Do you want to merge changes?

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When Word 2002 asks you if you want to merge changes back into the original document, clicking “No, And don’t ask again” won’t help you. It’s like the paper clip all over again!

Word MVP Beth Melton has helped me enormously in sifting through the Byzantine details of the 16 October 2002 security patch – you know, the patch I promised in the preceding article that I wouldn’t talk about this week?

Beth’s grasp of Word boggles my mind. She pointed me to an article she wrote about one of Office XP’s least endearing messages, the one that pops up when you open a document attached to an email message. It looks like this:

“Do you want to merge changes in “Bafflegab comments.doc” back into “c:Documents and SettingsWoodyMy DocumentsSomeFolderBafflegab.doc”?

Yes | No | No, And don’t ask again

I write books for a living (such as it is). I send out documents for editing all the time. The editor makes changes, generally renames the file, and sends it back to me, attached to an email message. When I open the attached document, I get that utterly infuriating question, over and over again. Why, no, Word, golly, I don’t want to merge the changes back into the original document. I want to see what my editor said, you annoying piece of %$#@!, and if I want to merge changes, I’ll do it manually, thank you very much.

Personally, I’ve clicked on “No, And don’t ask again” about a zillion times. It never helps. The next time I get a revision back, I get the same stupid question. I don’t think I’ve ever merged changes directly back from an email message.

I mean, it’s like that paper clip all over again. “Hey! It looks like you’re writing a letter!” (Remember the old Clippy video? If you’re not easily offended by, uh, colorful language, view it here or here) “Hey! It looks like you’ve received an edited document!”

Gag me with a fork.

Here’s what’s really happening.

When you attach a Word document, Excel spreadsheet, or PowerPoint presentation to an email message, Outlook 2002 takes it upon itself to add four items to the document’s File | Properties dialog box. The items are:

_AdHocReviewCycleID
_AuthorEmail
_AuthorEmailDisplayName
_EmailSubject

I’m not sure why, but one Excel spreadsheet that was sent to me via Outlook 2002, did not have the _AuthorEmail entry, but it did have:

_ReviewingToolsShownOnce

As Beth explains in her article, if you click “Yes” you get the expected merge; if you click “No” you don’t get a merge; and if you click “No, And don’t ask again”, Outlook removes those File | Properties entries. Not exactly intuitive, eh?

You can turn off this, uh, feature in Outlook 2002 by clicking Tools | Options | Preferences | Email Options | Advanced, and unchecking the box marked “Add properties to attachments to enable Reply with Changes.”

Unchecking that box has one other worthwhile side-effect. If you have the Revisions toolbar showing in Word when you close a document, then you send the document to someone else using Outlook 2002, when the other person opens the document, the Revisions toolbar will appear, whether the recipient has the toolbar turned on or not. If you uncheck that “Add properties…” box, Word won’t burden your recipient with an unwanted toolbar.

 

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