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Office 2003 Service Pack Disables Older File Formats

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the always-so-helpful dept.

Microsoft 555

time961 writes "In Service Pack 3 for Office 2003, Microsoft disabled support for many older file formats. If you have old Word, Excel, 1-2-3, Quattro, or Corel Draw documents, watch out! They did this because the old formats are 'less secure', which actually makes some sense, but only if you got the files from some untrustworthy source. Naturally, they did this by default, and then documented a mind-bogglingly complex workaround (KB 938810) rather than providing a user interface for adjusting it, or even a set of awkward 'Do you really want to do this?' dialog boxes to click through. And of course because these are, after all, old file formats ... many users will encounter the problem only months or years after the software change, while groping around in dusty and now-inaccessible archives."

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maybe grepping (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879622)

many users will encounter the problem only months or years after the software change, while groping around in dusty and now-inaccessible archives.

Is that how one interfaces with rarely-used document archives? via groping?

Re:maybe grepping (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21879742)

Oh the joy and expense of unlocking your intellectual property from someone else's intellectual property when the owner of the file format decides to abandon it.

Groping through annals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21879838)

Just be careful with your groping. I once had a friend who went rummaging through others' dusty annals -- all he found were some leftover carets next to a few shitty colons and bloody periods.

Re:maybe grepping (5, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879840)

Is that how one interfaces with rarely-used document archives? via groping?

Bender: If by "interface" you mean "have sex with" and if by "rarely-used document archive" you mean "your girlfriend", then yes, "groping" is the correct term. As follows:

Hey baby, can I interface with your rarely-used document interface?
Later, want to kill all humans?

Re:maybe grepping (3, Funny)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880054)

Is that how one interfaces with rarely-used document archives? via groping?

That's assuming they date back to the Clinton admistration. In California this approach will be required for current documents.

haha (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21879626)

look at josh's penis!

blah (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21879628)

maybe now the world will wakeup and ditch ms office for better alternatives

Default value goes back pretty far (4, Insightful)

compumike (454538) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879638)

If you read the knowledge base article, you'll see that the default allowed old-version goes back to before even Word 95. PowerPoint 95, but not 97, is blocked. It's very likely that few documents exist in such old formats at this point.

However, I really have to question whether the enhanced security is worth it, since those old versions didn't allow too much of embedded scripting anyway. Are we just worried about buffer overflows, because those are still a symptom of their parser, not the format itself.

The software nanny continues to keep us from hurting ourselves... gee, thanks. (Hmm, anyone smell a similar trend in government lately?)

--
Educational microcontroller kits for the digital generation. [nerdkits.com]

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (5, Insightful)

LuckyLuke58 (207964) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879732)

Doubt it's really about security at all; I'm guessing it's probably more about 'nudging' the few people still using old versions of the software to upgrade: Those who currently exchange documents with users on newer versions will find suddenly they won't be able to send documents to anyone anymore without getting complaints that people can't open them. Deliberately making it too cumbersome and complex for most people to ever work around this, i.e. leaving it technically (but not really practically for almost everyone) an option, for now at least gives MS an excuse, while still taking a big step towards getting rid of support for those old formats entirely, which is not all that unreasonable I suppose for formats greater than 10 years old.

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (2, Informative)

deniable (76198) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879778)

That already happened with Word '97. Big companies changed and everyone else had to follow. Microsoft caught a lot of heat and stopped making major format changes on every version. This patch blocks stuff from before '97, so I don't think there are too many people swapping documents around that will be affected. It will screw people who are digging out old copies of documents though.

Given that they are trying to push new formats with 2007, I can see the upgrade treadmill being driven from there. docx, anyone?

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (4, Insightful)

Helldesk Hound (981604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879884)

> Deliberately making it too cumbersome and complex for most people to ever
> work around this, i.e. leaving it technically (but not really practically
> for almost everyone) an option, for now at least gives MS an excuse, while
> still taking a big step towards getting rid of support for those old formats
> entirely, which is not all that unreasonable I suppose for formats greater
> than 10 years old.

Let's not forget - what is being supported is *software*, ie M$ Office, not a file format.

The current iteration of Micro$oft Office should be capable of opening any and all files created by any prior release of M$ Office, and should be capable of doing so in a safe and secure manner.

If the current iteration of Micro$oft Office is incapable of safely and securely parsing any file created by any prior iteration of M$ Office then surely something is very wrong with Microsoft, and with M$ Office!!

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21880068)

I can just picture you chuckling with glee about your brilliant deduction that something might be wrong with Microsoft (that's an s by the way, you seem to have accidentally used a dollar character)

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879896)

No one sane is using office 95. If I recall, there are some nasty hacks in windows written to accomidate brain dead office quirks. They were discovered when some one releases part of the windows source code a while back. I think it was doing something on the order of freeing a null pointer on start up or some such silly nonsense. I'd be willing to bet that the current parsing engine that does crazy stuff like "provideblockspacingaroundpictureslikeword95" still has to do some unsafe things. Rather rewriting the parsing of old documents, I'm sure it would have been easier to no disclose the vulnerabilities and drop support.

