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Mac Office 2008 SP1

It’s finally here! The MacBU has just released Service Pack 1 for Mac Office 2008. You can download the update directly from the Mactopia website (it’s large — about 180 MB), or launch your favorite Office app and select Help/Check for Updates. There are well over 1000 fixes and improvements in this release, including the return of custom error bars and axis tick manipulation in Excel charts. The full release notes are available online as well, so go check them out to see if we fixed your personal pet peeve.
I’m particularly excited to see this update go live, because it’s been the project consuming most of my time for the last several months. Shortly after we shipped released Office 2008 to manufacturing in December 2007, my manager asked me if I’d be willing to act as the development lead for the SP1 project. I agreed, and have spent many hours working on the project since we kicked it off in early January. Since our fine UA department has already written up the list of highlighted changes, I thought I’d spend a little time today describing how we approached SP1 and how we did the work.
First off, while I was the development lead for SP1, I most certainly cannot take any majority of the credit. SP1 was a MacBU-wide effort, with significant contributions from every single developer, tester, program manager, content writer, lab engineer, builder, and all the other disciplines I’m forgetting at the moment. I am incredibly thankful for all the hard work that everyone around me did.
So, why SP1, and why now? Well, it’s no great secret that we released Office 2008 later than our original plans intended. Even after that delay, there was a decent list of issues in the product that were postponed during the original release cycle that we knew we wanted to fix, so we knew that we had to plan for an update sometime in 2008. Mac Office 2004 was first released in May 2004, and its first service pack came out in October 2004, about 5 months later, and that’s pretty much the same schedule we came up with for Office 2008. In addition to fixing the issues we know about internally, we like to have a few months of real user data in hand (crash reports, newsgroup/forum postings, etc) that help us to identify problems that we didn’t know about. I’ve been spending a bunch of time in Ars Technica‘s Macintoshian Achaia forum over the last year or so, and have received a number of good bug reports from particpants there. (In fact, we have a ‘SWAT’ team of folks in the MacBU who participate in a whole variety of forums across the net.)
Anyway, the entire MacBU began development and testing work on 2008 SP1 in January. Initially, teams pretty much just took their list of issues postponed from the regular release and started fixing those bugs. Our test team once again dove into the product and found more issues that needed fixing, and we started to collect MERP logs (Microsoft Error Reporting Program — aka the dialog you see when an Office app crashes) from the wild. Devs took all those bug reports and began working on classifying them by severity and importance, and then started fixing them.
Like any release, however, there needs to be a modicum of control applied to the whole process. If everybody just keeps on checking in fixes, the product can actually end up being less stable than before. The Office codebase is large, and code changes in one part can have unintended consequences somewhere else, so we don’t let code churn run on forever. Many teams at Microsoft (and, I’d imagine, at other large software companies) have instituted ‘triage’ for bugs.
When we triage bugs, it basically means that we take a look at all the aspects of a bug before deciding whether to accept a fix it:

  1. How bad is the bug? (Is it a crash? corrupted file? data loss? simple redraw glitch?)
  2. How hard is it to encounter the bug? (every time on boot? Only when saving? On Feb 29? Only when dragging a shape across a page boundary when the page is in PubLayoutView and the shape has a semitransparent shadow and the document has never been saved?)
  3. Can the user work around the bug? (use the mouse instead of the keyboard?)
  4. How complicated is the fix? (simple typo (= instead of ==) or re-architecture of entire function?)
  5. Where is the fix? (in the middle of Excel’s recalc engine? Or for populating a single popup menu in one dialog?)
  6. How close are we to shipping? (Months, weeks, days?)

All of these factors come into play, and some combination of the magnitude of each of these leads to a decision of whether to fix a bug or not. It can get pretty complicated, and much of it comes down to a gut decision (although we try to collect hard data when we can, like ‘exactly how many MERP reports do we have of this one bug?’) In January, when we were 4+ months away from shipping SP1, pretty much any bug was allowed to be fixed. In April, when we were trying to lock down the code and minimize code churn in order to keep the product stable, we punted a known crashing bug because although the impact of the bug was large, the fix was a little complicated and the testing team didn’t think they could verify that the code change had no unintended side effects with the amount of time left before shipping.
So, what was my role in all this as development lead for SP1? I worked closely with one of our Program Managers and one of our Test Leads as the three-disciplined Sustained Engineering Lead Committee (I have no idea if we had some formal name, so that’s what I will call it here.) Scott, Pat, and I set the product schedule (kickoff, first day of triage, code-complete, zero bugs, release candidate target, etc) and acted as the final arbitrators in daily triage meetings, putting our roughly 33 (ok, now I feel old) combined years of software development experience to use. Mostly that meant that as teams brought their bugs to the triage meetings, we asked them about the above list of questions and tried to get a sense of how each bug fit in importance. We were responsible for using that information to ‘raise the bar’ each day/week — making it harder for bugs to qualify for fixing. That sounds somewhat anti-quality or antithetical to the purpose of a service pack, but actually it is a very important part of ensuring that we ship a high-quality, stable product for our users. It can be very hard to say no to a bug, particularly when people really are passionate about the specific problem or user scenario, but someone has to do it. The three of us all made a final call on each bug, and I think I tended to be the most hard-core about locking things down. Toward the end, a few people jokingly (at least, I hope they were joking) called me “Dr. No.”
As I said at the top, there are over 1000 fixes in SP1, including the re-addition of some features that were glaringly absent when compared to Office 2004. That doesn’t mean Office 2008 is now perfect — I know we haven’t fixed every bug in the product, and some folks are bound to note that we haven’t fixed some of the bugs they are most frustrated by. However, I hope you’ll agree that this update shows that I and the rest of the MacBU are committed to this product and to its future.
Update: I added a new post the other day about some installation problems people have been running into with SP1. If you are having difficulties with SP1 apps, please take a look and see if it helps you.

