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By | Rik Myslewski 31st July 2009 17:58

Microsoft 'update' breaks Office for Mac

Can't open PC-created files

Microsoft's recently released Service Pack 2 for Office 2008 for Mac makes it impossible for many users to open Office files created on PCs.

The "update" - Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Service Pack 2 (12.2.0) - was released last Monday. In its release notes, Microsoft promised that it would "improve stability, reliability, and performance." It also includes a new app called Microsoft Document Connection to aid in working with files on a SharePoint site or in a Microsoft Office Live Workspace.

Unfortunately, what the release notes don't say is that Service Pack 2 also makes it impossible for many Office 2008 for Mac users to open some Word (.docx), Excel (.xlsx), and PowerPoint (.pptx) files created by PCs running Office 2007 for Windows and saving into the Open XML format.

You'll notice that we said "many" users and "some" files. Not all users who have installed the service pack are affected, and not all files are problematic. Ah, intermittency - the bane of poor, overworked support-desk personnel.

Microsoft is aware of the problem and has published a "Help and How-To" page that outlines some suggested fixes. "Fixes," however, is overstated. Most of Microsoft's suggestions involve using an earlier version of Office to create and save files, reverting to a previous update level (12.1.9 was the most recent version) or reinstalling Office 2008 for Mac from scratch and not updating to Service Pack 2.

The same help page also says that Microsoft will release an update to fix the problem "in August." Exactly when in August, however, is not mentioned.

Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU) is a tiny division, with employees that number in the mid-200s - an infinitesimal fraction of Microsoft's vast army. Still, after the MacBU's recent problems with Office update 12.1.7, it's not unreasonable to suggest that they should have taken special care to muster the resources needed to fully test Service Pack 2 before they released it into the wild.

Fans of OpenOffice, Google Docs, and other alternatives are going to be hard to live with today for users of Office 2008 for Mac. ®

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