Portable Office 2007 Quirks

I’m a great fan of the PortableApps.com suite that can be run from a USB drive, it offers a versatile means of carrying around your working environment without the need to install any third party applications on a host PC allowing you to work from virtually anywhere.

However, I recently came across an interesting (and extremely frustrating) issue that caused me to doubt my own sanity…

I had been writing some documentation using my portable copy of Office 2007 and had been saving the files to an encrypted container on my USB drive. When I came to edit one of the documents at home I discovered that there was no trace of the files on the USB drive..?

Now if you think that’s strange this is really going to bake your noodle (!). I ran Office 2007 again from the USB stick on the machine I’ve been given access to and when I came to check the recent files list there they were, I could even open them and edit them. Stranger still was the fact the when I checked the documents properties the files path pointed to the “Documents” folder on the USB drive! However, on saving there was again no trace of the files on the USB stick.

Now I was really beginning to doubt my sanity, so I did some investigation into the Thinstall application which is used to “virtualise” Office 2007 and discovered that when the application is run it creates a virtual directory structure which is located at “c:\documents and settings\username\Application Data\Thinstall” and there deep inside the folder structure is a virtual copy of the “Documents” folder used by the PortableApps.com suite with the alleged “missing” files intact.It appears that this is the default behaviour of Thinstall applications.

Thankfully there is a workaround which removes the files and settings from the host PC and that is to create a subfolder called “Thinstall” inside the portable Office 2007 folder which has the program executables.

I must point out that you need to be aware that the same issue will occur on your USB drive, so if you discover any more missing documents check your Thinstall directory!

Categories: IT

2 thoughts on “Portable Office 2007 Quirks

  1. It sounds like when this Office Suite was captured by ThinApp, the person who built the ThinApp package did not go back and ensure the ThinApp sandbox was also stored on the USB disk as well. The sandbox, which defaults to %APPDATA%\Thinstall but CAN BE modified to any write-able location.

    A simple work-around is to create a THINSTALL folder immediately next to the ThinApp’ed application as ThinApp does a search for the default sandbox location, and a THINSTALL folder next to the EXE(s) has a higher order of precedence.

    See the ThinApp documentation at this link for sandbox precedence – http://pubs.vmware.com/thinapp4/help/sandbox.9.1.html#988993

    See the ThinApp documentation for general information on ThinApp.

    Hope this helps!

    -Dean F.

  2. Thanks for the comment, that is infact what I’ve done as I stated in the post. But there is still the issue of the “virtual” drive in the Thinstall folder which holds the current documents instead of the original location!

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