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879942)

big step towards getting rid of support for those old formats entirely

Support should be nearly non-existence because the translation code should already be written. I don't see any reason it would have to be changed. Can anybody think of a reason? I can understand ending the ability to "save as" an old format because one has to figure out if and how to translate new features to old formats, but this is not an issue to open, read, and convert an old format.
       

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (4, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880018)

It is unreasonable, and stupid to boot.

Unreasonable:
Most students, business and personal users don't wish to be unable to open their 10 year old document because it's no longer supported. Students want to be able to access old study notes, businesses want to get at statistics, company history and old documentation of systems or business practices, and the end user wants to be able to open that wedding speech they wrote 10 years ago, or that collection of jokes in an MS word doc.

Stupid:
Why do people buy Office instead of using something free? For the 3000 features? No, at least most don't. They buy Office for universal compatibility s that they can exchange documents with everyone. The moment users start complaining that they can't open the MS Office document with Office, but it's okay you can use a free alternative, people will start installing the free alternative. They're not forcing anyone to move up to a later maintained version, they're forcing people away to software that actually does the job they want it to.

Only fools and company sock puppets (sales and marketing) actually believe obsolescence is reasonable, particularly when it comes to data.

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (2, Funny)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880090)

Most students, business and personal users don't wish to be unable to open their 10 year old document because it's no longer supported. Students want to be able to access old study notes

If a student has been held back that long, the old notes are probably not going to help!

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21880100)

which is not all that unreasonable I suppose for formats greater than 10 years old.

There are those that are not caught in the upgrade treadmill and would prefer their office suites to be Clippy-free, thankyouverymuch.

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21879762)

PowerPoint 95, but not 97, is blocked. It's very likely that few documents exist in such old formats at this point.


When I worked in government, I found that people argued (with a lot of money at stake) over the wording of property ownership documents over a hundred years old. Whenever I hear people say something like this, I hope they're not in charge of anything lasting.

Of course, I wish our nation's military was not run on Powerpoint, but the reality is that much of our military activity (by far the largest department in government) is only documented in Powerpoint.

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (2, Interesting)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879982)

Me, I'm just hoping nothing important is stored in PowerPoint documents.

But I do know a guy (now retired) who wrote reports with photographs in them by dragging in big unresized jpegs and tiffs to PowerPoint slides, then dragging the Powerpoint slides into Word documents. Thankfully after he retired I have mostly turned all those monsters (why should a 27 page report be 45MB???) into PDF files so the point in my case is moot.

I truly do hope that ownership documents that need to survive over 100 years are not stored in any format that Microsoft touches.

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (5, Insightful)

RickRussellTX (755670) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879824)

It's very likely that few documents exist in such old formats at this point.

I can only speculate that you've not worked in any institutions that have persisted for more than 10 years?

I used to run a university help desk; by the time I left in late 2006 we were still getting requests to convert 5.25" floppies and DOS Wordperfect 4 documents.

The situation is complicated by many other issues:

  • There is no easy way to identify the files that need conversion. Microsoft gives you no tool or flag to quickly identify old files, which share the same filename conventions as current files. Except of course to open them in Office 2K3SP3 and watch them fail :-(
  • Although bulk conversion tools exist, they cost money and they won't reach files that are secured in such a way that IT support staff can't get at them (e.g., on a CD-ROM in a locked filing cabinet).
  • Because a ridiculously complicated registry hack is required to enable the converters for the old documents, there's no easy way to apply it, for example as an Active Directory group policy. We're left with error-prone methods like push tools & login scripts.

Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with the "file formats". A file format is not insecure. The issue is that Microsoft is shipping insecure code in Office 2007 and 2003 which may break when these files are opened and allow malicious executable code to run in the user's security context. Rather than fix this insecure code in a shipping product, their policy is to turn off the code and tell the user, "if you want to take the risk, turn it back on, but we won't make it easy."

I work at an organization that has been grappling with this problem since SP3 came out in September 2007. We routinely work on projects that span 15 years, so it's not at all unusual to open project documentation that is 10+ years old. Companies were loyal to MS Office precisely because it promised reasonably complete forward compatibility with archived documents. Microsoft needs to provide a more robust solution to this problem, preferably by fixing the broken code (gasp!) or (less preferably) giving system administrators the tools necessary to enable and disable the functionality in a more global way.

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (5, Interesting)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880136)

Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with the "file formats". A file format is not insecure. The issue is that Microsoft is shipping insecure code in Office 2007 and 2003 which may break when these files are opened and allow malicious executable code to run in the user's security context. Rather than fix this insecure code in a shipping product, their policy is to turn off the code and tell the user, "if you want to take the risk, turn it back on, but we won't make it easy."


