Office v.X for Mac OS X Updates

Recently Microsoft posted the latest update to Office v.X for Mac, available on its Mactopia site. Not having checked for a while, I had missed a couple of updates in the interim. However, applying all of them rendered Office unusable on my machine. The workaround was elegant, and all is well again.

In the world of software, it's a generally recognized principle that one ought to apply software updates as they appear, even if no problems are perceived. This is particularly the case with software that has a security aspect to it, operating systems in particular. Microsoft Office also has a security aspect, and there are plenty of viruses that attempt to exploit its weaknesses. So applying patches automatically would seem to be reasonably called for.

At press time, the latest patch to Office v.X for Mac OS X is version 1.5, which presupposes the installation of earlier patches. It so happened that I had recently done a somewhat clean install of Mac OS X "Jaguar" on a particular machine, and was in the process of reinstalling several applications, including Microsoft Office. So I merely carried through and installed all of the available patches sequentially, without actually running the program (or even rebooting) in-between. No problem, until I started PowerPoint the first time. It crashed on take-off. So I tried Word instead. Same result. The message: "The application Word has unexpectedly quit."

It's times like these that I am glad I run OS X and not Mac OS, because in all likelihood the latter would have hopelessly crashed and required a reboot. Instead, under OS X I merely acknowledged the message and carried on.

However, no amount of wishing could start any component of the Office v.X suite, not Word, not PowerPoint, not Excel. So I did the natural thing. I searched the 'Net. Though I did not come up with the definitive solution, I did snap a screenshot of a humorous take (original here) on the exact problem. If nothing else, this confirmed for me that mine wasn't an isolated case. Being a bit of an experimentalist, I started with Finder in my Home folder. Microsoft Office has its preferences in a dedicated folder, so I listed them by date. One by one, I renamed them (effectively deleting them from Office' purview), starting from the most recent, then attempted to run an Office application after each pass. Sure enough, I hit paydirt on the second try.

Office preferences are located in Home/Library/Preferences/Microsoft. The guilty party was the file Carbon Registration Database. As you can see in the screenshot below, I merely renamed the file. Office rebuilt it automatically the next time I started an Office application. Sweet. My guess is that personal preferences are kept in the other preference files, and would not be affected by this change. In any case, until removing that file from the loop, for all practical purposes I did not have Office installed at all.

Simple Fix for Updated Office v.X in Home/Library/Preferences/Microsoft

While I'm at it, I'll mention one other tip about Office for Mac. The occasion of this particular encounter was the PowerPoint presentation alluded to earlier, which I had made several weeks ago. I had emailed it to someone who had requested it, and was now attempting to show it off to someone else. I opened the file on another operating system, and was horrified to discover that none of the embedded graphics showed up, only broken icons.

I had forgotten something I'd learned ages ago, that images get copied and pasted on a Mac in PICT format. That's fine for Mac-to-Mac viewing. It's not so fine across platforms. The solution is to change every graphic into a cross-platform standard such as GIF, JPG, or PNG. One tool immediately available for the job is Preview, whose power belies its quiet demeanor. Open the graphic in Preview, and File, Export to any format you like. For critical jobs, my favorite application for graphics manipulation is The GIMP (available from the GNU Mac OS X Archives and which runs under the X Window system; unix experience recommended), because it also provides a myriad of graphic formats together with professional editing capabilities.

There you have it: Office v.X for Mac OS X, a terrific combination. Enjoy.

Merry Christmas!