back to article Microsoft sheds some light on perplexing Outlook blank email incident: Word was to blame

Microsoft has published a Preliminary Post Incident Report on last week's events which broke Outlook on Windows for millions of users, making emails impossible to view or create. It was on the evening of May 11th, UK time, and in the middle of the working day in North America (18:24 UTC, 19:24 BST, 11:24 Pacific), that many …

  1. DJV Silver badge

    "foolishly attempt to author web content there and save as HTML"

    Blimey, is it still that bad? Yes, it's Word - of course it is!

    I once had someone upload Word-generated HTML to an intranet server that overwrote earlier (and properly formatted HTML- well, for 2001 anyway) versions of the pages. A stern talking to was required.

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: "users who followed a full cloud model ... were not impacted at all"

      Nor were those who refuse to use Microsoft's untested (apart from by the victims users) shit!

      1. Alan Bourke

        Re: "users who followed a full cloud model ... were not impacted at all"

        If you actually think that a company with the size and reach of Microsoft don't test the shit out of everything extensively then you don't really know much about computers.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: "users who followed a full cloud model ... were not impacted at all"

          Know nothing about computers, but everything about companies with the size and reach of Microsoft.

        2. Shadow Systems

          At Alan Bourke, re MS QA testing.

          Would that be the same Microsoft that regularly, consistantly, reliably breaks something with each & every Patch Tuesday? Audio, networking, printers, webcams, Word, Outlook, Excell, Exchange, the list goes on & on & on & on.

          You claim they QA test their code, the proof to the contrary is written about on this very fine news site for all to laugh, cry, groan, bitch, moan, & gnash their teeth about. Don't take my word for it, you simply have to go read past articles WRT MS updates to realize that MS & QA no longer exist on the same plane of reality. Unfortunately.

          *Hands you a pint*

          Drink up. Beer is the easiest way to settle the bile that MS inspires. =-j

          1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

            Re: At Alan Bourke, re MS QA testing.

            Your statement implies that MS & QA have, at some point, "existed on the same plane of reality." Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs, friend.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "users who followed a full cloud model ... were not impacted at all"

          Are you joking?

          1. Kane Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: "users who followed a full cloud model ... were not impacted at all"

            "Are you joking?"

            He forgot to select the Joke Alert icon.

            You did forget to select the Joke Alert icon, Alan?

            You there, Alan?

            Alan?

        4. EnviableOne Silver badge
          Linux

          Re: "users who followed a full cloud model ... were not impacted at all"

          MS sacked their Testing and assurance team wholesale back in 2015

          https://www.zdnet.com/article/beyond-12500-former-nokia-employees-who-else-is-microsoft-laying-off/

          the other 5500 non-nokia employees were testers from all over the company.

          SatNad decided that they didn't need them cos Agile and $$$

          since then their customers have been forced to be the testers, but still pay them for the privilege

          with Linux, you might have to do the testing, but you get compensated by not having to pay for it...

    2. Shadow Systems

      Re: "foolishly attempt to author web content there and save as HTML"

      In my case I was "asked" to use FrontPage. I did, sort of. I used it to create the page, examined the code, copy&pasted it into Notepad, cleaned it of all the crap/cruft, then saved it as plain text. Change the extension, load in the browser, & viola a site that looked as they wanted, but wasn't a bloated sack of crappy/crufty code that was more prone to fail than a drunk neurosurgeon with epilepsy.

      I kept the FP pages in the same directory as my saved text files, the better to show my manager why FP was a bad idea. He had to concede the point when my edited code could fit on a 5.25" floppy & the FP version was measured in megabytes instead.

      *Hands over a pint & taps rims*

      Here's to using the right tool for the job. Cheers!

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: "foolishly attempt to author web content there and save as HTML"

        Back in the day Dreamweaver had a tool to specifically clean Word HTML.

        1. Spanners Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: "foolishly attempt to author web content there and save as HTML"

          Dreamweaver output was full of crud as well.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: "foolishly attempt to author web content there and save as HTML"

            Well... it was if you used it as a visual editor instead of a LSE. And I've only just finished removing all the legacy crap it spewed over our website by way of ancillary .LCK files and _notes folders. But it was a different kind of spew to the Microsoft crud - somehow more understandable.