Thank you!!! Sanest comment I've seen in a long time.

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (5, Insightful)

dokebi (624663) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879826)

It's very likely that few documents exist in such old formats at this point.

Really? How about the US government? NASA anyone?

Why should anyone stop supporting old document formats? Are the files created a long ago no longer important? How about 100 year old books? Should we burn them all?

We should stop this file format insanity now, and adopt some open format. Like ODF. Good riddance.

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (1)

elronxenu (117773) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879862)

I expect many documents still exist in those old formats.

If 'security' is really the reason for dropping support that's pretty shameful; instead they should be supporting a safe subset of the document format so old documents can be imported safely.

This is just one more step in the process as predicted by many folks - old documents can't be read because they require obsolete software to work, which runs on obsolete Windows versions, which runs only on obsolete computers. The roots of the problem are that the document formats are proprietary and secret - and Microsoft requires obsolescence to keep people buying Windows.

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879904)

However, I really have to question whether the enhanced security is worth it, since those old versions didn't allow too much of embedded scripting anyway.

If you have to read an old document then you have to read it. At least give the user a choice with a skull-and-bones warning message first. Let the user decide if they want to take the risk. It's just Microsoft trying to force people to pay for upgrades every few years instead of using old versions. Security is just a ruse.

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (1)

grcumb (781340) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879906)

If you read the knowledge base article, you'll see that the default allowed old-version goes back to before even Word 95. PowerPoint 95, but not 97, is blocked. It's very likely that few documents exist in such old formats at this point.

I don't know about you, but all of my documents from University are in WordPerfect 5.x format, and many of the things I wrote in my earlier years were saved as Ami Pro. In general terms, it should neither be desirable nor necessary to update all of one's archival materials at the whim of the software maker.

While I can understand the danger of storing things in binary, word processing document formats are - or should be - especially easy to support for decades if not longer.

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (1)

Deathlizard (115856) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879968)

Back in September when we adopted Office 2007 where I work, I was concerned that this would be a big problem, since office 2007 does the same thing and 2003 SP3 just adds that functionality to 2003.

After 3 months, I can say that we ran into this problem 1 time. That's pretty good considering that many of the college professors have documents dating back over 10-15 years. In fact this particular professor wanted to open this DOS Word 3 document to re-import it into a newer document he already had that he accidentally deleted some the original text from.

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880066)

didn't allow too much of embedded scripting anyway.

It is not about scripting. It is about buffer overruns in the parser. Want to audit 15 years old code and bring it to the current state of the art standard for stack and especially heap overflow? I don't.

One time when I cannot really blame them

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (1)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880146)

Oh come on off it. That's no excuse, and they should have ways of auditing their code to detect this sort of thing. They are the world's largest software company after all.

The solution, of course, is to install OpenOffice.org to open this sort of document. Best way of getting OOo on the desktop of ordinary users I've ever seen. Thank You Microsoft!

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (4, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880104)

Word 95. PowerPoint 95, but not 97, is blocked. It's very likely that few documents exist in such old formats at this point.

I occasionally load in data tapes from as far back as 1982. Reports related to the data will be in whatever file format is popular at the time, which will be MS Word and MS Excel from the early 1990s on. Since computing power is so cheap now a lot of stuff in a lot of feilds gets reprocessed, old data is a lot more useful than repeating 10 years worth of experiments again or sending 50 guys out to survey an area for two months or even trying to examine something that doesn't exist anymore. Old file formats like TIFF, SEGD, tar and so on are deliberately backwards compatible so that archiving is more than just an expensive hobby. Since Microsoft have moved out of the hobby software space and into the office they should realise that they have to take a professional approach throughout the company to avoid mistakes like this.

Re:Default value goes back pretty far (1)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880114)

Pah. Just use OpenOffice.org already.

Not really that bad (2, Informative)

ZeroPly (881915) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879640)

I don't know if I'd characterize it as "mind-bogglingly complex". It's a series of registry edits. There will probably be appropriate .REG files released by various parties in the next few days, and if you're paranoid, it should take about 15 minutes to roll your own. As for users in non-managed environments, I don't know how many home users really try to access files that are over a decade old.

Re:Not really that bad (2, Interesting)

deniable (76198) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879718)

There's already an ADM file for group policy in the linked KB article. If you're using group policy, it's a five minute job for the whole domain.

Re:Not really that bad (1)

The Anarchist Avenge (1004563) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879734)

Ahhhh.... in the last year I've twice transferred documents from Windows 95-era computers to new machines running XP and vista. Both of them had files that easily dated back to 1997 if not earlier. There's a lot of legacy shit out there that people still use, and if it suddenly stops working for the home users, without an explanation, that's just a stupid idea.

