Word, Outlook merged-cell problem arises after install of patch KB 3213656

The Aug. 8 Word 2016 nonsecurity patch renders merged cells useless in both Word and Outlook. The only known solution is to uninstall the patch.

If you have tables in a Word doc or Outlook message and you suddenly can’t see or click on specific cells, chances are good that 1) the tables have merged cells, 2) you’re using Word 2016 or Outlook 2016, and 3) you installed this month’s KB 3213656. The buggy patch was pushed out the Automatic Update chute on Aug. 8.

Microsoft hasn’t yet acknowledged the problem, but there are several credible, detailed reports about the bug. The only solution is to uninstall KB 3213656.

Poster RAJasonCampbell on the Microsoft Answers forum describes the bug thusly:

Windows 10, Office 2016 Pro Plus both fully patched. Have a Word document that includes multiple tables, in each table there are merged cells. If the cell is merged you can't click on the cell or see the data in the cell. If you copy the table out of Word and paste it into Excel, the data shows. If you un-merge the cells and paste it back into Word, it shows all of the data. 

I tried this on a system that is not patched and the merged tables display properly in Word. Why would an Office update break pasting merged cells into a word document? Any advise on this will be greatly appreciated; this is impacting over 4600 documents at this time, and I am sure we will be finding many more.

Poster Jase L dissected the problem on the Microsoft Answers forum and in the Technet forum:

We have applied KB3213656 to our Office 2016 environment in order to fix the Outlook spell check issue mentioned in the KB article. We have since noticed that this has broken tables in both Word and Outlook. Basically if you merge two or more cells, as long as at least two of the cells are in different rows, the resultant cell becomes completely unusable. You cannot click into it, type into it or right click it. That is unless the merge includes the top row.

If you open an existing document that has cells that have been merged previously. Any of those cells will appear completely blank. Doesn't matter which view you use in Word.

Microsoft has not acknowledged the problem or offered a solution, and the official help on the forum runs in the usual “Re-install, start in safe mode, new user profile, go away” vein. The patch is still available for download, but there’s at least one report that it’s no longer being offered through Windows Update. Fortunately, uninstalling the patch clears up the problem — but that raises another concern, voiced by BenutzerserviceK:

This time the patch introducing the issue can be uninstalled without security concerns. But I'm seriously concerned that the next patch containing also security updates for Word 2016 WILL reintroduce the issue if Microsoft does not investigate and fix it in time.

Note that this problem is different from the bug in the Office 2016 patch KB 4011051, which broke hyperlinks in Excel 2016. That bug was fixed with another patch, KB 4011093, earlier this week.

More joys of automatic updating.

Discussion continues on the AskWoody Lounge.

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