Buggy Word 2016 non-security patch KB 4011039 can’t handle merged cells

If you have Word 2016 documents with merged table cells, last Tuesday’s non-security patch likely made those cells unusable. Microsoft pulled the patch.

Buggy Word 2016 non-security patch can’t handle merged cells
Thinkstock/Microsoft

Last month’s crop of buggy Windows and Office patches may be headed for a re-match. I’m seeing reports of a merged cell bug in last Tuesday’s Sept. 5, 2017, update for Word 2016 (KB4011039).

At this point, Microsoft has acknowledged the bug and has pulled the patch. The bug doesn’t appear on the official Fixes or workarounds for recent issues in Word for Windows page. The only solution is to manually uninstall the patch.

Vladimir Kiesner on the Office TechNet blog describes the problem:

After installing KB4011039 in Word 2016… lost cell text in table… After removing mentioned KB patch text reappeared.

If this all sounds familiar, you might recall last month’s Word and Outlook 2016 buggy patch KB 3213656. That patch also introduced bugs in tables with merged cells. Microsoft never fixed the problem, to the best of my knowledge, and now it's come back to haunt everybody.

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The August patch was available only for manual download (to fix yet more bugs in Word and Outlook), so it’s something of a hotfix. Not many people got it. That old buggy patch, KB 3213656, is still available for download.

New patch, same bug

This month’s incarnation is a patch of a different color. Last month’s hotfix concentrated on plugging a number of bugs in Word and Outlook. This month’s full-fledged patch KB 4011039 fixes real-time document collaboration between desktop, iOS and Android. It was rolled out the Automatic Update chute last Tuesday.

The new patch appears to have the same bug as the old one. The QA folks at Microsoft either didn’t notice the warnings about KB 3213656 or they figured they could push KB 4011039 out Auto Update with the same bug and nobody would notice.

Answers forum moderator Günter Born posted news of the bug on last month’s entry in the Answers forum, requesting an escalation to the Office product group. On Friday, Microsoft engineer Anneliese responded by saying:

Done! Working on getting all the docs updated now. I'm told the Patch with the fix is targeted for October. 

It isn’t clear if that means the bug is fixed and awaiting distribution in October or if the product group has been notified and the docs are getting sorted out. But it looks like we won’t see a fix until next month at best.

Microsoft hasn’t shown any interest in releasing a “silver bullet” patch to fix the bugs in this patch, so those with problems are left with the onus on them to identify and uninstall the bad patch.

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