51 replies on “Mac Office 2008 SP1”

SP1 doesn’t seem to have fixed any of the annoying bugs I’ve submitted. Right clicking in Powerpoint is still set to mouse up. No birthdays in Entourage before 1920. Tons of address book syncing issues. etc.

Durf, the JPN bits are already live. Click the first link in the post, then select “Japanese” from the language menu and click the ‘Change’ button.

Come on guys….you create a product for the mac, but it doesn’t work well with the mac OS!! It is slow to load (on a new macbook pro) and it works terribly with spaces, a feature which many mac users actually use. And, to top it all off, the SP1 update killed Office altogether…stuck at the damn auto-update program (which, by the way, was never even able to automatically find SP1).
From what I’ve read on discussion boards, this is a common problem. I’ve read that I can delete two files manually, and then re-enter my information, but there’s no reason that I should have to do that. This kind of garbage is why people switch away from Microsoft!

Some of you guys should apply for work at the MacBU, your whini…I mean, coding skills, would surely be appreciated!
Thanks for the hard work, MacBU’ers! That’s a lot of bug fixes.
I am a relatively light user of Word and Excel, so I don’t have any OMGWTFINEEDTHIS complaints, but, I would seriously like to see faster performance generally; loading times especially.
You guys see how much faster FireFox 3 betas got it? ;o)
Thanks again! (Goes to open the .dmg, baby!)

Installed it without problems. I don’t care about the spaces issues but
automatic correction is still of no use in the german version of word 2008 on macbooks. Everytime after typing just a letter it still annoys the user with a “this command is not supported” warning window.

I am really looking forward to installing the update, if only the update program were able to detect my office installation. No word on the service pack in the auto-update function and when starting manually it is not able to find my Office installation anywhere. Really disappointing because I really believe that there are many stability fixes which I am looking forward to. Keep up the work, there’s much to be done!

This blog post underlines what is so wrong with Microsoft – you feel you have to be grateful for getting their attention… The same issue arises with the blog post about the return of VBA…
Having read the very long post about dropping VBA we now get a rewrite of history – Microsoft didn’t drop it VBA in Office 2008, just delayed it until the next version because it would have delayed the product cycle too much – well by the looks of the number of bug fixes in SP1 maybe they should have delayed the release of Office until 2009 to fix all the bugs and problems…
And then there is the bollocks about how great Entourage in Office 2008 is going to be and how much better Exchange integration will be… and every looks at it and wonders ‘is that it??’. its so much less than we had hoped for.
Of course everyone wonders about Microsoft’s intentions – the actions of the company give cause for that speculation….

Mr. Schwieb
MacBU have digital signatures in your roadmap for Mac Office ?
I think this is a great feature for implementation in Mac Office for Mac OS X.
See, digitally signing and digital certificates…A100997681033.aspx#4
This is each more important for the users of the most varied countries:
N National ID Cards
Finnish ID Card FINEID
Swedish Posten eID
Estonian ID Card EstEID
Italian Infocamere
Italian Postecert
Belgian eID
Spanish Ceres
German ID Cards, eHBA, eGK
Austrian Bürgerkarte, e-card
Australian national ID card
United States PIV card applet
Turkish EID Card
The Mac users needs this for Mac !!
Best Regards
Manuel Silva

Please brling back print preview in excel! We can’t buy 2008 before the function is back. Please fix this.

I just installed SP1 … no problems so far.
I’m wondering if the Spaces bugs are fixed. For my usage, if they aren’t fixed, I’m going back to 2004. This is such a serious usability bug. If I have to change the way I do everything (by turning Spaces off) in order to do one thing (use Word), that’s a HUGE problem.

