Word 2011: More on ‘This is not a valid file name’ error message

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
November 4th, 2010 • 10:14 am

Yesterday I wrote about a new bug in Word 2011 that causes it to fail to open a perfectly fine Word document with the following error message:

Invalid file name

At the time, I wrote:

I was able to open the same document just fine with both Word 2008 and Pages ’09. After some investigating, I was able to determine that the problem could be avoided by unchecking the option to include images when exporting as a Word file within Acrobat Pro.

Well, it turns out that I was wrong. Upon further investigation, I was able to determine that the problem probably has nothing to with the presence of images in the file, but with something else that I changed at the same time I changed the option to include the images when exporting the PDF file as a Word document in Acrobat Pro: I put it in a different location.

See, it turns out that, when Microsoft says “This is not a valid file name,” they mean “This is not a valid file path” and that, in Word 2011, the presence of any non-ASCII character (like an accented letter, the < or > characters, etc.) anywhere in the file path (and not just in the file name) will cause Word to fail to open the file.

It really is quite unbelievable that such a bug slipped through. What kind of machines does Microsoft actually test its software on? Do they make any effort to replicate real-world situations where people make normal use of all kinds of perfectly valid characters in the names of their files and folders?

Obviously not.

So for now if you want to be able to open all your existing Word files with Word 2011, you have to make sure that they are in a location whose path does not contain any “special” characters like é, è, <, or >. (Oooh, they’re scary, those characters, aren’t they?)

Once again, Microsoft has utterly failed to properly test its software before releasing it and is inflicting its egregious bugs on hundreds of thousands of users worldwide. It’s always nice to be made to feel special after you’ve spent $150 (or more) of your hard-earned cash on a company’s products.

UPDATE: It’s even worse. A reader reports that you can no longer use slashes in file names in Word 2011, even though slashes are perfectly supported by Mac OS X. (The only invalid character I know of is the colon.) I can confirm that this is true on my system as well, and that slashes worked perfectly fine in file names in Word 2008. Grrr.


One Response to “Word 2011: More on ‘This is not a valid file name’ error message”

  1. Betalogue » Word 2011: More on ‘This is not a valid file name’ error message | Chicago Mac/PC Support says:

    [...] Betalogue » Word 2011: More on ‘This is not a valid file name’ error message.  The further restrictions on filenames is surprising.  I wonder why they made this choice?  The bottom line here is that you should avoid any special characters other than A-Z,1-9 when dealing with Microsoft Products. [...]