Outlook 2002 freezes when opening an attachment on a draft e-mail message

I still have a few users who use Outlook 2002. For the most part, they don’t have any reason to upgrade as it still meets their needs and I can’t justify telling them to spend ~$300 per user just to do what they’re already doing (sending/receiving e-mail… If I had my way, they’d all be using Thunderbird.) Today however, I encountered the following bug:

(1) User composes an e-mail (using word as their mail editor). The user also attaches either a word, excel, or powerpoint attachment to the message (tested with all three file types).

(2) User saves the message to drafts.

(3) A little while later, the user decides to finish writing this e-mail. They casually double click the attachment (in this case, a word document) link below the subject line and get the following message:

No big deal right? We’ve all seen this before. But there’s a problem! When they try to click on the ‘Open it’ option, Outlook is unresponsive. The only thing they can do at this point is kill OUTLOOK.EXE via the task manager. What makes this even weirder is that if the user re-opens Outlook, navigates to the ‘Drafts’ folder, opens the message and instead right-clicks the attachment, then selects ‘Open’ from the context menu, the problem does not manifest itself when the user tries to click the ‘Open it’ option on the subsequent warning message.

In this case, the user is accessing Outlook via a Terminal Services session, so upon being notified by the user that “my Outlook is frozen”, I login and take over their session. I do not notice a problem; I was able to click on the ‘Open it’ option just fine and Outlook was responsive. The user was happy that I fixed their problem and all was well… until it happened again. And again. So now I’m in WTF mode. I was able to recreate the error—it occurs whenever you (1) are composing a message with an attachment, and then double click on the attachment or (2) do the same thing from a message saved in ‘Drafts’. Right-clicking and selecting ‘Open’ _always_ works however. After googling for a few minutes, I came to the conclusion that this had something to do with “Advanced Text Services” so I disabled it, closed Outlook, logged out, logged in, opened Outlook, tried to recreate the error again and everything worked just fine!

To disable Advanced Text Services (in Windows XP/2003 … probably others):

  1. Click Start, then Control Panel.
  2. If Control Panel is in Category view, click the Date, Time, Language, and Regional Options link, and then click the Regional and Language Options icon.
    If Control Panel is in Classic view, double-click the Regional and Language Options control panel.
  3. Click the Languages tab. Click Details.
  4. Click the Advanced tab. Check Turn off advanced text services.
  5. Click OK. Click OK.
  6. Close the control panel

Or, if you’d like to disable this feature automatically (via domain login script), click here.