Excel custom views and Excel files that appear different for various users

Excel has a feature called Custom Views (ribbon VIEW / CUSTOM VIEW) that is very little known. This feature actually allows to adjust header / footer or columns that are hidden or displayed etc… a custom view for the workbook.

Custom Views are stored in the workbook it self. Further are they automatically selected when opening a workbook.

How does Excel determine which custom view to use?

Under OPTIONS / GENERAL in the field USER NAME should be in most cases your FULL NAME from your Windows logon user respective Active Directory user. This name actually determines which custom view is used. If you alter the name to another custom view name you will automatically see this custom view – or it default back to the default view.

This becomes an even bigger issue if you are using SYSPREP images and you set the default user profile from an existing profile via the COPYPROFILE option – see here for details: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-hardware/manufacture/desktop/customize-the-default-user-profile-by-using-copyprofile.

If the source profile had EXCEL open – or actually any other OFFICE program – you will find the following registry keys set:

  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\Common\UserInfo
    • Company
    • UserInitials
    • UserName

The critical key in this case is USERNAME.

Imagine you deploy this image with this pre-set username-key to 100 computers. One of the users now sets a CUSTOM VIEW and another user opens the file – this user will actually see the custom view because both users would have the same USERNAME value set, what was pre-set in the image. Now you have a third user that you manually installed from scratch – this user will see different values in his worksheet – Excel header and footer or columns etc…

This sure would give you some headache and would sure will wonder how can this happen.

To be pro-active – and even prevent other related issues – you should remove those three keys from any logging on user. If you remove those keys and the user opens an Office application, they will be automatically recreated depending on the current Windows or Active Directory user name and credentials.

Probably the best way to accomplish this is a GPO that applies to ALL USERS and removes those registry keys. Just make sure you check as well “apply once”.

Having this said – I as well saw circumstances where this did not help – likely due to the users have been logged on and in an Microsoft Office application. The keys had been removed, but after closing the application the old keys had been written back to the registry. Due to that you might need either a solution per PowerShell or CMD/Batch script that removes those keys when the users logs on.

You could determine if they are correct or not and if not simply delete them.

I tried to find a solution for the USERNAME value in the registry from the GPO variables – use the F3 key in the GPO Editor to show available variables (https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/grouppolicy/2009/05/13/environment-variables-in-gp-preferences/) – you will quickly get stuck on that the full user name is not available. Therefor a script might be your best shot.

A simple solution might be using this in a CMD based login script:

Additional information can be found here as well: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/302911/the-page-setup-settings-in-a-shared-workbook-are-different-for-each-us