Microsoft Hiccups then Blinks

Posted on Wednesday 16 January 2008

Happy New Year!

Wow, it’s been almost a month since I last posted an article. Who would have thought that I would have been so busy…

There were a lot of good potential articles, unfortunately many of them have fallen through the fingers of my mind. There is however, one that has stood out…

For those who might not be aware, Microsoft released a major patch or service pack for Microsoft Office 2003. I was tipped off by several of my RSS feeds from several of the major computer magazine companies that there was a problem.

According to

“Also blocked are file formats found in some older versions of Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint, Lotus Notes, and Corel’s Quattro spreadsheet and Draw programs.”

As I knew quite a few people who had been using Windows and Microsoft office for a long and in some cases long, long time I thought it prudent to tip them off and advise them that they might want to turn off their automatic updates until things had been resolved. Either by Microsoft releasing a fix or by a third party developing something that would allow one to recover previously saved documents.

In our case, for example, we had hundreds of spreadsheets and word documents that we referred to and/or forwarded to others for information. All these could be affected and no longer viewable. I shudder the impact this would have on large offices where their archives would not longer be usable.

Some of the dialog, blogs, and news articles over the next few days were interesting, to say the least. One of the best comments was from a blog (unfortunately I didn’t mark it) which stated that Microsoft tried to take the easy way out and just lock out all older documents instead of actually fixing the code within the program itself. I unfortunately also came across a lot of other comments which basically told the user to “suck it up”, or “you shouldn’t expect to be able to keep older versions of documents.” Obviously none of these people must actually “use” their Microsoft Office except for the most minimal of uses…

A few days later a more specific description as to what was no longer accessible and why, surfaced…

By default, these file types are blocked because the parsing code that Office 2003 uses to open and save the file types is less secure. Therefore, opening and saving these file types may pose a risk to you.

Which kind of confirms that blog comment that I read before. Obviously it was easier for Microsoft to block everything that might take advantage of the bad coding within Office itself. Why they decided to do that, instead of actually fixing the code, one really has to wonder…

I then read another interesting posting (again my apologies for not being able to point to the source) that all the versions blocked were those used by “other” packages that exported or used Microsoft Office formats, with particular emphasis on Apple’s own Microsoft Office software! One has to ask whether that was a coincidence…. or not….

Every current Mac Word format blocked
Word 6.0 for Macintosh
Word 98 for Macintosh
Word 2001 for Macintosh
Word X for Macintosh
Word 2004 for MacintoshThat’s every Mac word format currently available. Plus, those formats are the ones exported from other apps when saving in .doc format.
Posted by: j.m.galvin Posted on: 01/04/08

By this time the media was starting to report issues and blogs were lighting up all over the place. Microsoft finally released a work-around for those who still wanted to access their previously created documents. It involved actually going into the Windows registry and doing a very risky manual editing of some of the registry values – not for the faint of heart…

Finally ZDnet reported that Microsoft blinked, begrudgingly…

January 6th, 2008

Microsoft restores Office 2003 users’ access to old file types

Posted by Mary Jo Foley @ 8:20 amMicrosoft, justifiably, has come under a lot of criticism for blocking Office 2003 users’ access to older file formats — even if it was in the name of security. But it looks like the public outcry did some good, as Microsoft has detailed options to allow users continue to access the old formats.

David LeBlanc, a Senior Developer with the Microsoft Office Trustworthy Computing Group, published to his personal blog on January 4 a number of links via which Office 2003 Service Pack (SP) 3 users can continue to use the older formats. LeBlanc pointed to the .reg files customers can use to change the security settings for the patched apps, as well as links restore the blocked Word, Excel, PowerPoint and CorelDraw file types. And on January 4, Microsoft updated the Knowledge Base article about these file types to reflect ways users can continue to access the older formats.

I really liked the ending of that article on how this latest decision by Microsoft may not put them in good position as they push for their newer Office Open XML (OOXML) file format to be accepted as an international open standard before the February ISO standards committe. It’s kind of hard to trust a “standard” that its creator can decide to drop support for whenever they wish…

Thankfully all is well that ends well, I guess… That being said I can pretty well guarantee that I will be called upon to rescue one or two people’s computer so that they can still access their “older” files. For those looking for solutions on how to fix it thereselves or to know more about the whole issue, please check out Microsoft’s own web page on the both the problem, their solution, and how you can still get access to your older files at

Until next time!

End Article

Please Add Your Comment. PLEASE NOTE: Your comments WILL be held until authorized by the webmaster.