Sunday, December 10, 2006

Office 2003 Bug and Cool Feature

I know the rage is to be talking about our Office 2007 experiences, but I have not had the time to load it and get use to the new ribbon control, and find where Microsoft moved all the features. I am still using Office 2003. For the last few weeks I have been battling a bug on and off and last night I decided to see if I could find the fix. (I know - how exciting are my Saturday nights? {g})

The problem is annoying. Ever since I changed my login on my machine to my new domain all the office apps for the new user no longer have the most recently opened files on the File menu. Naturally I looked at the setting on the Tools | Options dialog to turn it on and bump up the number of files it shows to the maximum limit (nine - which is too small), but the checkbox is disabled! I looked all over the Help file and checked for some compatibility settings without any luck.

A Google search lead me to a Web site called, which sounds appropriate for this problem. The problem is documented for Office XP, but apparently the problem still exists in Office 2003 (and maybe even in Office 2007). The fix is simple as long as you are not afraid to mess with the Windows Registry. Here are the instructions I followed:
  • Run the Registry Editor (REGEDIT.EXE).
  • Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\ Microsoft\ Windows\ CurrentVersion\ Policies\ Explorer.
  • On the right side, delete the NoRecentDocsHistory value.
  • Close the Registry Editor when you're done; the change will take affect the next time you start any Office XP application.
I exported the key just in case it created side effects and deleted it from the Registry. Bingo, the option can be turned on again in the Options dialog and all is well again in the world of Microsoft Office.

I also found a feature to export your office settings so I can save a bunch of time when moving to a new machine or a new user on the same machine. Microsoft has a program included with Office 2003 called the Microsoft Office 2003 Save My Settings Wizard. I have been using Microsoft Office for more than 10 years, but this is new to me. I am positive it could have saved me hours of my life going through and setting all the options for Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Access, FrontPage, OneNote, and Publisher. The wizard has two modes, one to export the settings and one to import them. It creates a file on disk with the OPS extension. This file can be moved to the new machine or put in a common folder on the same machine for the other user to use. Brilliant.

If you are looking for this wizard you can find it on the Start Menu | Programs | Microsoft Office (where ever you have this) | Microsoft Office Tools | Microsoft Office 2003 Save My Settings Wizard. I obviously have not paid much attention to the tools menu, but this is one important little program and is not easily discoverable in my opinion. I think this should exposed on the Options dialog in each of the Office applications where people like me would see it and think to use it.

The MS Office Help file was not helpful at all in regards to discovering either the fix for the File menu or the settings wizard. In fact, I put "Microsoft Office 2003 Save My Settings Wizard" in the MS Word Help search and the first three topics returned are links to:
  • The Perfect PC Office Suite: Get Microsoft Office 2003 on a P4 2.6GHz system (Web content marketing slime)
  • Save an Office document as a TIFF file
  • What happened to the Office Shortcut Bar?
Nothing returned in the list was even close to being related to the wizard. Is it just me, or is the Office Help nearly useless to the average user?

I blogged these two recent findings here mostly to have them documented for myself in the future (they were also added to the White Light Computing Wiki for safe keeping), but also to share them with you in case either of them can save you a few moments of your life down the road.



At 12/12/2006 02:05:00 PM, Anonymous Mike Potjer said...

It probably *could* have saved me some time a while back, when I was configuring a newer workstation, but, alas, I was never aware of this utility either. Thanks for sharing this.


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