Latest Outlook 365 breaks receiving emails like Uber

A new embarrassment for Microsoft as they scramble to fix a bug in Outlook 365 for Windows which crashes when trying to display some emails, most commonly receipt emails from Uber.

Office Watch goes into detail of this bug. It’s more serious than just blaming Uber for a bug in Office 365 for Windows.

The car-sharing service sends an email receipt after each ride and that email has some surprisingly complex table formatting. ANY email with those formatting characteristics stops both Outlook and Word from working … which absolutely should not happen.

NOTE: don’t think that you’re immune from the problem if you’re not an Uber customer. ANY email with sufficiently complex email can stop Outlook from working.

Source: Microsoft

It’s a bug in Word 365 for Windows, presumably the rendering engine which converts HTML into a screen display. Word is used to display and edit emails in Outlook.

Most current Office 365 for Windows users are affected. Current (Public) Channel v2206 build 15330.20196 and later. Plus the current builds for Beta and Current Channel Preview users.

And it’s a recently introduced bug too. We know this because the temporary workaround is to rollback Office 365 to an earlier version. See below for details.

A fix is coming

Microsoft says they’ve fixed the bug in Word 365 and it’s being sent to beta users for testing or what Redmond is calling ‘fix verification’. In other words, they want to make sure the problem really is fixed and there aren’t more problems caused by the repair.

Public / Current Channel users will get a patch from 9 August 2022 … assuming the testing all goes well.

Not Uber’s fault

At first glance it looks like Uber is to blame, but it’s not. No email should be able to stop Outlook from responding.

Headlines like “Uber receipt emails are crashing Outlook” are wrong and should read “Outlook crashes when receiving emails like Uber receipts”.

Microsoft’s own heading is clearer, our bold text “Outlook stops responding when viewing Uber receipt emails and some other emails with tables

This is an Outlook bug that could be triggered by any email that has certain formatting characteristics.

Uber’s receipt email is just the popular example that Microsoft is using to explain and somewhat deflect the blame. It’s likely there are other customers affected when they’ve received emails with the same formatting issue which causes trouble to Outlook.

That said, it’s a lesson to all email developers, especially working in marketing. Simple HTML formatting is safer than complex use of tables and other tricks.

The Delete Email workaround

If you strike this problem with an Uber email or some other message … how can you get Outlook working again?

If the trouble-making email is the first one in the Inbox, it’ll appear immediately Outlook starts and then crash.

The workaround is to delete or move the email using another method of accessing your Inbox. This works for anyone with a modern cloud-based mailbox.

Go to another app that accesses the same mailbox then delete or move the emails. That will stop Outlook for Windows seeing the message and having a nervy. An email app on a smartphone or tablet will do. Or open the browser-based interface to the mailbox.

If you regularly get emails from Uber or some other source that’s sending complex emails, add a Rule to move messages from the Inbox. For Uber messages, make a rule which moves messages from [email protected]

The rollback workaround

According to Microsoft, the workaround is to revert Office 365 to an earlier version which doesn’t have the rendering bug.

Open a Command Prompt in Administrator context

Type or paste the two commands into the Command Prompt window and press Enter after each.
cd %programfiles%\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\ClickToRun
officec2rclient.exe /update user updatetoversion=16.0.15225.20288

Then wait while the Office installer downloads and sets up the older Office.

Microsoft was slow to act

Yet again, Microsoft was unreasonably slow to both realize there was a problem and then admit the bug to their paying customers.

The rendering bug appeared, according to Microsoft, in version 2206 build 15330.2096 which was publicly released on 29 June 2022.

Microsoft’s post about the bug appeared exactly a month later on 29 July.

Microsoft’s bug report dated 29 July 2022

Given the wide use of Uber receipt emails, it’s hard to believe that Microsoft wasn’t getting bug reports soon after public release of the buggy build. It’s a good bet that beta/preview testers struck the bug even earlier than 29 June, but those reports weren’t noticed.

Another example of how Microsoft cost-cutting and reliance on ‘AI’ has affected the quality of their products, speed of response and caused problems for their paying customers.

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