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The OffCAT Welcome Wizard
OffCAT, a free tool, is advertised as a “quick and easy method to analyze several Microsoft Office programs for common configurations that may cause problems.” According to Microsoft, it “can be very useful for busy Help Desk personnel when end-users call for help with Office programs or when you want to proactively identify possible issues.” Always interested in being proactive, I decided to check it out.
OffCAT comes in both a command-line and in a GUI format. This guide will focus on the GUI version. It supports Office 2003 only when running an Offline Scan. For Office 2007 through Office 2013, OffCAT has no restrictions. It will even run on every Microsoft OS from Windows XP SP3 and above. It seems that Microsoft went out of their way to make this troubleshooting tool all inclusive! The only requirement is .NET Framework 3.5
Analyzing Office Components ^
When you first start OffCAT, you might not realize that it is the predecessor to the Outlook Configuration Analyzer tool (OCAT). Outlook is still the main focus of this toolset upgraded toolset as well. OffCAT can detect 300 possible misconfigurations (with KB links included). 230 of those troubleshooters and rules are related to Outlook.
To really see the bulk of OffCAT, I decided to start a new scan and choose Outlook as my monitored application.
Getting ready to scan Outlook
Troubleshooting a crash ^
I started Outlook, allowed it to completely sync, and pressed the “Start Scanning” button in OffCAT. The full scan took less than 5 minutes.
The completed scan
At first, I tried to expand each subsection on the Completed Scan page to see possible problems. To actually see any misconfigurations, you will have to select “View a report of this configuration scan” first. This will launch an analysis process that takes a few minutes.
The configuration report showing 30 potential issues
Because I am a best practices geek, this report peaked my interest. Although I haven’t seen any real issues with Outlook, it doesn’t mean I don’t have them!
I started on the first issue, which can be seen in the screenshot above. It is basically telling me that the Lync add-in has been disabled and will not automatically start. That isn’t really a big deal because Lync is not used in my environment.
By default, OffCAT will arrange potential issues are arranged by class (Add-ins, Calendar, etc). Let’s switch the arrangement to Severity instead and see if we can improve Outlook.
Two recent Outlook crashes
Although I don’t remember the crashes above, they don’t surprise me. Outlook can be quite finicky at times. The possible solution that OffCAT recommends lead me to a Microsoft article titled “How to troubleshoot crashes in Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013”. Ironically, Step 2 in this article requests that I run an OffCAT Outlook report.
I’m stuck in an infinite loop of running OffCAT, reading this KB, running OffCAT, reading this KB…
Issues with the Calendar ^
Twenty of the thirty reported issues are with the calendar. Expanding each of them indicate an issue with specific events.
Most of these warnings turned out to be recurring events that were somehow set to start in 1995. Other issues were duplicated appointments that would occur in the future. Although it wasn’t much, fixing these little things still felt nice.
The Microsoft Office Configuration Analyzer Tool makes an excellent troubleshooting tool. It is able to gather errors from Office, categorize them, and present possible solutions. For those having issues with Office, it is certainly one of the go-to tools to use.
For those hoping for a best practice analyzer like tool, don’t get too excited (yet). OffCAT does include some BPA like functionality but it is still a troubleshooting tool at heart. In the future, I hope to see an increase in BPA rules and a greater emphasis on non-Outlook applications.