Microsoft admits we were draconian and fixes it


Did you see the flurry of interest in this issue with Office 2003 sp3? Essentially sp3 blocks certain *very* old file formats for security reasons and this understandably got some people annoyed.  The error which was not a bug was "You are attempting to open a file that was created in an earlier version of Microsoft Office. This file type is blocked from opening in this version by your registry policy setting"

I must confess I rather teflon’d this interview to Reed in the US who handled it really well.  Although we did have a reg hack to remove the block, it was pretty hard to implement.  In response to the feedback we’ve issued much simpler .reg file links to sort out the issue.

The post from the Register is a very nicely written and quite funny piece from Mark Whitehorn which is worth a read.  Here is a taster:

The word draconian seemed appropriate, so we used it with Reed Shaffner, Microsoft Office Worldwide Product Manager. Very disarmingly, he agreed.

“Yes, I agree, it was too draconian.” he said. We hate it when Product Managers do that.

Check out the official blog post from David Le Blanc on the rationale behind the decisions and the solution.  The comments are long but deeply get into the issues if you have time.  I think David does a great job of handling the slashdotters politely.  I particularly liked this part of one of his comments:

please try to be polite in public. Your main point of "why didn’t you just fix the older parsers?" didn’t need expletives to get the point across. You’re speaking to a person here. It’s also in your self-interest – employers do use web searches to help make hiring decisions. Wag more. Bark less

Comments (4)

  1. asilonline says:

    very good

  2. agitprop says:

    This is a farce.  The reg hack was actually *wrong* (DWORD of 1 for FileOpenBlock > BinaryFiles; should have been 0.  The "fix" blocked all files!), and missing a critical DWORD (FilesBeforeVersion = 0).  

    I understand the reason, and it makes sense from a litigation perspective (unless this was a jab at lawyers on fishing expeditions), but end users *expect* old files to be converted forward.  A warning message on file open would have made much more sense.

  3. agitprop says:

    This is a farce.  The reg hack was actually *wrong* (DWORD of 1 for FileOpenBlock > BinaryFiles; should have been 0.  The "fix" blocked all files!), and missing a critical DWORD (FilesBeforeVersion = 0).  

    I understand the reason, and it makes sense from a litigation perspective (unless this was a jab at lawyers on fishing expeditions), but end users *expect* old files to be converted forward.  A warning message on file open would have made much more sense.

  4. Roger Daniels says:

    # re: Microsoft admits we were draconian and fixes it

    Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008 7:06 PM by ordinary customer.

    Dear Microsoft:  Many of your users are expert in their own sphere and use Office and other Microsoft  Products for productivity and confident convenience.  They do not wish to be expert computer technicians.  You really disserve us all when our older files do not seamlessly open in  Office 2003  with sp3.  A simple advisory in open language would have provided the note of caution before opening such old files.  Instead, your profound thoughtlessness in this instance contributed to my wasting hours of prime time while seeking your arcane solution.   Superb Executive Foresight in further promoting our trust in your updates and products!  As a stockholder, I am disgusted.