Office 365

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.

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.

Migrate a Single Mailbox Out of a Exchange Online Migration Batch

A few posts on this since it’s what I’m working on :)

It is possible to sync all your mailboxes from Exchange On-Prem to Exchange Online as a single batch, and then complete individual items – but it’s not obvious that this is even possible.

Normally if you start a migration, you can choose multiple mailboxes or use a CSV file to specify which accounts to start migrating – while specifying the option to manually complete the batch, so the actual migration happens when you want it to:

The problem is, once you’ve fixed any problems that arise and mailboxes are in a ‘synced’ state, there’s no visible way to complete a single mailbox – just the whole batch. That may not be what you want to do. You could work out a way to create a separate batch for every single mailbox you’re migrating, but there’s also a way to complete one mailbox at a time.

In PowerShell, once you’ve connected to Exchange Online, you can run the a command to see all the mailboxes syncing, and their status:


If a mailbox is ready to be finalised, it should have the status of ‘Synced’. This is different to the status of ‘Completed’, which occurs once the mailbox has been fully migrated across.

To trigger the completion of a single mailbox in a batch, use this PowerShell command:

Set-MoveRequest -Identity “mailbox name” -CompleteAfter 1

The mailbox will then do it’s final syncing and complete, without affecting the other jobs in the same batch. The -CompleteAfter parameter is supposed to set the delay before the request is completed in date/time format, but using the value ‘1’ seems to immediately trigger this.

Now you can do a single batch job, and selectively complete mailboxes as you choose – easy! 

(Note that there was an old method of doing the above by setting the variable SuspendWhenReadytoComplete to $false which no longer works)

OneDrive for Business – Turn Off ‘Allow Editing’ By Default

Every organisation has their own requirements and standards. For mine, I see a risk when the default action of sharing a document via OneDrive for Business is the ability to ‘Allow editing’ of any document sent out. It’s worse because that option is hidden behind the main popup when sharing a file, and you don’t actually see that you’re giving ‘modify’ access rather than ‘read only’:

OneDrive for Business default sharing popup
OneDrive for Business ‘Allow editing’ on by default

There is a way to change this default behavior though, and it’s not in the OneDrive admin center.

Instead, you’ll need to head to the SharePoint admin center (since the backend of OneDrive is SharePoint Online, this makes some sense). From here, go into ‘sharing’ and there’s an option around ‘Default link permissions’. You can change this to ‘View’ rather than ‘Edit’:

SharePoint admin center

The change was immediate from my testing, as soon as I went to share another file via OneDrive for Business, the ‘Allow editing’ option was unticked. This is only changing the default too, someone can still decide they want to allow editing and tick the box.

It’s worth considering what you should have as your default. The new versioning in OneDrive/SharePoint Online is really good, and will let a user easily roll back to a previous version of a document if something accidentally gets changed – but will your users be aware if something does change? It’s possible to set up an alert, but it’s a bit tedious:

Hope this helps anyone considering rolling out OneDrive, or wants to start allowing external sharing.

How To Change The Microsoft Planner Date Format

I’m a big fan of Microsoft Planner, and it’s a great way to intro people into using some of the extra Office 365 features that gives a pretty quick benefit with very little training.

However, this is one problem I’ve come across; there is no option to change the date format in Microsoft Planner. The date format itself is actually dependent on what language you’re viewing the page as.

Here’s two tasks created on the same plan in the same tenant:

 12th of July, or 7th of December?

All I changed was the URL. The URL format will be… and the ‘en-us’ component can be changed to ‘en-au’ or ‘en-gb’ (along with other languages most likely that I didn’t test).

Depending how I access Planner seems to generate different a different language. There’s currently a uservoice request from a few years ago still being worked on, but at least you’re able to switch it over easily.

Hopefully we’ll see a default option available on each Planner itself. Until then, this is at least a fairly easy workaround which could take a while to discover for yourself.