Trials and tribulations of doing a Microsoft Office upgrade

I decided to upgrade to latest edition of Microsoft Office as per the Microsoft suggestion. I just have the basic Word and Excel editions and not the 365 stuff. What could be simpler?

After the upgrade I was locked out and could not create new files nor edit my existing files. The message from Microsoft was to upgrade the 365 (beyond my needs) or to activate. But the Activate command in the new Word and Excel editions would not work.

Thereupon I wasted a lot of time and perspiration in trying various approaches. Google ‘help’ gave me quite a range of suggestions from Microsoft staffers – from using Terminal to deleting KeyChain – and from others. Nevertheless the KeyChain delete suggestion did give me the idea that it might be a Microsoft-KeyChain issue, and more through good luck I found somebody giving a link to download and use a Microsoft-delete-Microsoft-licence-in-KeyChain app. That worked and the Activate command became active and my Word and Excel apps worked again – whew!

A few observations…

When I did my Google search, I discovered I was not the only one with this issue as there were many anxious people. There were lots of suggestions for Windows users/subscribers but it was hard to restrict searches of Mac users (probably more a Google search issue). It was amazing the variety of suggestions from Microsoft staffers – why was there no ‘official’ Microsoft solution? I did ring our local Microsoft office and received nice apologies (apparently I was not the first caller) but was told that it was a US problem and no advice could be given by the Australian end of Microsoft. On the Apple Forums, there was the usual difficulty in searching for a solution and then there were as many diverse suggestions as were within the Microsoft staffers and communities. Microsoft only keeps the last three months of your purchases and so it was impossible to download the previous versions of Word and Excel (Adobe for instance has a much more customer-friendly approach). The constant push by Microsoft to sign up for 365 and OneDrive kept popping up everywhere and kept getting in the way.

Two big things that struck me: firstly why did this problem happen in the first place? Some of Apple’s recent upgrades were similarly careless, and secondly how do people with little understanding of application software manage? How do they seek out a solution that works? I twigged to KeyChain because I had had a similar sort of issue with KeyChain in the past.

Once I was back in business, I received a notification from Microsoft saying that my files were now being saved in OneDrive. I did not ask for this nor want it. So that meant another bout of searching to find out how to stop this unwanted imposition.

All up what a waste of time.

I chalk up problems like this to two things:

  • A lack of imagination in testing, and/or
  • Apathy towards those who don’t want to or can’t follow “preferred practice”.

That is, they don’t test things that don’t occur to them to test, and if you’re not going to do things the way they want you to, they don’t care about making it work.

In this case, it means that users who want the stand-alone apps instead of 365 are not worth much to them, so they don’t test a wide enough range of things that can go wrong, and they would rather you just switch to 365 and “stop being difficult”.

They either give in to the “recommendations” or give up. Or, alternatively, they ask their more-technically-inclined children, nieces/nephews, or other younger relations to fix it for them.

I updated from Office 2011 to Office 2021 when I upgraded to Catalina recently (had no choice, because Office 2011 is not 64-bit). I downloaded the package (after paying), deleted my old Office installation, installed the new Office installation (chose Custom because I only wanted the three main applications), and entered the lengthy key MSoft supplied. Since then it’s been smooth sailing. There was an issue with Gatekeeper after a few days, but that’s a Catalina issue and after a reboot, it went away. I agree that Office installs can be a bit wonky because of all the security features.