Tech Line

Office 2007 and Those Pesky Plug-ins

Is one of your Office 2007 applications having trouble? The problem probably lies in an incompatible plug-in.

Chris: I'm having this strange problem with Excel 2007. If I double-click on a file, Exel opens and just sits there. If I minimize the Excel window, Excel automatically jumps back up and the file loads. Any ideas?

Melissa, you're not the first to experience unusual problems with Office 2007. So many eerie problems have been documented with Office 2007 that conspiracy theorists are starting to proclaim that Office 2007 is haunted.

However, you don't have to run away from Office 2007 until the ghosts have been eradicated. Like most Scooby Doo episodes, the ghosts lurking in Office 2007 aren't actually ghosts at all. Instead, the scary beings causing nearly all of Office 2007's problems are third-party plug-ins that are incompatible with Office 2007.

Most problems seem to appear when an earlier Office installation, such as Office 2003 is upgraded. Following the upgrade, Office 2003 plug-ins such as the Adobe PDFMaker will try and load when a particular Office application starts. When this happens, some type of unusual hang will occur.

After working with Melissa, I was able to determine that the cause of her problem was, in fact, Adobe PDFMaker. While Adobe is working to update PDFMaker to be compatible with Office 2007, at the moment it's not compatible and can cause problems. (However, users can still print to new PDF files). For more information on Adobe PDFMaker compatibility, see the Adobe TechNote, "Acrobat PDF-capable web browsers and PDFMaker-compatible applications (Acrobat 8.x on Windows and Mac OS)."

Excel 2007 plug-ins are stored in the "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\XLSTART" folder by default. To solve Melissa's Excel problem, we created a new subfolder in the Office12 directory named "XLSTART-Old." She then moved the PDFMaker.xla file from the "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\XLSTART" folder to the "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\XLSTART-Old" folder. We decided to move the PDFMaker.xla file instead of deleting it just in case the original file is needed when Adobe publishes a patch that fixes the PDFMaker.xla plug-in file.

There are plenty of vendors that are in the same boat as Adobe. For example, I'm waiting on an update to the Salesforce Outlook 2003 plug-in so that I can use the Salesforce plug-in in Outlook 2007. You can even count Microsoft among the vendors that need to update plug-ins for Office 2007. The Live Meeting 2005 plug-in, for example, does not work in Outlook 2007.

If you suspect that an incompatible plug-in may be the cause of any Office 2007 angst, first check the plug-in vendor's web site to see if an update or patch is available. If not, many plug-ins can be removed using Add/Remove Programs. Also, look in one of these folders to find the suspected plug-in:

  • C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\XLSTART
  • C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\STARTUP
  • C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\ADDINS
  • C:\Documents and Settings\<user name>\Microsoft\Application Data\Addins

Most of the time, plug-in file names will quickly give away the plug-in's associated application. If you're unsure, a quick Google search against an unknown file name should point you in the right direction. Whenever vendor instructions for removing a plug-in are present, you should follow them. When instructions are not available, moving suspected files to a temporary folder and testing the Office application to see if the problem is solved is a quick way to isolate a suspected plug-in problem.

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Lately I've been getting quite a bit of mail about Office 2007 problems. If you've overcome a tricky Office 2007 issue, please share your experience with your fellow readers by posting it as a comment to this article.

About the Author

Chris Wolf is a Microsoft MVP for Windows --Virtual Machine and is a MCSE, MCT, and CCNA. He's a Senior Analyst for Burton Group who specializes in the areas of virtualization solutions, high availability, storage and enterprise management. Chris is the author of Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress), Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley), and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).learningstore-20/">Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley) and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).

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