Re:Not really that bad (1)

izomiac (815208) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879784)

Home users having documents over a decade old probably isn't too uncommon. I'm 22 and I know that I have a few documents from my grade school days that are probably in one of these formats (I'll probably convert them to rtf now). The question is more, are most people who've used Windows for more than ten years comfortable making registry edits? (I don't know which to doubt more, human intelligence or historic Windows reliability...)

comfortable making registry edits? (1)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879800)

when asking many of them to simply save as rtf is way more than they can handle without hand-holding, even the second or third time around?

I smell the smell of a new "service" in the works -- convert your old documents to the new formats "safely".

You're a youngster (1)

IvyKing (732111) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880058)

I've got a legitimate datestamp on one file on my computer that is at least as old as you are and some files (fortunately ASCII text) that were written before you were born (dates were reset when migrating from my first machine to my second).


People who wrote stuff in TeX before you were born will have an easier time of reading and editing their documents than someone with an early version of Word for Windows.

Re:Not really that bad (1)

whitehatlurker (867714) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879932)

if you're paranoid

If I were paranoid, I'd not be using Microsoft Office.

O RLY (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21879642)

GNAA was here

Just Disabled, Not Removed (2, Informative)

tajmorton (806296) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879644)

According to TFA, you still can open and save the files (Word 95 and older, and other ancient formats), you need to edit the registry to enable the formats.

Re:Just Disabled, Not Removed (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879812)

Because we know Microsoft's target market loves to run 'regedit'

Re:Just Disabled, Not Removed (1)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879994)

Where I work, the IT staff, until recently, had people trained to open and install virus definition files that were sent as email attachments **. And I mean email attachments sent on a crummy Microsoft Exchange system.

It's unbelievable how naive IT people in small/medium companies can be.

It isn't surprising that there are probably companies that will now distribute some *.reg files in email for people to click on.

(** once people are trained that way, what happens when someone spoofs an email with malware attached?)

More bashing? (1)

CriminalNerd (882826) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879656)

Hmm, usually, Microsoft stories are the foundation for countless counts of M$ bashing, but I wonder if this story will gain as much M$ bashing as the other stories. From what I could see, this is one of those circumstances that have no real "right" answer that'll make you feel good. At least there IS an official, documented workaround as opposed to the inbound TCP connection limit that came with XP SP2.

Sure there is a right answer -- (2, Insightful)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879850)

Bill Gates has how many billions of dollars?

(Can he fire the Ballmer?)

Gates could afford to build a special fork of one of the Linux or BSD distros. (Linux would require less work, but he may find the BSD licensing more palatable, as we know.) He could afford to develop several sandboxed WINE environments capable of emulating the clot of software relevant to each OS release from 3 to whatever level of support he is dropping. He could afford to put into the packages for this special fork open source converters that would convert old documents to whatever is current at Microsoft (since he is not likely to be willing to convert to the more logical option). And, as a bonus, he could even provide software to check the sandbox for damage and report and repair it. (Actually, the repairing would not really just a bonus.)

Why doesn't he do it?

Dang, and why doesn't Apple make MOL an official product? Or even MOM?

Re:Sure there is a right answer -- (1)

Alexx K (1167919) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879916)

Why doesn't he do it?

This is Microsoft we're talking about here. Richard Stallman would buy Office 2007 before MS did something like that. Even independently, Bill Gates would not do something like that. It would cause too much damage to Microsoft's public image.

Re:Sure there is a right answer -- (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880038)

damage to Microsoft's public image.

That's like worrying about tracking mud into a pig sty.

Re:Sure there is a right answer -- (1)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880102)

Do you really think that the public, that average people buying computers, that business and government agencies care who actually wrote the kernel? Hell, do you think they could even grasp the concept of what a kernel is? Now granted there would be a collective geek orgasm "gotcha!" moment on sites like slashdot et al but what we do here does not reach normal people, nor could most people even understand it if you attempted to explain the gravity and ramifications of such an event were it to happen. This would not be a PR problem for Microsoft. It has more to do with their own hubris than anything.

If they could get old hardware to work, if all the software still ran, if the computer still downloaded porn like always, I think the masses aren't going to notice they're now technically running a variant of Unix.

A chance for alternatives (2, Insightful)

cygtoad (619016) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879660)

The minute a user tries to open these retired formats and cannot is the minute they start looking for another solution to open their files. This will help the install base of a lot of alternatives, which may have some staying power once installed. Programs like Abiword, OO.org and Gnumeric are all waiting in the wings.

Re:A chance for alternatives (1)

G Fab (1142219) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879710)

Open Office opens all these files? I guess it does; I haven't used it for a long time.

IF so, this makes Open Office a lot more valuable to an MS Office user.

MS is doing this on purpose, to harm competitors. I guess I sound paranoid, but it's just the way MS fights. I am so inclined to favor a successful American business that has made a few nice innovations, but MS will fight with these judo moves that help them slightly and make life a bit more frustrating for their consumers. Dos and windows TOOK OFF because they worked with a zillion things. Anything you wanted there was a version made for an MS PC. Not any longer. Now media player, search functions, office applications are built in ways that incorporate too closely with the operating system.