          2. N2 Silver badge

            Re: "foolishly attempt to author web content there and save as HTML"

            Only after about version 4.1

      2. Down not across Silver badge
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: "foolishly attempt to author web content there and save as HTML"

        ..that was more prone to fail than a drunk neurosurgeon with epilepsy

        B..stard! There goes another keyboard.

        Oh, and swiped for future use.

  2. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    "when I have disabled both windows update and office update"

    So even if you disable updates, MS can force an update on you. This time it fixed something (which probably didn't need fixing because you had updates disabled), next time it could screw up things.

    1. Alumoi Silver badge

      Re: "when I have disabled both windows update and office update"

      ... could screw up things? The Grammar Nazi in me says 'would'

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: "when I have disabled both windows update and office update"

        ...'would'...

        I think it should read "will screw up things". It is a certainty, not an option when using windows and/or office products. Causes for a screw up are plenty.

    2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: "when I have disabled both windows update and office update"

      Interesting. If you have specifically forbidden a company from modifying an installation on your machine without your permission, but is does so anyway, isn't that a violation of the Computer Misues Act?

      1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

        Re: "when I have disabled both windows update and office update"

        thumbs down with no comment? Does that mean you're happy to install a package, specifically deny its update as it's of strategic importance (eg on a 24/7 control system), yet accept that it's ok for the supplier to modify the behaviour of that installation as and when they feel like it?

        1. BruceR

          Re: "when I have disabled both windows update and office update"

          Do you really use Outlook on a 24/7 control system?

      2. BruceR

        Re: "when I have disabled both windows update and office update"

        Did you read the EULA?

        1. EnviableOne Silver badge

          Re: "when I have disabled both windows update and office update"

          does anybody?

          cf Groff v. America Online.

  3. WolfFan Silver badge

    Not just Windows users

    Recently I have had multiple alerts on Macs asking for, among other things, that the users reauthorize their accounts. One user had two O365 accounts, and both of them asked him to reauth twice each in the course of three hours. As one of his O365 accounts wasn’t ours, it’s not likely that it’s our problem. (The user was on his personal machine, connecting using MS Outlook. He also had several IMAP accounts on the same system, all of which worked properly.) Users on Windows had the blank email problem; one such user had the reauth problem as well. He was also on a personal machine. There may be a trend here. All users recently updated MS Office.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HTML for email was a bad idea. Creating dependencies between an email client and a word processor was a worse one. The colored pencil crowd loves HTML so we're stuck with it, though.

    1. Paul Herber Silver badge

      s/pencil/wax crayon/

    2. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

      Tell me about it. Most of the worst parts of the internet can be traced back to the crayon fairies.

      If it's not having special fruit-based hardware, activating creepy ad-tech trackers "to provide valuable insights into our customers", pushing aggressive cookies, HTML and "Twitter engagement".

    3. N2 Silver badge

      Agree entirely

      Try telling anyone that and they give you a look like you've just spat in their face.

    4. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      HTML for email was a bad idea. Creating dependencies between an email client and a word processor was a worse one. The colored pencil crowd loves HTML so we're stuck with it, though.

      Kind of... my main issue with HTML for email is not specifically about using HTML for email, it's the utterly and absolutely broken way that it's been done and this is all down to Microsoft and Microsoft Outlook. It's the lowest common denominator of broken HTML rendering possible and causes no end of issues, for real HTML but also within Microsoft's editors themselves.

      A restricted implementation of HTML would have been fine, with careful consideration given to remote resources and absolutely, definitely no ever scripting or auto-run of anything in any way. Instead Microsoft inflicted the shit-show horror that is Microsoft Word HTML into it all rather than using real HTML.

      Other than that, why is (limited) HTML for an email OK? Because it gave us the opportunity to format in some way and through this give improve meaning and context to email messages. Not perfect, of course, but so much better than defining another standard and doing something different.

      1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Because it gave us the opportunity to format in some way and through this give improve meaning and context to email messages

        Unfortunately, it also creates the situation where the sender gets to tell you how you'd like your email to appear - too bad if you find tiny blue text hard to read, that's your fault for expecting function to trunk form.

    5. Sandtitz Silver badge
      Unhappy

      What are your feelings about top-posting then?

      > HTML for email was a bad idea.

      1. yetanotheraoc
        Happy

        > What are your feelings about top-posting then?

        >> HTML for email was a bad idea.

        It has its place.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So I take it M$ are going to be paying effected customers for their loss of service?

