Yesterday, in the early afternoon, I broke down and bought the latest version of Microsoft Office 2003, Professional Edition, for Windows XP. I need Excel for some FileMaker work, and I finally got tired of using OpenOffice. Unfortunately, the installation process has been very difficult.
Around 2:00, I logged out of my normal (limited-privileges) user account, logged into my administrator account, and did a complete installation of Office. This tied my computer up for a while but I expected that. When I was finished, the apps opened okay in the administrator account and I thought everything was fine. Logged out, logged back in as normal user, tried to open the apps that I'm interested in - Excel, Word, Outlook - and every one had a problem of some sort. Every time I launched an app, I got a dialog telling me to wait while Office configured something. This dialog showed a progress bar that would move, indicate completion - and then the dialog would reappear. I saw this dialog hundreds of times in the next twelve hours. Each of the apps also complained that some small file was invalid or missing. I logged out, logged back in as administrator, removed Office, reinstalled - same problem. This killed much of the afternoon.
After dinner, I called Microsoft Support. I got a guy who was certainly committed to helping me, but like any tech support agent, he's not in front of my computer, and not being an expert, he's not inclined to be intuitive and take a guess. So we work methodically through a number of things. I was on the phone with him for a couple of hours. When we finally got cut off - not sure how that happened - we'd reinstalled Office two more times and done a bunch of other things, but I was experiencing the same problem.
My "research" on the Web finds references to the files that are being complained about. For example, Excel complains about a file named "stdole32.tlb". Perhaps there is a problem with my installer, or with that file.
But the problems did not appear in the administrator account where I did the installations - only in the normal user (limited privileges) account that I, um, normally use. Eventually, since I have work to do, I decided to do something radical: I reconfigured my normal user account so that it has administrator privileges. The problems with Office have disappeared. So it would appear that it's not even a problem wth paths to files. It's got something to do with permissions or access privileges, either to these few files or to the registry.
This is the first time I've encountered a really serious problem using a limited privileges account. I've run into a few other minor problems - apps that won't let me change my preferences in the user account (FileZille; As-U-Type; a few others). But so far, none that simply don't work well at all outside the admin environment. Very annoying.
(Originally published 4/28/2006)