Saturday, 18 May 2013

How to overcome the Excel error: There was a problem sending the command to the program.

I was asked to help a client who'd unexpectedly lost the ability to open Excel documents sent to him as email attachments or by directly double-clicking documents he'd previously created. The above error was the response he was seeing when attempting to open Excel docs.

There was no obvious explanation for the issue which had just started to happen recently. Nothing had, apparently, changed in the Windows 7 Starter Edition on his Samsung netbook. The Office version in this case was 2007.

A bit of time invested in searching the web revealed this to be a fairly widespread issue affecting multiple versions of both Word and Excel. Thankfully those searches also turned up a bunch of different possible solutions and workarounds posted in various forums and blogs.

I'm not planning to include all possible solutions in this article because there are lots to choose from. However the following is the one which worked for me and is associated with Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE). To implement it follow these steps:

1. Within Excel click on the big Office button in the top left corner.
2. From the menu that opens click on the Excel Options button.

3. On the Excel Options screen click on Advanced. Then scroll down to the General section and deslect (remove the tick) adjacent to the Ignore other applications that use Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) setting.

At this time I don't really understand why this setting needs changing from it's default in order to regain the ability to open Excel documents. I'm also unsure what impact may arise from implementing this change. However for my client this appears to be an acceptable workaround with apparently no loss of functionality.

I plan to update this article again as and when I manage to discover the proper resolution to this issue, meaning: I can have DDE enabled and open Excel docs without seeing the above error. Or if there's anyone out there who's already gained that understanding and is feeling generous enough to share the detail with me please post a comment.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Add a one-click shutdown tile to your Windows 8 Start screen to make it simpler to shut down

It takes too many actions to shut down a Windows 8 pc/laptop; more than it took in previous editions of Windows and for no good reason that I can see. But on the plus side it's easy to add a one-click tile to the Start screen which takes care of that problem very nicely. The following instructions will take you through the steps to create your own Start screen shutdown tile...

1. Click the Desktop tile or press Windows + D to get to the desktop
2. With the mouse cursor over an empty space on the desktop right-click and select new > shortcut.
3. Type shutdown /p in the location box then click Next, then click Finish
4. Optionally right click on the shortcut and choose the Change Icon button to select a more meaningful icon if that helps make it more relevant.
5. Right-click on the newly created shortcut and choose the Pin To Start option. Job done!