    That has got to be a lot of workers, globally, reliant upon email unable to work and your support wasting it's time trying to fix someonething that is completely outside of their control.

    With M$ beta testing via their subscribers and able cripple your company regardless of your update options you should be wondering what you would actually loose with a change to local office suit and text only communications, especially when so many are free to use without slurp and actually under your control

    I wonder if effected companies can claim off their insurance or have write it off to tax.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge
    Joke

    How was it not noticed during testing?

    The post is required, and must contain letters.

    Oh, ok then, see icon--->>

  7. Gene Cash Silver badge

    The Old New Thing

    Half the article sounds like one of Raymond Chen's apologias for all the legacy shit in Windows.

  8. N2 Silver badge

    How was it not noticed during testing?

    Thats the publics job, init?

  9. Duffaboy
    FAIL

    Nprmal.dot

    I had an issue a few years back when outlook menu items were missing it was caused by a corrupt NORMAL.DOT, for this issue in the mentioned article, i was up till 0100 trying to fix this when i did a news search on Outlook and discovered the Muppets at MS had caused the issue. Why do these morons not test their code ?

    Suffice to say by morning everything was working.

    1. Duffaboy

      Re: Nprmal.dot

      They're at it again, they have switched my p and o keys around. Sorry for the typo i wrote the post in anger

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Nprmal.dot

        That's just agile ops.

      2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: they have switched my p and o keys around

        I'm sure everyone here knows it is not a simple matter to rename normal.dot

        Not when one is actually in Word at the time, at least.

  10. gerdesj Silver badge
    Linux

    One thing to note though:

    "users who followed a full cloud model, using the web browser rather than desktop Outlook, were not impacted at all."

    I didn't notice it either: Evolution (EWS) on Linux - full fat and no bloody clouds. I also didn't notice it when MAPI got borked in an update a few years back, OK I did from my colleagues whining about it.

  11. Winkypop Silver badge
    Windows

    Do you want this web content via Word HTML?

    No.

    Notepad is just fine thanks.

  12. Malcolm 1

    The Outlook web client is pretty good these days and didn't suffer from this issue for obvious reasons.

  13. TechHeadToo

    As I've said before

    "When the history of computing comes to be written The Judgement will be that Bill Gates and Microsoft held back the advent of reliable computing by 20 years"

    I'll stop at that.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      "When the history of computing comes to be written"...

      using Word? It'll never get done.

  14. Down not across Silver badge

    Phone home

    Some of the less appealing aspects of Microsoft's platform were exposed by this bug. One is that Outlook, despite its high value in integrating email, calendar, contacts and tasks, remains full of legacy code that can cause problems.

    Equally, if not more so, appealing is that despite having updates off, the software phones home and does updates behind you back.

  15. sketharaman

    Word & Outlook for HTML

    "Word's Web Layout view is little used, and users are only likely to encounter it if they open an HTML document in Word, or foolishly attempt to author web content there and save as HTML."

    LOL. Guilty as charged!

    I use the combo of Word, Excel and Outlook to compose, mail / merge and deliver my company's monthly email newsletters! Since it had images, Outlook's plain text mode was ruled out. I tried the Rich Text Format but the email occupied the entire width of the screen, which necessitated horizontal scrolling, which was not ideal. So, I was left with the HTML mode. At the time I started this newsletter, I had zero HTML / CSS skills but I was able to compose the mailer template in less than an hour. I've subsequently acquired rudimentary skills in HTML, CSS, MailChimp, and, most recently Amazon SES and I've tried to move my newsletter setup to one of those cloud options. But, for a combination of technical and commercial reasons, nothing has worked out, and I've kept coming back to my original MS Office combo. I know a lot of people think it's foolish to do HTML stuff on MS Word but, for a lot of non-geeks, it's simple. And works. Exhibit A: My newsletter has been going out on the first working day of the month for every month for the past 10 years and counting.

    1. EnviableOne Silver badge

      Re: Word & Outlook for HTML

      it might work, but your emails are huge full of unnecessary code and definitions and filling up my e-mail servers......

  16. Dwarf Silver badge

    Another Microsoft capability.

    OaaS - Outages as a Service

    1. EnviableOne Silver badge

      it's only May, are we still over Office200?

  17. JWLong Bronze badge

    Let's See,

    Outlook + Word + IE + Windows Media Player and MS is confused as to why people think their product is shit.

    Dear Microsoft, your product........is

    Never mind.

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