbox is in Exchange Online or not – and if not, it considers it an AD account. It doesn’t matter if you already have the users in Azure AD, Single Sign on and all that other good stuff set up – the single change of changing the mailbox location to online triggered the change for me.

For an AD account, the history paths are saved in the registry here:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Word\User MRU\AD_1234567890 (the number on the end is some sort of unique GUID).

For an Exch account, it’s in this slightly different path:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Word\User MRU\ADAL_1234567890 (again, unique GUID at the end).

In case you were wondering, MRU stands for ‘Most Recently Used’. AD is to do with on-prem Active Directory, and ADAL is (according to that reddit post) Azure Active Directory Authentication Library.

Also note the example above is for Word, there’s corresponding paths for other Office applications such as Excel.

There’s two subkeys below this key, one for File MRU and the other Place MRU.

The good news on hitting this scenario is that the values can just be exported, the path changed and re-imported. To do this, via regedit find the registry key that has the values you want (probably the AD one) and right click > export.

Find the file you exported and use notepad to do a find and replace on all the entires for AD_1234567890 and replace to the new value (which you can find from just looking in the registry).

Now, re-import the registry file and you’ll have all the recent document paths restored.

This should only be a one time problem for migrations, and only for people who had a bunch of document paths saved in there and can’t find where they are easily.

Azure AD Sign-in via Google Chrome and Conditional Access

While testing MFA, Conditional Access and all the other good stuff Azure AD provides, I came across this scenario:

Conditional Access configured to require MFA if the user wasn’t on an Azure AD Hybrid PC, or coming from an internal IP.

User on an Azure AD Hybrid PC, but on an external IP.

User uses Chrome to access a Microsoft resource, and gets challenged despite being on the Azure AD Hybrid PC.

It seems that the sign-in process isn’t aware of the state of the computer when using Chrome- but there is an easy fix: deploy Windows 10 Accounts extensions for Chrome.

This is really easy to do via Group Policy.

  1. If you don’t already have them, get the ADMX Group Policy files for Google Chrome and deploy into your environment
  2. Under User Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Google > Google Chrome > Extensions, configure the policy ‘Configure the list of force-installed apps and extensions’:

3. Change the radio button to enabled, click ‘Show’ and enter the value for the add-in

ppnbnpeolgkicgegkbkbjmhlideopiji;https://clients2.google.com/service/update2/crx

4. Do your normal process of configuring the Group Policy object to target the users you want, run a gpupdate and see the addin silently turn up in Chrome. The only user impact will be a visible Windows logo to the left of the Google Accounts area in the top bar of Chrome.

Peter van de Woude has documented how to do this via registry, so read his post if you want info on how to do that –  as well as how to then deploy via Intune and PowerShell script.

Worth doing if you use Azure AD connect, and highly recommended if you’re using Conditional Access. 

Users Managing Email Groups and Exchange Online

For a very long time, users have been able to manage email group members via the Outlook client. Going into the Address Book, finding the group in the Global Address list, going into Properties and choosing ‘Modify Members’:

From there, someone can add or remove members as long as they’d been added to the “Managed By” field against the object in Active Directory, as well as ticking the box “Manager can update membership list” below it.

Easy! Except, that no longer works if the user is in Exchange Online, and the Email Group is from on-premises AD rather than Azure AD/Office 365. It’s not supported. This problem has been around for a while, back in 2015 Perficent wrote about this same topic. The options given for managing these groups are:

  • Exchange Admin Center
  • Exchange Management Console
  • Exchange Management Shell

None of those are what you want your standard users touching in my opinion – although you can give someone access to the Exchange Admin Center and only see the distribution groups they own – but for me, I’m still on Exchange 2010 so this isn’t an option.  This leaves you with a few options:

1. Change all your email groups to Cloud based groups. If this makes sense for you, doing this will let the manager of a cloud based group add/remove members via the Outlook Address Book.
You can also look at changing distribution groups over to Office 365 Groups (which are also cloud based), which give a whole bunch of different features beyond a what a distribution group can do, while giving the same standard DG experience.

2. Make all requests come through to IT so you can make the changes yourself. Not great for anyone involved, as it’s double/triple handling something where the user could quickly do it themselves.

3. Create Dynamic Distribution Groups and let automation do it’s thing – which will work for some, but exceptions to rules and the inability to see who’s in a group can make this frustrating for some.

4. Provide another way for staff to change group members themselves.

I’ve gone with option 4 – as I’m a big fan of Adaxes which I’ve written about a few times on my blog before, and they have a nice way of giving users a web interface that only lets staff manage the groups they’re the owner of.

There’s other ways to do this as well of course and other 3rd party solutions that can expose ways of adding/removing members of a on-premises distribution group – but remember there could be up to a half hour delay in syncing the change from AD to AAD via Azure AD Connect. If possible, look at adding a trigger at the end of a group change to do a delta sync:

Start-ADSyncSyncCycle -PolicyType Delta

That’ll be the quickest way to get the change up quickly, as staff may be used to the change working immediately.

There’s a lot to consider on how you’ll manage this, so make sure it’s sorted before you migrate – or expect a lot more tickets going through your helpdesk.

Conditional Access Stuck on “Loading…”

There’s currently an issue with configuring Conditional Access via Azure Active Directory. There’s an open ticket with Microsoft Support, with no ETA at the time of writing.

The issue:  When trying to configure a new policy for Conditional Access against an Azure Active Directory application, the ‘New’ page gets stuck loading. I’ve tested this on multiple browsers, tenants, internet connections, computers, and had Microsoft support confirm.

The path to doing this is from the Azure portal – Azure Active Directory > Enterprise Applications > choose your application > Conditional Access > New policy:

The Workaround: Thankfully it’s not a showstopper, as there’s another way to get to Conditional Access and it works fine. Instead of going via a specific app first, you can just go via Azure Active Directory > Conditional Access > New policy. Also Azure Active Directory > Enterprise Applications > Conditional Access > New policy works, it’s just an extra click to the same screen.

Points to take note of – if something’s broken, try accessing the same function from a different route of click-through links and it might work another way. Also, log these issues with Microsoft Support as overall the support is pretty good and often the issue won’t be anything to do with you. Test different scenarios wherever possible too, and also asking the question on Twitter can get some extra attention!

Null Dynamic Membership Rules in Azure Active Directory

Azure Active Directory has the ability to create Security Groups with Dynamic membership. This is great if you can apply logic to a group, as members will fall in and out of scope without any work required.

Microsoft have a great writeup on how it all works and how to create rules, however I’ve run into a scenario not covered in the documentation.

If you create a Dynamic membership rule and want to include only attributes that have no value, the term ‘null’ works fine. You can create your group or modify the rule without issue.
However, if your binary operator (the equals part in the example above) is set to ‘not’, it won’t work.
The use case I had for ‘not null’ was to have a group of users which only had employee numbers, which was an easy way of filtering out test accounts, service accounts and so on.

You’ll get this error:

Failed to create group

Failed to create group ‘groupname’. Dynamic membership rule validation error: Invalid operands found for operator.Invalid operands found for operator -not

The way to fix this is to go into the ‘Advanced Rule’ option and change the term ‘null’ to ‘$null’

Note that you can’t do this from the simple rule view, changing ‘null’ to ‘$null’ there results in the code looking like this:

(user.extensionAttribute1 -eq “$null”)

 

Where it should look like this, without the quotes:

(user.extensionAttribute1 -eq $null)

A simple fix, but something that’s not documented on the support page. Hope this helps anyone who runs into the same problem.