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Issue #21: December 13, 2007

(Author’s note: I don’t usually write the headline that the newspapers put above my column, but in this case, I suggested the headline: “Cheque spelling si vous plais”.)

Q: I uninstalled Office 2003 before installing Office 2007.  Everything seemed to work fine, UNTIL, I tried to run Spell Check in Outlook Express. The only language choice is FRENCH—there is no way to select anything else.  After a Web search and a telephone call to Microsoft Tech support, I found out that this is a common problem, and MS is aware of it. Tech Support at Microsoft told me my only solution was to do an Internet search for “Free Spell Check for Outlook Express.” Then just pick one of the results and download it. I told him that I didn’t download software from unknown sources and asked him to recommend one. He said he couldn’t. What suggestions do you have for all of us experiencing this problem?

– Shirley P.

A: I was as shocked as you were to learn about this problem, and I have been extremely disappointed in Microsoft’s lackluster response to the problem.  Office 2007 is a mighty expensive package for MS to expect customers to simply accept that installing it will break other MS software, and expect end-users to download a third-party add-on to fix it.

Researching this problem, I found several potential solutions, but the best one is to reinstall just the proofing tools from Office 2003.  Do this by running Office 2003 setup and chose the “Custom” option.  Uncheck everything, then find the Proofing Tools on the “Shared Features” section of the list.  Choose “English” and set it to “Run from my Computer”.  Complete the installation and you should be able to check in English again.  One other alternative is to switch from Outlook Express to Outlook, which comes with Office 2007.  It’s a far more feature-rich e-mail program than OE, and it does not have the language support problem.

Q: Every time I click on an underlined link in my e-mail account through Outlook Express, the following message pops up:  “The plug in performed an illegal operation.  You are strongly advised to restart Netscape.”  The link will not appear until I click on “OK” and “X” out the pop-up—then the desired link is accessed.  This has been occurring for a few weeks and I am stumped.  What should I do?

– Anna K.

A: A “plug-in” is a utility that piggybacks onto your web browser to perform a function for you.  Some examples of plug-ins are Google and Yahoo! toolbars, RealPlayer, and Adobe Acrobat.  Each of these has a plug-in that works in conjunction with the browser to assist with some function the browser cannot do by itself.

Unfortunately, when there’s a problem with a plug-in, the browser doesn’t necessarily know which one caused it, and you end up with a generic message.  You can get detailed information about which program is having the error and why from the Windows System Log.  You’ll find detailed information on how to get into the log in my Aug 30th column, which you can read online by entering into your browser.

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