I had a bit of a crisis this week when I thought I'd update my version of Microsoft Office with their latest service pack. Big mistake! Outlook refused to rebuild my database, saying it needed an earlier version of the software to do so. Word just hung, greeting me with nothing more than a spinning beach ball. In frustration I contacted a trusted Microsoft PR, but unfortunately they no longer have the account.

So what was I to do? For a day I struggled with Text Edit and Mail. I know it's heresy to say it, but I prefer Outlook, for all its foibles (refusing to let me use it being one of them) lets me do what I want to do with my emails (namely put them in various project folders, attach documents the way I want to, and so on). My worst moment with Mail this week was trying to train it to filter my junk mail. In the end I gave up and started deleting emails via my iPhone because it was easier…

Anyway. I was starting to think I was going to have to reinstall the software, which I probably would have done if I could find it. So what could I do? Well luckily I have my MacBook Pro plugged into a hard drive and I use Time Machine. I accessed the back up, went to the day before I did the ill-fated update, found Microsoft Office in the Applications folder, and reinstalled it. And guess what. It worked!

I am now the proud owner of a pre-update version of Microsoft OFfice 2011 for Mac. It works just about as well as it did before I tried to update it, which isn't brilliantly, but it's better than trying to make do with Text Edit and Mail.

Turns out I wasn't the only person to have problems with Microsoft's update. Our friends at Macworld US have just published their own guide to undoing the damage wrought by Microsoft's Outlook update. One of their readers had exactly the same problem as me: "I installed the latest Office 2011 update and now I can’t open Outlook. When I try I’m told that I must update my Office database. I do that and some tool appears that updates my identity. When it completes I’m then told that there’s a problem with the Office database and I have to rebuild it. Okay, so I do that and then I’m told that my identity is older than the version of Outlook that I’m now using. The solution is to launch Outlook to rebuild the identity, but when i do that, the loop starts over. Help!!"

Microsoft has issued a support document addressing the issue. Macworld outlines the instructions here

If you ask me, my way was easier.

Update: Microsoft has now pulled this update while the company investigates the problems.