Wednesday, June 24, 2009

But I didn't do anything

As part of my job, I often receive Word documents or Excel spreadsheets for me to review. These could be timesheets from staff, or drafts of project plans, whatever. Since I use a webmail client at work to do all my mail, clicking on an email attachment automatically downloads the document and opens Word, Excel, or whatever appropriate application. Since it's essentially a document downloaded from the web, Office opens the document in "read only "mode. Office even shows "(Read-Only)" in the title of the window, to remind me that the document cannot be changed.

That part works fine, and it's the same behavior under Linux and Windows. But that's to be expected, since that's how a webmail client works.

The confusing part is when I close the document. Since the document is in "read only" mode, I obviously haven't made any edits to it. Yet every time I close one of these "downloaded from the web" documents, Microsoft Office prompts me if I want to save my changes.

But I haven't made any changes. Because it was in "read only" mode.

That doesn't make any sense to me. Maybe it's that I'm too used to the way Linux and OpenOffice managed files like this. If the document is opened in "read only" mode, then I can view the document, and can even copy a selection (to paste into another document.) When I exit OpenOffice, the window just closes with no complaints.

Why can't Microsoft understand that that's the behavior users expect from programs?


  1. Using Outlook 2003, if I view an attachment, a temp file is opened in read-only mode.

    I don't get prompted to save changes, but Word *always* saves without asking. Arrgh.

  2. I've never noticed that such documents were read only (and have never attempted to alter them), but I've always wondered why Office asks if I want to save changes to a document I've viewed without editing. Always seemed stupid, and is rather annoying, espicially when I had no intention of saving the document in the first place because all I needed to do was view it.

  3. Oddly, that's the same way vi works when you open a read-only document. If you do happen to make any changes to the document you get an error when you try to quit: 'E37: No write since last change (add ! to override)'

    I think the odd thing about Word here is that I can open a document and not do anything and still get prompted to save my changes. I think Word considers opening the document 'making a change.'

  4. I suspect that this has to do wiht the fact that a change in the 'FAT' is a change in the document, to Office. Since a document has been opened, it therefore has been changed because the last open date/time stapm has changed.

    Which is stupid, of course.


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