Microsoft Simplifies File Format Fix
Microsoft Corp. changed course on an update to Office 2003 that blocked certain
older file types from opening, after receiving a flurry of criticism from users
and online publications.
Office 2003 Service Pack 3, a free package of updates and fixes released in
September, blocked users from opening files created by older versions of Word,
Excel and Power Point -- mostly programs launched in 1995 and earlier. The change
also kept users from opening some files made in Corel Corp.'s CorelDraw.
Microsoft said opening the legacy file formats poses a security risk, and shut
down easy access to the same older file types when it launched Office 2007.
For people who wanted to read the old files, the software maker built a workaround
into Office 2007 that lets them open files they have stashed in a specific folder.
But the software maker devised a more complicated workaround for Office 2003
SP3 that involved modifying a user's PC's registry -- a crucial directory of
settings the average computer user rarely deals with.
On Slashdot, a technology news and discussion site, more than 500 people logged
comments about the issue this week. Some railed against what they saw as a way
for the software maker to force people to spend money on new software, while
others complained that Microsoft's security explanation wasn't accurate.
Microsoft took heed, and Friday unveiled a simpler way for people to unblock
the older file types.
The new procedure -- which involves clicking on a series of links -- is detailed
on the blog of David LeBlanc, a senior software development engineer for Microsoft
"We did a poor job of describing the default format changes," LeBlanc
LeBlanc said Microsoft botched its explanation of the security issue. The code
that reads file formats is what might open a user's PC to hacker attacks, but
the file formats themselves don't pose a danger, as Microsoft had initially
Reed Shaffner, a product manager for Microsoft Office, said in an interview
that Microsoft believes the number of users impacted is "not that great,"
based on data reviewed by the company.
Shaffner emphasized that Microsoft never made it impossible for people to open
the older files, and said the company hasn't changed its stand on the possible
"Unless you need to work with these very old file types on a regular basis,
it's probably not a good idea to keep these file types unblocked for long periods
of time," he said.