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 PostPost subject: Office 2003 Update Quietly Disables Older File Formats        Posted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 4:13 am 
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Office 2003 Update Quietly Zaps Older File Formats

While the updates may seem minor, unanticipated system changes can wreak havoc with complex business computing environments.


By Paul McDougall, InformationWeek
Jan. 2, 2008
URL: http://www.informationweek.com/story/sh ... =205207131



A recently released service pack for Microsoft's Office 2003 software suite renders inaccessible files saved in some older formats, including some previous versions of Microsoft Word, according to a support bulletin issued by the software maker.

The bulletin states that Microsoft Office 2003, Service Pack 3, blocks a number of file formats -- including Microsoft Word 97 for Windows and Microsoft Word 98 for Macintosh.

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.

While some of the updates that Microsoft issues may seem minor, unanticipated system changes can wreak havoc with complex business computing environments. A modification to one program can cascade through numerous other software components.

The support bulletin, published last month, indicates that the auto-blocking of older file formats is being done for security reasons and warns users that attempts to restore the old files "may increase your security risk."

Microsoft, however, does provide a detailed workaround for those who want to defeat Service Pack 3 for Word 2003's auto-blocking. But the workaround calls for users to modify their computers' registry settings -- a risky procedure that can render a PC unusable if not done correctly.

Some angry Office 2003 users report the service pack fails to warn that its installation could prevent access to the older files, according to blog posts on the issue.

Posters on the Slashdot technology blog, which first reported the problem, on Wednesday slammed Microsoft for releasing software that makes major system changes without warning users.

"I'm guessing it's about 'nudging' the few people still using old versions of the software to upgrade," wrote "Lucky Luke 58."

"You paid cash money for something to work a certain way, and it did, until your proprietary-vendor overlord makes up some crappy reason for removing the functionality," complained "Smitty One Each."

It's not the first time Microsoft has incurred the wrath of its more technically astute customers after making changes to their systems surreptitiously.

As recently as October, the company was forced to issue an apology after business users noticed that the Windows Server Update Services program was automatically installing a new search tool on PCs running the Windows XP operating system.


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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 8:25 am 
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Why on earth would any serious business use auto-update?

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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 11:24 am 
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We are being teached at school to NOT use auto-update but test the update first in a lab environment before applying the update.

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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 3:55 pm 
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Cool! I want to go to your school :P

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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 8:21 pm 
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Lame. I just dont update office (Home or school)


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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 5:31 am 
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Just another reason to stick to ODF.


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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 4:59 pm 
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I ran into a problem like this with Office 2007 a few days ago, I tried to open a very old file in Word and it just gave an error pointing me at a KB article saying if I wanted to open the file I had to start screwing around with my registry! (similar to the article posted here, but referring to Office 2007). It did strike me as slightly crazy at the time, but I just thought it was a 2007 thing, I didn't know they were updating older versions to do this too (I suppose it came in 2007 SP1 then, rather than being in 2007 from the start?).

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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 5:36 pm 
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Hmmmn. Well I guess I won't be updating Office any time soon...
*hugs copy of Office XP SP0*

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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2008 7:35 am 
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*smiles and cleans his Office 95 and Lotus SmartSuite 97 CDs*


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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2008 10:25 am 
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*looks for his Office 4.3 for Windows 3.x CD*


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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2008 11:54 am 
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I guess their reasoning is because some of the code in the converters for these old formats is ancient, and it hasn't been really well audited to check for holes where buffer overflows can occur. It's kinda a lazy way out of having to do a heap of work to make sure these functions are secure.

I'm surprised Microsoft didn't do this kind of thing earlier ... they're better than Macromedia: each version of Flash will only open/save to the current or the previous version's files. It's so aggravating when I need to save something from my copy of Flash 8 for someone with Flash MX, because it just can't be done. Without having another install of Flash 2004, so I have to save the document twice. Grrr, had to get that off my chest. </rant> :x

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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 1:26 pm 
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An answer of a Microsoft employee:
http://blogs.msdn.com/david_leblanc/archive/2008/01/04/office-sp3-and-file-formats.aspx

You'll even find needed registry changes to add back support for removed file formats (except Quattro and Lotus Notes, which should come later...)


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 PostPost subject:        Posted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 4:37 pm 
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I can understand them disabling them by default so that people opening dodgy attachments unaware of the risks aren't caught out by exploits in the old formats, but surely they could have made it easier to access such files when you need to than having to do quite a lot of work in the registry? eg having an option to re-enable them somewhere in the options window, even if they are automatically disabled again after opening one of them.

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