Thursday, October 19, 2017

Digital Trouble

"There was a problem sending the command to the program."

I am a user of Microsoft's spreadsheet program, Excel. In my work as the "IT Guy" for one of my parish's ministries, I maintain several Excel files. I save them in the older XLS format, because other volunteers need access to the files and they may not all have the latest version of Excel. Because I do this, Excel always tells me, when I click "Save File," that the format is an older one, blah blah yadda blah. "I know, just go ahead and save it," I tell Excel. This is slightly annoying, but only slightly and I'm willing to live with it while I'm doing the IT job.

In the same way, I save a personal file that I originally saved in the older format and, of course, go through the same dance with Excel every time I save it. Recently I decided I didn't want to do that dance with this file, saved it in the latest format, and …

… and chaos ensued. When I double clicked on the file to open it, before giving me the worksheet, Excel opened an error window, "There was a problem sending the command to the program."

"Hmmm," I thought. I clicked OK ( the only option in the error window ) and the file was completely fine. "I wonder why changing the file format caused that to happen. Shouldn't be." I tried another file; same problem. I tried another … several others … all of them gave me the same error.

The error suggests a communication error between the program and something else. If I started Excel and opened the file from inside, files opened without error. This further suggests some communication problem: clicking on the file in the file system requires Windows to command Excel to find and open the file, and generates the error. Doing it inside Excel doesn't require this, and there is no error.

As far as I could tell, this was a cosmetic error … I stress that. The files worked and behaved exactly as they should. But I was not happy about even a cosmetic error; I am a techie.

I looked for help online. Finding material about this problem was very easy. Finding a definitive solution was not so easy. Lots of suggestions, though.

I tried an easy suggestion; no affect. Because this suggestion involved configuring, I thought maybe I needed to reboot the computer. I tried
that … and the problem was gone. ( "Computer reboot; why didn't I just think of that in the first place. That solves so many issues," I ranted internally. ) I tried opening multiple files; no errors.

I was working happily away … I opened another Excel file and the problem returned! Holy Hannah!

I returned to the online user forums … and found two divergent, possibly relevant, entries. First, one responder is complaining about opening Excel worksheets in multiple windows simultaneously, and he talks in terms of multiple instances of Excel. Second, several people, responding to a suggested Windows Registry change, had written, "Yes that fixed my problem."

The posting about multiple instances got me to wondering if I had multiple instances of Excel. I checked. Nope, just one. I shut it down
( killed it ) and restarted Excel in the way that was giving me that error message. No error message this time. I opened several more files; none of them generated the error message. Simply killing and restarting Excel fixed the problem.

I am willing to let well enough alone, ignoring the posts about the registry. Excel is behaving appropriately and all is well in my technical world.
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