How to manage Office 365 ProPlus Update Channels

Here you will see how to control the Office 365 ProPlus Update Channels.  These were called branches previously but are now known as channels.  Let's go through how you can control these channels.  

With this, you can manage how you receive feature updates in Office 365 ProPlus across your organization. 

For additional information check out my "Office 2016 Deferred Channel Released for Business" post.

Note much of Microsoft's documentation and settings still refer to branches, which will change over time to match the rebranding.

Updated Office 365 ProPlus Branch Names

Office 365 ProPlus Update Channels

Here are the five options to manage Office 365 ProPlus Update Channels.

Option 1

Set the Click-to-Run configuration.xml file, which is used to manage a deployment.  Use the 'Branch' option.  To download or install for example, in this case with the deferred channel, use Branch=“Business” setting.

Here are the valid settings you can use:

xml branch setting

Channel

Current

Current Channel

Business

Deferred Channel

Validation

First Release for Deferred Channel

FirstReleaseCurrent

First Release for Current Channel

See my "How to download Deferred Channel Office 365 ProPlus" post to see this in much more detail.

Option 2

​Again edit the Click-to-Run configuration.xml file, use the 'Updates' element to specify which channel to use. Use the same settings available in Option 1, refer to the table above.

This changes the update branch for an already installed product like Office 365 ProPlus. You can switch an Office 365 ProPlus installation from one update branch to another this way.

​<Configuration>
<Updates Enabled="TRUE" Deadline="02/26/2016, 00:00" Branch="DeferredChannel" UpdatePath="\\Server\Share"/>
</Configuration>

Option 3

If you allow your Office 365 end users to download Office 365 ProPlus from the User Software Page, you now have more options.

In the 'User software' section of the admin portal, with the introduction of the deferred channel, there are now some enhanced admin controls.

Starting today, IT admins also have the ability to further customize the User Software page. Admins now have the option to select the Office version and update channel (for 2016 apps only) a user can see and download directly from the Office 365 User Software Page. The changes IT admins make on the Admin Center will go into effect on February 23, 2016, giving admins the opportunity to change the default update channel and decide which install links to expose to their users.

Here you can select the default channel, with the deferred channel selected but the current channel is also an option:

Manage user software through Office 365

Note if you previously disallowed users to download Office, these new settings in the admin portal may have overridden that preference, which you may need to revisit. 

Option 4

​With the Office 2016 Administrative Templates in Group Policy, you can set the Office 365 ProPlus channel.  With this it's possible to override the channel from what was installed originally. 

Start by download the ​"Office 2016 Administrative Template files (ADMX/ADML)" and install these as usual.

Then in your Group Policy Object ​navigate to the setting:

​The name of the Group Policy setting is Update Branch. You can find this policy setting under Computer ConfigurationAdministrative TemplatesMicrosoftOffice 2016 (Machine)Updates. The relevant choices when you enable the Group Policy setting are Current, Business, and Validation.
Office365 Set Channel ProPlus

Remember 'Current' is the Current Channel, 'Business' is the Deferred Channel, while 'Validation' is First Release for Deferred Channel.

Option 5

You can also use ​First release for select people.  This then allows access to the First Release for Deferred Channel on the software download page. First release allows administrators to designate particular users to try out features in advance:

​You can also provide users with First Release for Current Branch for Business by selecting them for the First Release program for Office 365. If you do this, those users can install First Release for Current Branch for Business directly from the Software page in the Office 365 portal.
Install Office 365 ProPlus with the new 2016 apps

Visio Pro or Project Pro for Office 365 and Update Channels

There is an important note if Visio or Project for Office 365 is installed alongside Office 2016, that's a bit of a gotcha.

If you have Visio Pro for Office 365 or Project Pro for Office 365 installed on the same computer as Office 365 ProPlus, they all must use the same update branch. You can't have a mix of update branches on the same computer.

The effects of this are quite pronounced according to reports I have read.  Say you're using the current channel with Office 2016, you later install Visio Click-to-Run.  The Visio installation will change your Office channel to the Deferred Channel, so it matches with Visio.

Resources