Office 2016 Mac on a diet — decreasing Office's disk use

My university has partnered with Microsoft to offer its students a free version of Microsoft Office 2016 for the duration of their stay. Great, as I was still using the old Office 2011 to read and write the occasional document.

To my dismay, however, I found the new version to be quite the glutton in terms of storage space: installing Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2016 took no less than 7.1GB worth of disk space, while 2011 did with but 1.2GB. (Presumably, this is worse if you've also installed Outlook and OneNote, which I did not.)

This was, of course, unacceptable to me. Sure, storage has become cheaper, but this much of an increase is ludicrous, especially on a small SSD. I decided to investigate.

As it turns out, Office 2016 no longer shares its assets in a common folder, like Office 2011 did. This means its frameworks, fonts and 'shared support' assets are all duplicated for each of the programs. While this makes the programs nicely contained, it has one obvious downside, as we discovered...

Fortunately, there is an easy solution that requires some tinkering. In the steps below, I trimmed it down to 2.3GB, saving roughly 5GB of storage for other things.

Finding common ground

The .app folders for Word, Excel and PowerPoint share roughly three directories:

  • Frameworks
  • Resources/DFonts
  • SharedSupport

In the steps below, we will merge these directories into one shared by all of the programs.

NB: if you prefer the command line over Finder: that works, too! It's how I initally did it, too.

Merging the assets

Step 1: grouping up

First up, create a new folder in your Applications folder. I named it 'Microsoft Office 2016'. Then, move each of the Office programs into it.

You should now have a folder like this:

Step 2: preparing for transport

Now, create three folders in the folder you just created:

  • DFonts
  • Frameworks
  • SharedSupport

The end result should look something like this:

Step 3: moving assets out

Open up the context menu for one of the apps, and select 'Show package contents'. For Word, this should look something like this:

You'll now see the contents of the application folder. Navigate to 'Contents' and you'll see something like this:

As we previously mentioned, we're interested in moving three folders out. For each of these folders, select all files and move them to the equivalent shared folder we created in step 2. To re-iterate, we're doing this for the folders Frameworks, SharedSupport and DFonts — the latter of which is in the folder Resources.

If you've installed Office for all users, you will be prompted to authorise yourself as an administrator. Enter your password when asked.

You will need to do this for each of the applications. As they share most of their assets, you'll eventually be presented with a dialogue like this:

You can safely choose to either skip or replace all the files.

After you've moved out the files for an application, you should delete the folder from the application's directory. If you chose 'skip' in the previous dialogue, it will not be empty -- that's fine.

Step 4: linking up

Now, we'll trick the programs into thinking their assets are in the original location by creating symbolic links. Unfortunately, there is no way to do this through Finder without any extra tools. That makes this last part the trickiest, as it involves the command line. (If you're familiar with it, please excuse the handholding below.)

First, we'll have to open Terminal. It's probably fastest to launch it through Spotlight, but you can also find in the Utilities folder in Applications.

You'll likely be presented with an intimidating white screen:

Please note: the instructions below assume you have completed each of the previous steps. Please double-check before continuing!

Copy each the commands below, pressing [Enter] after to run the command.

First, we'll navigate to our Microsoft Office folder:

cd "/Applications/Microsoft Office 2016"

Now, we'll make the symbolic links for each of the applications present. You will need to enter your password after pressing [Enter].

find . -type d -depth 1 -name "*.app" | { \
   while read d; do \
      sudo ln -s ../../../DFonts "$d/Contents/Resources/DFonts";
      sudo ln -s ../../Frameworks "$d/Contents/Frameworks";
      sudo ln -s ../../SharedSupport "$d/Contents/SharedSupport";
   done; }

After successful completion, your terminal will look something like this:

Step 5: done!

If no errors show up, you're done! You can now close the terminal. Enjoy your slimmed down version of Office 2016!

Comments are much appreciated.

Addendum (2016-01-14)

When Office is updated, the folders appear to be replaced by fresh copies, thereby removing the symlinks. Unfortunately, this means you will have to repeat the aforementioned steps to decrease disk usage once more.

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