Office 2003 (Including the Clone Wars)

I feel dirty to admit to it, but we now have a nice, new, shiny case of Microsoft goodies sitting in our office, on my desk.

We've subscribed to Microsoft's Action Pack - it actually works out quite a good deal when you consider the prices of the constituent products. Hey, if you have to use something you don't like, you may as well do it as cheaply as possible. Anyhu, with the changes that come with upgrading systems and the such, we've been having fun.

Every geek knows the thrill and excitement of opening that new package from the vendor, tearing into it to see what goodies you have to play with. As most geeks also know, there often comes the disappointment of looking at what you've got, and what you should have got, and going "What the heck" (Yes, Tres, with the school desk and all...). What the heck, because we have 6 CDs of Windows XP Media Center instead of Professional, we don't actually have enough licences for all the software (we assume they know about this when we activate them) and seem to have 2 different sets of CDs for Office and Windows XP (a retail-ish looking set and a OEM-ish looking set). At least we found some XP Professional CDs.

So we're a little confused and muddled, but set about installing our new goodies on some new hardware. One reinstall of Office later (hmm... Maybe it isn't aware of the fact we have 2 keys for 10 installs) and it seems to be purring along nicely - we copy our old documents over and settle down to actually get some productive work done for a change.

This is when our problems start. You see, all of our old documents were saved in Word 2000. They are by no means fancy documents - they're generally legal documents and whilst exercising a fair suite of the formatting features, are what I would consider your stock standard office documents. Regardless of their apparently normality, or your expectation of backwards compliance, our new Word 2003 decides that some of them are corrupt and refuses to open them. Not all - just a few (irritatingly, the most urgent ones). MD5 sums say the files are good. Word 2000 opens them fine. Hell, OpenOffice opens them with (shock horror!) no major formatting errors! Uninstall Norton AV. Won't open. Check we've fully patched Windows and Office. Won't open. Check the sums again. Won't open. Format, reinstall. Won't open. Try to open in Word 2003 on one of those frisky virtual machines. Won't open.

Now in true, submissive geek fashion, I start thinking of ways we can get around the issue. Export with OO? Save as RTF? No. Andy's already on the phone to Microsoft support, and is determined to raise pulses hell.

I've never actually called Microsoft support before - it seems scary and pointless. The Microsoft tech-support urban legend doesn't exactly instill confidence in the service either. Andy, obviously unaware of this critical piece of modern literary history, made the call and was soon put in touch with our magical happy Internet friend, Michael. Strangely enough, between the several bouts of getting put on hold and abruptly sent to entirely new support staff we were able to explain our problem to a series of people called Michael, Michael and Michael. Uncanny coincidence? I think not!

The other strange bit was that not a single one was actually able to solve our problem, or, in fact, give us any information to help us. I just want to get off the phone and work out some nice hack-ish way to get our data to some usable format without having to endure their inane questions. But no, Andy is now on the war path and (literally) asks to speak to their supervisor, with a friendly recommendation of a steel helmet and flak jacket. I'm intrigued as to whether our good friend Mike actually put that one in the notes.

We finally get a call back from the supervisor, who explains that, Yes, this is a known issue (good work jackasses - I couldn't find anything in the Microsoft Knowledge Base) and yes, he will look into it. How nice of them.

More news at 10 after the late sport!

UPDATE, at 3:30pm

Our good supervisor friend called us back. It seems that Word, in it's infinite wisdom, notices the "corruption", knows what causes the corruption and (here comes the best bit) can even fix the corruption. However, it's far too difficult to add a "Fix Problems" button on the dialog saying "YOUR FILE IS CORRUPT OMFG".

So, the detailed procedure to open our corrupt files?

  1. Open New Word Document
  2. File -> Open
  3. Single click on the Document (this was spelt out quite clearly, several times)
  4. Click on the little arrow next to "Open"
  5. Select "Open and Repair" from the drop-down
  6. Watch in amazement as Word tells you what is wrong with your document, fixes them, and proceeds to give you some heartwarming and reassuring information about it.

So, that's our problem fixed. Now we're by no means Office gurus - if it isn't vim it's just not worth using - so our ignorance of this feature is somewhat excusable. However, the fact that we ended up with a supervisor solving our problem is worrying - why didn't the Michaels come up with that suggestion earlier? The fact this known issue isn't documented either (or documented on some impossible to find page, or worse - an internal Microsoft page) is terrible - I just hope there is going to be a hotfix or similar for this problem soon.

At least our documents work now... Until next time...