MS is reaching too far. If they pulled back and made a great OS that was easy to make aps for, I think they'd do fine. The best solution is to break MS up into an OFfice suite company, an OS company, and a electronics company Zune, xbox, keyboards. I think all three would produce better products as a result.

Conflicting Strategies? (5, Insightful)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879752)

Wasn't "bakward compatibility" the whole crusade they were on last year? "We must preserve support for old formats, which is why we won't make IE standards compliant, and our spec has to back-support IndentsLikeWord95" and the rest?

Their sneaky brand of evil is saying two conflicting things and making us believe they work together.

Re: Conflicting Strategies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21879834)

Preserving backwards compatibility, and nudging people to use newer formats, are not mutually exclusive.

Re: Conflicting Strategies? (1)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880024)

I doubt that it's Microsoft being 'sneaky' in this instance. They're just being your basic big incompetent Monolith. Sure, there's a wild contradiction in their 'support for old formats' argument being used both ways, and it's deplorable.

I just wouldn't give Microsoft credit for being competent enough to 'plot' something like this out. There are ugly mean operators within the company who would pull shit like that in a heartbeat if they could. Thankfully Microsoft isn't that capable of an outfit.

Re: Conflicting Strategies? (1)

G Fab (1142219) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880094)

I don't know about that.

It would have been much easier to just add in a little "This is a low security file format, are you sure it is safe?" window instead of turning off teh entire functionality.

That's huge. I might use an old computer with old file formats, but MS won't let my work transfer to my new computer now if I update. That's freaking unacceptable. Office is supposed to aid my productivity, not look extremely pretty and make life miserable. There's a reason I uninstalled office 2007 and went back to 2003. I need to be able to work on several different systems. I need commonality to be effective.

Same reason I didn't buy that BMW I test drove a year ago. It had an awesome idrive thing, but it's too unlike other cars, and I'm getting older and don't want to relearn all this BS. I like buttons (the dealer went on about how the idrive took 200 buttons and reduced it to one button). The best way isn't always strictly the best way. Gotta have some damn sense. BMWs are ugly now anyway.

Office beat Word Perfect and others because it simply was the best product out there. MS makes the very best, and when they dominate, they don't anymore. They fight so hard when they need to, but when they don't they actually take steps that make their products less useful.

Like you say, a lot of that is monolithic corporate confusion. But this isn't. MS just made me need to either upgrade my old shit or avoid this update. Some people, I guarantee you, will buy new software thanks to this inconvenience and MS's subtle attack on their security (mildly stated: if you open attachments from strangers, you require a different level of security than I).

MS just made probably 1 million dollars. They let me turn off my firewall, that's an option. They let me delete boot.ini, that's an option too. They do not let me use the compatibility with old software they already programmed in to my office suite. Not an option. For security. I call shenanigans.

Re:A chance for alternatives (1)

Tom9729 (1134127) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879814)

I don't know why this got modded insightful.

If you even took a quick glance at TFA, you'd know that this only disables _saving_ in the old formats, one can still open them just fine.

But hey, this is Slashdot.

Re:A chance for alternatives (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879868)

If you even took a quick glance at TFA, you'd know that this only disables _saving_ in the old formats, one can still open them just fine. ...and if you take a slightly longer glance, you may realize that you're wrong. In particular, it will block the older PowerPoint files from being opened.

Re:A chance for alternatives (1)

Le T800 (1137303) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880020)

And apparently you didn't even read the article at all. Anyway, what really confuse me is that part:

"After you install Office 2003 SP3, some Microsoft Office Excel 2003, Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003, Microsoft Office Word 2003, and Corel Draw (.cdr) file formats are blocked."

We are proud to announce that Office 2003 is 100% secure now: it's not able to open or save anything now !

Just kidding, but hey, this is Microsoft.

Re:A chance for alternatives (1)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879926)

The minute a user tries to open these retired formats
Retired? Says who?

If someone is still using a format, it's alive. May not be popular, but that's another issue.

sucks to be you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21879674)

Things like this make me glad I don't use any of their software.

hmmm (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879690)

I bet they'll do the same thing down the line if OOXML ever gets the ISO stamp of approval. let this be a warning to you, with MS your files are accessible for however long they decide they should be, with FOSS, they're accessible as long as anyone is alive capable of re-compiling the source.

Re:hmmm (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879754)

or, in this case, if one were to use any office program, such as OpenOffice, to read the old formats.

Re:hmmm (3, Insightful)

statemachine (840641) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879790)

with MS your files are accessible for however long they decide they should be, with FOSS, they're accessible as long as anyone is alive capable of re-compiling the source.

