When is a button not a button? In MS Word

A couple of days ago I bought MS Office 2010. Since then I have downloaded and opened several employment-related documents from the state of Wisconsin – an unlikley source of corrupted files. Anyway, when I opened them, a little yellow message bar would appear about the document saying, “Protected viewing… internet document… blah blah blah” followed by a button labeled “Enable Editing”.

The theory is that a downloaded document may be corrupted or infected and this “protected viewing” mode may prevent infections or some other problems. But I couldn’t enter any information into, say, a job application. The result of pressing the “Enable Editing” button was to crash the whole program, every single time no matter which document I attempted to edit. So today I ran out of patience fiddling with it and called MS tech support. I suppose I should feel lucky they talked to me at all, but they do at least offer a 90 day warranty after purchase.

I went through the whole explanation with “Nasir”, who ended up remotely taking over my computer to see the problem. And the problem turned out to be – the enable button supposedly isn’t a button. There is another link on that yellow menu bar for “more information” and if you click on that link it goes to another page with a nearly identical “enable editing” button (it’s a little larger). THAT button works fine. Anyway, then Nasir went into a “Trust Center” page, and switched off the protection functions for internet dowloaded documents.

I actually said to Nasir, “You mean that thing on the menu that looks like a button is not actually a button?” He said, “Yes, sir.” But he was wrong. It is indeed a button – it is the “Crash and Close MS Word” button. No word from Nasir why MS Word needs such a button. And his fix was stripping off whatever protection the program might have offered by the use of the “Protected Viewing” mode. I suppose I’m okay with it. I’m not in the habit if going to shady websites and downloading Word documents from them.

Well, there’s your problem. Why would you do such a thing, when you can get LibreOffice, which is free, standards compliant, and does not feature a “press here to crash” button?

I must have a magical version of word because I’ve been clicking that non-button for the entirety of my owning word 2010 and it’s always worked. I dunno what Nasir’s problem is but I think, surprise surprise, he actually knows jackshit about word.

Yeah, that button is supposed to work.
Nasir doesn’t know what he is doing.

I already had Oracle’s Open Office, which is another shareware program. The reason I got MS Office is that the state of WI recently changed the basic job application form/document. There’s a rather long (and not worth my time writing or your time reading) explanation of how and why this new program (a Word document) was giving Open Office fits, mostly related to compatibility of their tables, so I bought Word hoping to bypass those problems.

I think Nasir knew enough about the problem to hide it away from me rather than fixing it. I went into the call expecting that I’d have to uninstall it reinstall the program – that some file got corrupted. But Nasir claimed he could tell by looking at some file list in my control panel that the install was fine. My guess is that was a lie – that turning off the function was a much faster “fix” than uninstalling, reinstalling and testing the program afterwords.

Going against my inclinations and trying to be fair to Microsoft/Nasir: it’s possible that your install is fine, and the document is the culprit. It was already giving OpenOffice–which will usually open almost anything–trouble, and then it caused Word to crash when you tried to enable editing. Disabling the “protection” might have been the only way to make it work. Given that the document was from an official site may make it slightly less likely to be infected than if it came from some scuzzy, spammer-infested corner of the net, but it doesn’t reduce the odds of it being corrupted or created in some moronically broken fashion. (Quite the opposite, in my experience. Government document templates are often horrible.) Word should handle the resulting error gracefully, but it sounds like it’s failing in a weird enough way that the programmers could legitimately have missed setting up something to catch it.

Of course, if that’s the case, Nasir should have told you that. Maybe he’s just been screamed at by one too many customers whose precious documents have been corrupted, and has gotten gunshy. More likely, though, he’s evaluated on how quickly he gets you off the phone, so he took the quick and dirty route.

No, it’s not the documents. The table issue (related to some forms) is why I decided to buy Word, but the crashing problem was related to every single document I downloaded, including letter with no more complex formatting than margins, fonts, and page breaks.

Speaking of formatting… I’ll throw this question out in hopes one of you is reasonably expert in Word 2010. I have a table with 12 columns. I want the left-most column to be a certain width for some text to describe what should go in the 11 columns to the right. I want those 11 columns to be of equal width, using whatever space is left available after the left-most column width is set. I can’t see how to do this – “distribute columns evenly” seems to apply only when all columns are selected. And if I start with that and make a manual adjustment for the left column, I still have to make manual adjustments for all the remaining colums.

Actually, never mind on that formatting question. I just found the command to set a column width for whichever columns you have selected.