Way to go…..this patch has not only screwed up my office install but completly corrupted documents that were written before patching using “capatability mode” because the world at large does not use .docx
Oh joy, love this error…..”There is a problem with the Office database” well doesn’t that give me a warm fuzzy……
Office 2008 is much slower then 2004 and with less problems. I for one do not need for things to just look better but rather work better.

So I have Office 2008, which I installed about 2 months ago, and I come back into my office today and it has auto started its updater, and asks me if I want to continue. Sure, I can fix a sandwich while its doing that, I think. So it takes about 10 minutes to settle on the fact that I only have two volumes on my computer, and then asks if I want to continue, sure, OK. “Installation will take 502Mb” it says. Wow, for an update?
So I’m sitting here, watching the bar that says that “about 1 minute remains”, and watch “running Italian grammar checker installer script” Huh? “Running Japanese grammar installer script.” And so on. 10 minutes later, still “about 1 minute remaining”. Then, “running clipart installer script”, “running sounds installer script”.
Oh honestly.
But finally, “Install Succeeded”.
Well, that’s good. Sure glad I’ll be able to write in Italian, Japanese, Spanish etc. and not make any grammatical errors……

Same problem as Kobes: manually started update can´t find the installation on my hdd….please give me a hint!

I’m with many on this list – SP1 completely crashed my office install. I can’t open anything – excel, word, etc simply crashes and the crash reporter comes up. While a lot of people are saying they “expect” this poor delivery from Microsoft, I certainly can’t believe any company (mine included) would release something this unfit for market in good faith. Shame on you Microsoft – this is yet another reason (behind Vista) why my company and I am rapidly losing faith in your products and moving to Linux and Mac across the board.

after installed SP1 on imac (2.4 GHz, core Duo) i was unable to open some (but not) all excel files that i had no trouble working with before SP1. I could open the same files on a G4 powerbook on which i had also installed SP1, but not on another identical imac. so problem seems to be imac specific. when I removed SP1 from imac and re-installed office 2008 from original CD, problem with excel files disappeared. any idea about whether/when this kind of problem will be fixed so I can try to take advantage of SP1 (assuming there are any advantages)?

SP1 has completely disabled Excel and PowerPoint (when I try to launch either, the splash screen comes up but before showing a blank document the application quits and I get the crash reporter). Word launches but quits itself if I try to close the blank document that appears.
Deleting the 2 files that some at AppleInsider have suggested removing ( /Users//Library/Preferences/Microsoft/Office 2008/Microsoft Office 2008 settings.plist and /Applications/Microsoft Office 2008/Office/OfficePID.plist ) resulted in me going back to the setup assistant at launch but did not fix the issue (I re-enter my user information, the application splash screen comes up, it quits, I go back to the crash reporter). I also tried restarting my computer, to no avail of course.
Version history: I never installed the beta and originally installed 12.0.0 before successfully upgrading to 12.0.1 on top of which I installed SP1 today.

I installed SP1 hoping it would fix the problem with Excel 2008 being unable to keep up with regular typing. N o s u c h l u c k. I t ‘ s s t i l l p a i n f u l l y s l o w.
Back to Excel 2004 for me.

What a terrible update to an already sketchy program. If the business world hadn’t standardized on this once great piece of software I’d be telling everyone to jump ship. First is the speed issue, no amount of RAM will speed up office 2008 or 2007 on a brand new core2duo machine. No one uses docx. Everyone but MS knows this is a still-born file format and I must spend time changing it back to doc, xls etc for all clients (mac and PC). The biggest problem I’m seeing on out-of-the-box macs is related specifically to SP1: The stupid setup assistant will not go away. No rhyme or reason, just keeps asking if I’d like to participate. say no, say yes, it doesn’t matter since it keeps popping up instead of the desired office app.
This release has officially jumped the shark with bloaty feature-creep. People were better off with text edit.

“SP1 has completely disabled my Office 2008 installation. I cannot launch any of the applications, and I get stuck in a ’setup assistant loop’”
The exactly same thing happened to me. I had to uninstall and install office again.

What are we supposed to do about this application launching problem? I can’t open documents anymore by double-clicking? Please tell me a fix is in the works for this issue.

Hey, It’s me, Bryce, again. I changed my posting name because my dad told me to. Oh well, that’s life. Anyway , here’s my daily surprise from reading this blog. I’m reading along and get sucked into the post and a big explosion of amazement occurs inside my head. ow! I didn’t know that Office 2008 had so many problems. First it’s the issue with speed and then it’s the typing problem and then it’s the slow typing problem and then it’s the problems with SP1 installation and application startup. Get a sense of what things are going on, guys. It’s crazy! Sheesh…

An update that stops an application from allowing you to open files by double-clicking it is pretty much unforgivable. I’m just so glad I haven’t had to use Office for a long time

Good update?
I’ve seen nothing but more problems from that crap update
– word: if a tablecells on the last line wraps text, text becomes invisible n that cell on all but the last line
– powerpoint: thext wrapping in you body gets the space in front of the next line, wrecking the layout completely
This is the most crap update of office for Mac I’ve seen over the year, now looking how to roll it back.