This is the point that people miss. All of the documents that were archived in the older formats will no longer be openable -- in this case, there is an arcane incantation as a workaround, but what if MSFT removes support entirely so that an authoritative document conversion is no longer possible? With open source, the method is obtainable. With closed source, it may be deleted when the company no longer supports it or closes its doors.

There are many cities/states/countries that rely on MSFT formats for document archival. Should a city keep spending money every 5-10 years to also update the formats on all of these records in case the necessary closed-source software ceases to exist or work on modern computers?

Uh, you do know it's XML, right? (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880112)

Umm, you do know it's XML, right? Now while admittedly I don't "hate" MS as such, I'm no great fan either and this story does make me a bit disgusted. But if you're telling me you're affraid you can't get your data out of XML down the road, and out of a documented XML format at that, no offense, but I hope you're not having anything to do with programming or management.

I mean, FFS, repeat after me: it's XML. You can write an XSLT to convert it to another XML format (or to HTML or plain text.) You can pipe it through FOP to PDF/RTF/SVG/whatever. You can even do it the hardcore way: parse it through Xerces/Crimson/whatever-XML-library and get your data via a C++ or Java program out of there. Or if you're old school, you can write your own script to get the text from between the XML tags. Etc.

The reason we bash closed formats is because reverse-engineering a format that's (A) _binary_ and (B) _undocumented_ is a pain in the rear. A format that's XML and documented for an ISO standard, is trivial to get your data out of. Maybe you won't get the font just right because, as some complaints about the documentation went, it's described as "works like the Word 97 option". But you _will_ get your data out of it.

Basically, much as bashing MS is popular, and sometimes even I'll join in the chorus, methinks more people should know when to stop. If you're complaining about proprietary XML, that's documented to boot, maybe you should have hit the brakes earlier.

That's why (1, Funny)

Smordnys s'regrepsA (1160895) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879716)

I only use software I coded myself, of hardware I've built myself, out of metals I've mined and smelted myself, etc...


Well, thank god we're all so worried about security! Now those "unsecure" files as so secure, not even the author can read them!

Well (2, Insightful)

Alexx K (1167919) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879738)

If you have documents that old, and they don't need to be edited in the future, you should probably convert them to PDF.

If they may need to be edited in the future, perhaps LaTeX or ODF would be good choices.

Great solution, except for Excel and Access (1)

DamnStupidElf (649844) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879888)

Not to mention applications like Visio or Publisher whose entire point is being able to modify and reuse the things created with them.

The *real* problem with every Microsoft file format is that it's a cheap wrapper around the data structures used internally by the application that created it. No abstraction, no official standard, and no concept of future or backward compatibility.

Re:Well (2, Insightful)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879988)

"you should probably convert them to PDF." Hmm, go tell that to a lawyer with 50,000 old files of which half are older than 20 years, nevermind 10...

Re:Well (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879992)

Disk space is cheap, so I'd probably make PDFs and ODFs, and store them along with the original proprietary format in a zip file.

Revenge (5, Funny)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879740)

I am the maintainer of Visicalc. This means war.

Think Visicalc 26 service pack 3 is going to import Multiplan files?

Think again, bitches.

Easy fix (5, Informative)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879750)

An easy work-around is to just install Open Office and then open the obsolete files using the appropriate Open Office program (Writer for Word documents, Calc for Excel spreadsheets, etc.). The user can then do a "save as" and select a newer Microsoft file format. Voila. Problem solved.

Microsoft probably won't like this work-around since a certain percentage of users may realize that they don't need to pay Microsoft for programs that don't do what they want and they can get a suite of programs that does what they want for free. Realizing this, Microsoft may decide to come up with a better internal solution but don't count on it.

Cheers,
Dave

Re:Easy fix (1)

Alexx K (1167919) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879794)

That's a great idea, except OpenOffice has trouble opening/saving Microsoft's binary file formats.

Re:Easy fix (2, Informative)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879864)

I haven't had too much trouble. I've been running Linux and Open Office exclusively for several years and, at worst, I see some minor formatting issues when I open a file created with "the real thing" Microsoft product. Likewise, I sometimes see similar minor formatting issues when I save a file from OO in a Microsoft file format.

It wouldn't surprise me if some more complicated documents or say an Excel spreadsheet with macros had problems but OO has gotten pretty good at opening and saving Microsoft file formats. This is especially true for older file formats. The longer the file format is in use, the longer OO developers have had to debug their reverse engineering of the format.

Also, if someone hasn't opened a file for "a while" chances are they just need to see it; not update it (e.g., What was the actual sales forecast for Q3 2002? What price was quoted back when? That sort of thing). At worst there would be other options like cut and paste, save as text, save as comma delimited, etc. I'd hate to see a bunch of people having to make registry changes.

Cheers,
Dave

Re:Easy fix (1)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880050)

You probably haven't tried to open a Word document that has a PowerPoint slide pasted into it where the PowerPoint slide has a table from Excel pasted into it.

