Though my suggestion was originally denied ;), based on your observations I was probably correct after all: your friend must have had a copy of Microsoft Office which has been virtualized with VMware ThinApp.
First, I verified that a copy of the regular
excel.exe would not work by themselves. I installed Office 2003 in a Windows XP VM, then copied them over to a different VM which had never had Office installed. Both applications failed to run.
Based on your comment that "there is
Thinstall\Office 2003 under
Application Data", it seems most likely that this is the explanation. Here is how you can check:
- Remove the directory
- Run the Office executable that your friend sent you
- Check back in
%APPDATA%\Thinstall\ and see if the Office 2003 folder has reappeared. If it has, the application is definitely using ThinApp.
We use a ThinApp-wrapped version of MATLAB at my university; it has to have a .dat file present with all of the program contents. Depending on the requirements of the application though, this may not be necessary, which appears to be the case with these office programs before.
Essentially, what ThinApp does is it virtualizes the entire directory structure and registry for the application. This allows for the application to be portable and to run without interfering with the system. ThinApp also supports network licensing, so if you have an application (like MATLAB in our case) that your organization has a finite number of licenses for, it can check in with the licensing server before launching the application, and only launch it if it successfully acquires a license.
That directory in
%APPDATA% contains the folders which ThinApp virtualizes for the application. Anything that would normally be in Word's
%APPDATA% folder, like personal settings, gets saved here instead. Because of this, no matter where you launch the executable from on your computer, the settings will be preserved on that machine. They do not get transfered with the packaged application itself however. This becomes relevant when trying to reset the settings for an application which is packed with ThinApp, as the usual method of deleting its folder in
%APPDATA%\Program Name doesn't work - you have to find its virtualized folder.