To sum it up either there are 1 of 2 problems:
A) After the SP1 update, Office assistant consistently nags you to ‘participate’ in quality control while you are trying to open Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Entourage. Regardless of your answer, it ends with the Check for Updates window and your program fails to load.
– OR –
B) After numerous uninstalls and re-installs of Office 2008 and removing officePID and the settings file (as said on one troubleshooting website) now I no longer get setup assistant. Instead, applications bounce in the dock once, then fail to launch. Or they bounce a couple of times then prompts to restart.
I am unable to reinstall office 2008 without being forced to apply the SP1 patch. utter crap.

I was happy to hear from SP1. I am strongly depending on a perfectly working Office for my work and hence I did the update (German language) to benefit from the improvements. However, I am facing now problems with PowerPoint, I never experienced before.
When I open PowerPoint documents from before (Mac Office documents or Windows documents) the second and following lines of sentences are moved slightly to the right, and there are also some other strange effects with the position of the text.
When opening the same documents with Mac Office 2008 (without SP1 on another computer) everything is fine again.
What should I do about that? Will that be fixed soon?
Best regards,

I have the same issue with Powerpoint as Anonymous reported with the text wrapping putting in a space on subsequent lines.
How did they manage to break something as specific as that? Complete lack of testing?

Well, your update, SP1 has rendered my system unable to open any previously existing word documents. I tried uninstalled and reinstalling but that did not work. I have had a ticket open with microsoft support. The answer they gave me was that I should email all my existing word documents to myself, then use the new copies. Patently ridiculous. I would suggest to all users of MS office to instead try open office or Iworks.

Keep getting this even with a unified communications certificate:
Unable to Establish a secure connection to because the
server name or IP address does not match the name or IP address on the
server’s certificate.

It seems that what’s needed are more updates, with fewer things affected in each update.
That way when you make changes and people who have been reporting problems with spaces report the problems have gotten worse, not better, you have a smaller haystack for what things to fix.
Fortunately, known bugs aside, I have managed to get SP1 to more or less work. The final solution for me was to uninstall Office 2008 and 2004, blow away anything that remained and looked like Microsoft installed it, and then install 2008 from CD, then update it without ever actually running anything.
I figure this time next year, Office 2008 will be reasonably stable. Of course, by then I may not care. I already use Keynote and have found Numbers adequate for what little spreadsheet needs I have. Pages is not yet able to serve my needs, though, particularly since my needs include the ability to work in .doc format (not .docx and not import/export..)

Is there any official timeframe set for when you are going to fix the bug introduced by SP1 where you can no longer double click on a Word 2004 document and have it open?
I find it hard to believe that someone actually made a conscious decision to add this change to SP1. Do you only test with new word docs?

I’m having similar issues within PowerPoint; I think I’ve narrowed it down to a problem with justified text. When you justify it, it actually seems to right justify (although not completely), and leave the text ragged on the left side.
Same issues happening with opening Word documents as well.

Hello to all,
I use both 2004 and 2008. Actually, it’s very nice that both versions can co-exist on the same system. Congrats for offering us this possibility.
Actually, I do need going back to 2004 often because the SPACES/EXPOSE Bug is a killer. I use 8 Spaces on my MBP. Can’t live without it. I’m a Unix freak and always used (HP-VUE, CDE, CodeTeck’s VirtualDesktop, etc). I’m a power user: 14 hours/day in front of my MBP as an average.
Well, that Spaces bug is a show-stopper to me. I can’t get any Office 2008 apps to stay under control when I need to switch to other spaces where other applications documents are open. After a while. I just close 2008 and reopen the same document with 2004, loosing the advantages of 2008.
I’ve found a trick to “reset” Excel or Word and not getting lost raising the visibility of a document having the focus. The main one is to iconize the document. It works Ok, but it’s a major pain having to do that every time I give the focus to another window on the desktop. I’ve got no trick, still, to avoid Excel to abruptly switch me to the Space where Excel/Word/PPt was loaded first, and when I have a document opened on another space.
People at the MacBU, please consider this Spaces bug as really a show-stopper, for us, power users.

I’ve swapped from Microsoft to Mac OS approximately 2 years ago and the only problems I’m still facing are when I have to use the Mac version for Office. This is ridiculous. I have run this update and I can’t no longer access any of the Microsoft products that I own. I’m currently working on a very tight deadline and i have spent already 2 hours trying to solve this!!! Plus the fact that I suspect the only solution to my problem is to reinstall the whole pack or even better damp it for Mac iWork!!!! I can’t see how such a well established company can produce such RUBBISH products!!!!

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