Thursday, November 17, 2005


I've got an inflated sense of self-worth at the moment. Outlook 12 has been crashing on me for several months with disturbing frequency. So badly, in fact, that for the last month or so I've just been using Outlook Web Access (which is very nice, though version 12 is very beta-ey), and before that, I was using Outlook 2003 for a while. But, I solved the problem. I'm a superstar.

First, I started up my debug build of Outlook 12. Yeah, yeah, so, not something people normally get to do. It's ridiculously nonperformant. Anyway, as soon as it started, I attached Visual Studio to it. Then, right on cue, a few seconds after boot, it crashed. I switched to Visual Studio and perused the callstack, looking for variables that might contain useful information. And I found it: the string ""—an RSS feed I subscribe to. I saved the callstack, and let Outlook finish crashing, and then opened up Outlook Web Access. I deleted the Outlook folders for those three RSS feeds, and then started Outlook again. Tada!

Except not tada. The cached RSS items were gone, but the RSS feeds were not. They still tried to download, and still crashed Outlook. So, I opened up the local file in your Outlook profile that stores your feeds by searching for that string. I removed the offending feeds, saved, and restarted Outlook. Tada!

Still not tada. Outlook downloaded a fresh copy of the RSS feeds I subscribe to, replaced my local file, and crashed again. Bastards! So, I had another idea: I changed the NTFS permissions on the file (after fixing it again) so that I could read it but not write to it, and then started Outlook again. Tada!

This time, it was almost eerie. Outlook 12 was running for me again. No crashing, no weird behavior, no problems at all. It was beautiful, because Outlook 12 is really nice. It just happened to crash on some particularly scary RSS feed that I subscribe to. Armed with a callstack, a list of RSS feeds that crash the app, and a workaround, I sent email to the team responsible for the RSS features in Outlook 12. Hopefully the bug will be fixed by the time I get back from vacation.

And that's one of the things that's neat about working as a developer on Office.


Kerjo said...

So if I add RSS feeds to this, it's going to start crashing?

I'm extremely excited about this search box above my messages. It's exactly what I wanted in Outlook 2003.

Swid said...

You've always been a superstar in my heart. <3

Travis said...

I was told by the RSS dev that this particular bug existed only on a few builds (weeks after beta 1). Pretty much all of the basics should be working just fine in beta 1; it sat for quite a while to stabilize and get targeted fixes.

Travis said...

Also, the bug might only exist if you're connected to an Exchange server. I don't know.

Kerjo said...

Okay, so, is it a bug or a feature that I had Outlook running, I uninstalled the "pre-beta" and then installed the actual beta, and Outlook was still running when I was done? (And working quite fine)

Then I closed Outlook and tried to start it again, but it wouldn't come up, so I had to do the repair thing.

Travis said...

It's a bug that the setup program didn't force you to quit Outlook, but not necessarily that it "worked" in the end. Since it's based on Windows Installer, when uninstalling, the setup was able to delete everything that wasn't in use and then just have the system clean up the rest when you reboot next. But, yeah, being able to uninstall while it's running is not right.