That's the kind of big swirly mess that Middle Management was created to insure exists within many organization.

Re:Easy fix (1)

uglyduckling (103926) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880160)

Yeah, but people who use/create that kind of file deserve what they get. It most likely won't open correctly except on the exact version of MS Office (including Service Packs) that it was created on (i.e. other versions of MS Office will struggle just as much as OO.org) and it probably won't print correctly on some printers or convert to PDF cleanly either.

Re:Easy fix (1)

civilizedINTENSITY (45686) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879978)

Actually OpenOffice did a better job on old MS Word documents than MS Word did. At my old univ the physics dept kept OpenOffice around for just that purpose.

this may not be such a bad thing (2, Interesting)

macurmudgeon (900466) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879766)

I wonder if this is the start of Microsoft finally unburdening themselves from all that awful legacy code that's been such an albatross and has contributed to such bloated apps and OS?

Re:this may not be such a bad thing (1)

Alexx K (1167919) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879958)

I don't think so. Unlike Apple, Microsoft has too much of a stronghold in the business sector to remove backward compatibility. That's an example of what happens when you have a monopoly, although there will come a point in time when MS will be forced to say, 'Fuck this!" or their software will be crushed under its own weight.

Is this actually a new thing? (2, Interesting)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879802)

Is this definitely just coming with SP3, or has it been around for longer? I hit this issue, or a very similar one, in our organisation several months ago. A user had some old Word 2.0 documents stored on a network drive (from the mid 1990's, before we enforced the use of a DMS), and they wouldn't open in Word 2003. The error dialog that Word displayed only mentioned the registry policy settings (without specifically saying the version was old), and I eventually found a knowledge base article that described the registry hack.

Re:Is this actually a new thing? (1)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880072)

I think they 'killed' support for Word 2.0 documents a long time ago. You're probably in better shape reading Word for DOS 4.0 documents than Word 2.0 documents. This isn't something new that Microsoft is doing for the first time.

long careers exclude using proprietary formats (4, Insightful)

spasm (79260) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879818)

Funnily enough, the thing that finally, permanently, won me over to open document formats (I first used things like openoffice simply because they were free) was discovering I couldn't open my dissertation (written in word 5.1a for mac) on a standard install of office for windows. Yes, I know there's converters, and yes, I know current versions of word for mac can still open 5.1a documents, but I didn't have a mac at the time, and laboriously 'converting' the large numbers of transcripts, notes, papers, and all the other ephemera of writing a dissertation was a huge, timewasting PITA..

After that, the penny dropped. Using open document formats wasn't simply a way to save money, it was an actual necessity for anyone planning to have a career lasting more than 5 years where writing is a core part of your work.

This is why you need to support ODF instead (2, Insightful)

velen (1198819) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879830)

Any government organization or large corporate that has a necessity to retain records has to convert their archives to a newer version. Who is paying for the conversion? Also, Office 95 is 13 years old. If someone upgraded to Office 95 by 97 (for service pack / stability etc) it is 10 years old. Given the investment in the software, if you assume someone used it and upgraded directly to office 2003, then the documents that are affected are less than 5 years old...

How can a file format be more or less secure??? (0, Redundant)

Helldesk Hound (981604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879846)

> They did this because the old formats are 'less secure', which
> actually makes some sense, but only if you got the files from
> some untrustworthy source.

How can a *file format* be more or less secure?

Surely it is the application that is being used to parse said file that does it in a secure or insecure manner. A file format is just a means to store data in an orderly manner.

That said, why doesn't M$ adopt the Open Document format, given that it is the ISO standard?
(rhetorical question - already know the answer - "vendor lock-in" and screw the competitors again)

Re:How can a file format be more or less secure??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21879936)

There is one way I can think of that file formats can, in a sense, be less secure; namely macro, scripting and execution abilities.

If the older versions had more dangerous features enabled in the scripting (I don't know whether this is the case) or if they had, for example, allowed the files to contain arbitrary executable code that would be executed while rendering the document, then fully compatibly supporting the file format would require either an internal sandbox environment or opening up potential security holes...

Has scripting become less dangerous in newer Office versions? I last used Word and Excel about 15 years ago so I honestly don't know.

File format is less secure? (5, Insightful)

filbranden (1168407) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879854)

They did this because the old formats are 'less secure', which actually makes some sense,

This doesn't make sense to me. A file format doesn't have buffer overflow vulnerabilities, the program that opens it has them. A file format cannot execute a virus or a trojan, the program that opens it is the one that does it. I cannot believe that a file format can have inherent vulnerabilities that cannot be circumvented by the program that reads the file.

On the other hand, considering the ODF vs. OOXML format wars, it seems to me that Microsoft's objective with this is actually to press for the standardization of OOXML. How exactly I don't understand, since the whole point of standard document formats is to avoid this same problem that they've just created.

