As it turns out, Microsoft issued a "Killer Update" on 12 April which causes Microsoft Powerpoint to fail when opening presentations or presentation templates which have a graphical background (like our company logo for instance).
They've acknowledged the problem here.
Their fix generally suggests that you upgrade;
- Workaround 1: Open the Affected file in Powerpoint 2007 or 2010.....
- Workaround 2: Open the affected file in PowerPoint 2010....
- Workaround 3: Open the affected file in PowerPoint 2007...
- Workaround 4: After the error message is displayed, save a copy of the presentation, and then perform edits on the copy.
Workaround 4 is the only one which doesn't specify the need to upgrade Powerpoint. It's bad for two reasons;
- They're expecting you to basically redo your presentation.
- It doesn't work anyway - saving in Powerpoint 2003 only causes it to freeze.
In all honesty, I don't believe that Microsoft was that oblivious to the problem - don't they test these fixes. I think they were using it as an underhand tactic to get people to upgrade.
How to Fix the Problem without Upgrading
Microsoft reported the problems at least two days ago and still there's no fix so I'm writing to highlight the issue and to tell you how to get Powerpoint 2003 working again.
These instructions are for Windows XP but should work on other platforms too.
- Make sure that you close Powerpoint before trying to do this update.
- Start Control Panel (Start, Settings, Control Panel)
- Double-click on Add or Remove Programs.
- Make sure that the box marked Show Updates (at the top of the screen) is ticked, then scroll down until you find Microsoft Office.
- Look for an update under Microsoft Office called "Security Update for PowerPoint 2003" which was installed on 15/04/2011 (or thereabouts) and click on it.
- Click the button marked Remove.
- You'll be prompted to remove the program. Click Yes.
- The process should take seconds and then you'll be able to use Microsoft Office again.
Just a Reminder
Of course, no post about Microsoft's underhand forced-upgrade antics would be complete without a reminder about the alternatives - specifically that;
- If you're a Lotus Notes 8.x user, you probably already have Open Office Symphony Loaded and that may open your office files in Notes without issues.
- If you're not a Lotus Notes user, consider IBM Lotus Symphony - it's FREE
- Alternatively, there's OpenOffice (which is now called LibreOffice) - Also FREE
- If you'd prefer the Google Track, try Google Docs - It's FREE too.
...and all of these are compatible not only with each other but also with Microsoft Office.