Re:File format is less secure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21879924)

If they remove the older formats from the spec, they can remove the words that pop up in discussions: 'autospacelikeword6' and say they are working with the community without actually doing anything.

Mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21879972)

"They did this because the old formats are 'less secure'" should have read "They did this because Microsoft is too lazy to fix its parsers for the old formats which thus are 'less secure'"

This is exactly why proprietary formats are bad (4, Insightful)

Skapare (16644) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879856)

This is exactly why proprietary formats are bad, at least for documents that need to be kept for a long time for some reason, such as archival or historical documents. Even if open source office applications do similar things and depricate support for old formats, the older application versions might at least be available. Or third party developers could more easily create conversion programs. While open source programs do also exist to read these old proprietary documents today, we don't know if future proprietary document formats will be able to be supported. The open formats will be supportable.

autoSpaceLikeWord95? (1)

filbranden (1168407) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879878)

Does that mean they'll drop the autoSpaceLikeWord95 tag from OOXML spec?

Who ARE these people? (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879900)

I've got quite a lot of stuff in old Word and CorelDraw formats. If it hadn't been for this post, I'd no doubt have found myself in exactly the situation described: utterly screwed months or years after I installed the Service Pack and with no idea what the problem was.

I can't believe Microsoft would want to piss people off on purpose, especially given the difficulty they've been having with Vista. On the other hand, I can't see how anybody running a business could be so utterly, arrogantly stupid. All it would take to treat the user properly is one simple sentence informing them about the consequences of installing SP3.

One thing's sure: I'll remember the Open Office workaround described earlier if I ever run into a similar problem.

MS Word == zero archive value (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879980)

This is a serious problem actually. Corel WordPerfect has much better archive value than MS Word, which is one reason why many lawyers still prefer WordPerfect.

ASCII Ate EBCDIC (0, Offtopic)

timminator (719854) | more than 6 years ago | (#21879986)

ASCII ate EBCDIC.
VHS ate Betamax.
Microsoft Word ate WordPerfect.
Conspiracies all?!
Blame Reynolds Metals shareholders -- they were the one pushing for the bull market of aluminum foil hats.

Do I understand correctly? (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880006)

So what MS is saying is that an application made just over 4 years ago is so fundamentally insecure that files from over 10 years ago can pose an enormous threat to it. By the way, the advisory includes not only MS formats but also Lotus and Quattro files. Also the the application cannot be made any safer so the file formats must be disabled unless the user manually restores the functionality. Am I the only one that is skeptical of this explanation?

Re:Do I understand correctly? (2, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880080)

In other words, their lips moved.

Wonderful New Oppurtunity (1)

jkgamer (179833) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880022)

I see this as a new oppurtunity to market a 3rd party application that will read those older formats and convert them to the newer ones. Then M$ can see how popular the software is, buy the company up, and include it as a new feature for Office 2010!!!

Re:Wonderful New Oppurtunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21880074)

Try MacLinkPlus Deluxe. You'll need Mac OS X to run it.

silver lining... (1)

xubu_caapn (1086401) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880032)

this will push tons of users onto openoffice, either as a replacement or as a supplement to office.

Mind-bogglingly complex? (5, Informative)

Tim C (15259) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880084)

I guess the submitter missed the link to an exe you can use to do it for you. I mean, it is buried in the KB article as "Method 1" after all...

Vulnerability count -- Windows vs. Linux (1)

filbranden (1168407) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880092)

I hope they count these as security vulnerabilities on the next report of Microsoft vs. Linux vulnerability count. After all, Microsoft itself is claiming it's a security related problem.

And they were apparently "exploitable" for about 4 years, since they were "fixed" with SP3 in 2007 for a product from 2003.

Why is this mind-bogglingly[sic] complex? (1)

ISwearNotmyPorn (1072206) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880128)

What I'm gathering from the KB article is that a user needs to set one or more reg keys to reenable the older file formats.

27 Billion USELESS Gigabytes 2 b Archived by 2010 (1)

tekrat (242117) | more than 6 years ago | (#21880144)

So, combined with a previous story here on Slashdot, buinesses are going to be spending Gigaquads of Cash to archive their data, only to discover that by 2010, Microsoft will have wiped out their ability to OPEN any of their archived documents?

So, what are businesses archiving this data for? Can you imagine the SEC spectacle when some business gets picked for insider trading, they go to start an investigation and their copy of Vista with Office 2010 doesn't allow them to open old documents? What kind of bullshit is this?

Then again, I'm finding it difficult to open my old Macwrite documents (from 1992) on my current iMac because the old Macwrite format isn't supported... Then again, neither is the floppy disk it's written to, but that's a different issue that I've already solved. Still, it's annoying to be able to archive all this data, but then not have access to the applications that wrote this data. It would also be nice if I could read all my C-64 and Amiga diskettes in a current computer. Ironic that I have all my data, I just can't access it either due to hardware or software that just doesn't exist anymore.
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